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Voices of a People's History of the United States Paperback – 20 May 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: SEVEN STORIES PRESS; 2 edition (20 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583229167
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583229163
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 4.3 x 21 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 846,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 43 reviews
121 of 124 people found the following review helpful
Outstanding and Indispensable 29 Dec. 2004
By Catalytic Converter - Published on
Format: Paperback
"Voices of a People's History of the United States" is a revelatory look at American history as seen through the voices of dissenters and the disenfranchised, presented through powerful speeches, letters, poetry and song...that, at best, helped changed the course of history, and at worst, went unheard because the messages ran counter to powerful interests.

"Voices" presents the thoughts and words of conscientious objectors from Thomas Paine, Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, and Langston Hughes to Malcolm X, Woodie Guthrie, Patti Smith, and Michael Moore. The book also presents the views of unheard-of non-conformists, such as escaped slaves, exploited factory workers, subjugated women, and peace activists. "Voices" has entries for nearly every period in American history and yet are topics not accounted for in the history books, beginning with Columbus' colonization of the Americas all the way to Dubya's War on Terror.

At a time when superpower nations are waging war around the world, Voices inspires the reader just as much as it roils...for the book is not only a testimony to those who have been suppressed through the ages, nor simply a showpiece demonstrating the devastating effects of hegemony, but a wake-up call and call-to-action, reminding readers that people are not as defenseless as powerful elites may have them believe. The voices presented in "Voices of a People's History of the United States" show us that, no matter what the year or the conundrum, it is indeed possible for people to defend, secure and maintain their human rights and civil liberties.

Lucine Kasbarian, author, Armenia: A Rugged Land, an Enduring People
48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Magnificent Book!!! 26 Dec. 2004
By Rejoice! - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A magnificent read! History really comes alive: from Susan B. Anthony (fabulous speech before a judge) to Patti Smith, this book is consciousness raising. Highly Recommended!

The pieces can be read in random order. I love scanning the table of contents and choosing either an era or a voice. I'm a great fan of Zinn's "Peoples History of the United States." This book, Voices, can stand alone or as a companion. "Voices of a People's History of the United States" is Magnificent!!!
51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
A monumental volume! 8 Nov. 2004
By Pen Name? - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This volume is indispensible to anyone interested in American history. Zinn offers a compendium of primary resources to go side-by-side with his People's History (also a nice companion to the Radical Reader). This volume could also stand on its own as a wonderful overview of the fight for liberty and justice through American culture and political movements.

Put this at the top of your list!
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Required Reading 29 Sept. 2005
By John J. Fitzgerald - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove have edited a first class reader to go with Zinn's earlier narrative, A People's History of the United States, which was first published in 1980 and has gone through several revised and updated editions. This reader is an excellent collection of primary source documents drawn from: diaries, poems, songs, speeches, letters to the editor, testimony before congressional committees, official investigations of disasters, etc. that for the most part have not gotten into the official versions of what has happened in the American past.

Zinn, the principal author, does not hide his perspective. In fact, he openly announces it in a stirring introduction.

He tells us, "When I began work, five years ago, on what would become the present volume, Voices of a People's History of the United States, I wanted the voices of struggle, mostly absent from our history books, to be given the place they deserve. I wanted labor history, which has been the battleground, decade after decade, century after century, of an ongoing fight for human dignity, to come to the fore. And I wanted my readers to experience how at key moments in our history some of the bravest and most effective political acts were the sounds of the human voice itself.

"To omit or to minimize these voices of resistance is to create the idea that power only rests with those who have the guns, who possess the wealth, who own the newspapers and the television stations. I want to point out that people who seem to have no power, whether working people, people of color, or women-once they organize and protest and create movements-have a voice no government can suppress."

He is on the side of the people of struggle who worked for peace, labor justice, unions, women's rights, civil rights, civil liberties against the forces of capital, the state, the status quo, the powerful and the privileged. This is not the sort of book that the Republican National Committee wants you to read.

This is the book that you need to read if you have never heard of, or else perhaps, forgot: Bartolome de Las Casas, Frederick Douglass, Chief Joseph, Emma Goldman, Nicola Sacco, Bartolomeo Vanzetti, or Vicky Starr.

It is also the book to read, if you want to go beyond the public images and official portraits of people like: Mark Twain, the novelist and critic of war and imperialism; Helen Keller, fighter against physical handicaps and vigorous socialist; Smedley Butler, Congressional Medal of Honor winner and outspoken critic of imperialism and gun boat diplomacy, or Muhammad Ali, heavyweight boxing champion and opponent of the Vietnam War and military conscription.

