Howard Zinn Thesis Paragraph
Howard Zinn is an atypical historian. He, unlike most others, showed history through the eyes of the conquered, common people. For example, Zinn preferred to write “the story of the discovery of America from the viewpoint of the Arawaks, of the Constitution from the standpoint of the slaves…” Not only was this approach interesting, it was eye opening. For instance, most students learned about Christopher Columbus as a fearless, ingenious sailor, few learned that he plundered, enslaved, and murdered entire villages of the true “First Americans.” From the first moment that Columbus interacted with the Arawak people of the Bahamas Islands, he thought only of them as stepping-stones on his maniacal quest for gold. Columbus stopped at nothing to find gold and never treated the Natives fairly. When Columbus failed at finding gold, he enslaved 1,500 Arawaks and shipped them back to Spain. The Conquistadors who followed in Columbus’ footsteps continued to treat the Natives inhumanely and forced them to perform dreadful acts such as carrying the Conquistadors on their backs. The Natives began to die by the millions because of disease epidemics and the European’s evil rule. Zinn was correct when he questioned, “Was all this bloodshed and deceit- from Columbus to Cortes, Pizarro, the Puritans- a necessity for the human race to progress from savagery to civilization?” The simple answer was no. When the American settlers nearly annihilated the entire Native American population, social evolution was stunted- or even driven backwards- over a century. For example, in the Iroquois culture, women were treated fairly, had political power, and suffrage- something American women did not receive until 1920. The Iroquois children “were also taught to be independent, not to submit to overbearing authority. They were taught equality in status…” It was not until 1776 that the Americans threw off the oppressive yoke of the English and that they became independent as a people. It is clear that the Native Americans could have greatly and positively influenced the United States, but the founders of the United States were too greedy, prideful, prejudice, and cruel to accept the Natives once they could not be taken advantage of any further.