American History from Below
“You wanna read a real history book?” Matt Damon asks Robin Williams in the movie Good Will Hunting. “Read Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States. That book’ll knock you on your ass.”
Let’s do it. Let’s read and discuss a book that’ll knock you on your ass: A Young People’s History of the United States (a young adult version of the best-selling A People’s History of the United States). As Howard Zinn described his own book, “it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people’s movements of resistance.”
Starting not with Columbus but with the indigenous Arawak people he tortured and enslaved, we will examine the United States from the perspectives of those who have had to fight for the right to live here with respect and dignity: the working poor, people who are enslaved, immigrants, women, Native Americans, LGBTQ+ people, African Americans, Latinx people, children, and more. And we will read them in their own words.
We will mix up the reading with dramatic and musical excerpts from the star-studded, hard-hitting 2009 documentary version of the book produced by The History Channel, The People Speak.
By the end, you’ll be well-equipped to decide for yourself whether you agree with Zinn that “dissent is the highest form of patriotism”!