Reading Guidelines and Short Essay Response Questions

Topic 1

Howard Zinn criticized Samuel Elliot Morrison’s description of Columbus by stating that Morrison mentioned the truth about Columbus and quickly buried it with other things that were more important to him. Morrison represents questions of history telling by avoiding emphasis of the facts of Columbus’ mass murder and placing more emphasis on his success. Morrison was right when he refused to lie about Columbus and failing to omit the story of mass murder. However, Morison was wrong because he stated the facts about Columbus and then buried them in a mass of other information. By stating that distortion was ideological, Zinn meant that historians changed the beliefs of people by changing the facts. Morison story telling is dangerous since it assumes that readers of history have a common interest with historians.

Topic 2

In this paragraph, Zinn argues that it was not right for people to view Columbus, Jackson and Lincoln as national heroes because they represented the views of the United States. He argues that in the course of  people fighting for freedom of United States, innocent people were murdered. He also argues that Roosevelt and Kennedy should not  be viewed as national heroes when they passed Congress laws, as these laws did not represent the views of the public. Zinn argues that the pretense of this kind of story telling is that it assumes United States is composed of people with common interests.

Topic 3

Zinn criticized Henry Kissinger’s history of Europe since he told it from the viewpoint of Austrian and English leaders without considering people who suffered because of the policies formulated by them. This connects to Zinn’s argument on how histories should be told because Zinn stated that both sides of history should be considered. Zinn thinks historians should try to avoid taking the sides of executioners while writing history. If the historians follow this approach, the discovery of America will follow the viewpoints of Arawaks and the standpoint of slaves.

Topic 4

Zinn raised the question on whether it was necessary for Morison to bury the story of genocide inside a more important story of human progress. Burying  these stories was acceptable to the upper classes but it did not provide justice for blacks in urban ghettos or the prisoners in Soviet labor camps. The rhetoric question that Zinn raises implies that necessity and progress of European colonists was not just, since it caused harm to Latinos, Blacks and Indians. The atrocities only benefited a small portion of the minority European rulers.

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