Zinn is a master writer and the author of over a dozen books on all aspects of American history. He writes with style and verve. His facts are lined up and well marshaled for his arguments. He writes without fear and with research. His humanity is reflected on every page, as he reminds us that people make history and they do make choices. His voice is consistently clear and honest, whether he is discussing the better-known champions of human progress or the unknown and forgotten.

One minor comment, perhaps unfair, he has had to choose what to include, and that entails what to exclude. He does not mention Margaret Sanger, the pioneer and champion of a woman's right to control her own fertility. Nor is there much coverage of the environmental movement. (And where is Rachel Carson and Silent Spring?) With a book surging over 650 pages, he still manages to cover a lot of fertile ground.

This book belongs on the desk of every high school and college teacher in America. Every union organizer, every civil rights worker and every anti-war campaigner should have a copy of this book and the original narrative. People need to be reminded that we do not struggle alone. We need reminders that others have gone on before us, indeed we stand where we do because we stand on the shoulders, not of gods or goddesses, but of brave men and women.

The United States of America is not an evil or an exceptional country. It has a rightful place in the family of nations. To take that rightful place, it will need well-educated citizens, who know their history. Howard Zinn's work helps us know that history, warts and all. He gives us a mirror to see ourselves accurately with our virtues and our vices in clear focus.

I can not say the same for most textbooks and surveys produced by the mainstream publishers. For more information on that question, see the excellent, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong (New York: the New Press, 1995), by James W. Loewen.

Zinn's book is not in that category.

Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove have given us an excellent written collection of documents to examine. We owe it to them, to ourselves, and to our students to read it!


The teacher's guide prepared by Gayle Olson-Raymer, editor, and her colleagues, is an excellent collection of different strategies and lesson plans to help both the beginning and the veteran classroom teacher utilize the Zinn text and the Zinn/Arnove reader. Each unit has: a set of document based questions; a listing of chapter main points; discussion questions for classroom conversations; and three types of evaluation tools, with suggested assignments, essay questions and finally, simulations and alternative/creative approaches. Most teachers will benefit from the suggestions offered.

John J. Fitzgerald is a retired, Longmeadow (MA) High School, social studies teacher and department chair. He served in the U.S. Army, as an infantry platoon leader, during the Vietnam War. He was wounded in action and was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor and the Purple Heart. He joined the anti-war movement in 1967 and supported McCarthy for President in 1968. He was one of the earliest members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. He has been active in a number of progressive causes and programs including: civil liberties, anti-death penalty work, and assorted political campaigns. He is one of the co-authors of: The Vietnam War: A History in Documents. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.) He lives in Longmeadow and serves as Chairman of the Registrars of Voters.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
A strong intellectual perturbation 15 Feb. 2006
By Dr. Lee D. Carlson - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
History is sometimes written with the goal of documenting the attitudes or opinions of a particular class of people, such as the intellectuals, the politicians, the scientists, or the warriors. Each of these groups has made important contributions to human accomplishment, which should not be forgotten or discarded under the guise of some egalitarian or multicultural reading of history. But when the stories of these groups are documented in history, too often other voices are deafened, and these voices represent the vast majority of historical participants. It is not enough to view history through the eyes of intellectuals, politicians, or warriors. For an historical account to be meaningful, it must offer insight into the collaborations, opinions, belief structures, and longings of those who chose not to become famous, but instead chose to indulge themselves in the unique fascinations that each historical epoch possesses.

But because most humans throughout history did not record their experiences, the historian is left wanting for accurate appraisals of these experiences. Diaries, journals, and other personal writings can assist the historian in this regard, and there have been many uses of these throughout the historical literature. It is important to remember though that because of the paucity of these personal documents, one should not be too hasty in imputing the opinions of their authors to the entire population at the time. One cannot view them as representing the "voices of the people" without establishing this with (difficult) statistical analysis.

Sometimes however these documents were written more as a catharsis, as a way of expressing, in a strong and determined way, an idea, grievance, or opposition to the status quo. The opening quotation in the book by Frederick Douglass reinforces this view, for in that quotation Douglass essentially states that power must be challenged before it can be defeated (Douglass does not want to stop with mere words though, for in the same quotation he asserts the need for physical confrontation if necessary).

It is in this light that this book should be read. It is a collection of essays and letters that reveal attitudes that are not the typical ones that one would be exposed to in United States secondary schools. Those readers familiar with the author's earlier book on United States history will appreciate this book even more, but both can be read independently of each other. This is not a book that will please the elitist historian who discounts any view of history that does not magnify the contributions of intellectuals or military leaders over and above the "common" person. It is a book for those who are genuinely interested in the moods and aspirations of the people of a given time, if only from a limited vantage point. It will certainly upset the intellectual equilibrium of anyone who holds to a view of American history that has been sanitized by the educational establishment.
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