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Zinn v.

Allen and Schweikart: The Battle of the Historians


April 6, 2011 APUSH Period 4 1492-1877
Brittany Amerson

Many events ranging from wars to movements to elections have shaped American history as the American public knows today. Even though these events have been set in stone and are inerasable from Americas past, these same events can be interpreted in a vast multitude of ways. There are also always two sides to a story, and one cannot fully develop an opinion on a specific topic without having knowledge that pertains to each side, and the majority of American textbooks are written by conservatives. With all this in mind, it is only logical to conclude that Howard Zinns A Peoples History of the United States should be read in high schools as opposed to Larry Schweikart and Michael Allens book A Patriots History of the United States because Zinn provides a liberal view of American history that most American students do not ever get exposed to. One of the first major uprisings in American history took place during the 1670s and has come to be known as Bacons Rebellion. Nathaniel Bacon, the leader of the rebellion was irritated with how he and his fellow westerners were inching closer and closer to the Native Americans, and how the government of Virginia did not want to intervene. The governor of Virginia at the time was William Berkeley, and the westerners blamed him for their further encroachment onto Indian lands, and the westerners felt that Berkeley and the government were not making a decent attempt to protect them from the dangerous Indians. As a result of this threat the westerners led by Bacon attacked the Doegs and Susquehannock Indian tribes, and afterwards stormed the city of Jamestown and completely burned it to the ground. Bacon died shortly after this incident due to an illness, and with their leader gone, the rebels died down and the rebellion came to a screeching halt. The problems with Indians were finally recognized by the Virginian

government, and the issues were somewhat resolved with a new treaty. According to Zinn, Bacons Rebellion was not easily classifiable as either anti-aristocrat or antiIndian, because it was both meaning that the westerners under the leadership of Bacon did not rebel because they were against being ruled or simply hated Indians, it was a mixture of both factors that left the westerners no choice but to rebel, because it was the only way the rebels could get their point that they could not continue to move onto Indian land without being harmed across to the Virginian government (40). As compared to Schweikart and Allen who believed that Nathaniel Bacon naturally favored an aggressive strategy against the Indians and that he was not alone on this belief. Schweikart and Allen make Bacon to seem savage and violent, and that he led the rebellion simply because he was not very fond of the Indians, and the rebellion made it appear that there was actually a reason for rebelling, when in truth Bacon had no reason. Zinn also mentions that violence between the Indians and the frontiersmen had started before the rebellion broke out, signaling that this violence helped trigger the rebellion. Zinn states that some Doeg Indians took a few hogs [from the frontiersmen] to redress a debt and this eventually led to a series of Indian raids, with the Indians outnumbered, turning to guerrilla warfare (40). Zinn believes that the Indians started to violence between the frontiersmen by initially stealing livestock, which in turn caused the westerners to fight back which then led to the constant conflict between the two groups. Schweikart and Allen on the other hand simply state that Bacon encountered and killed friendly Indians failing to mention the fact that the Indians were the ones who started the conflict in the first place (41). Schweikart and Allens perception of Bacon make it seem as if Bacon was once again, a savage and violent person who only wanted to kill Indians,

rather than fight against the Indians for a cause. Zinn also mentions that Bacon had tried to get the Virginian government involved in helping him with the Indian problem but when Bacon insisted on organizing armed detachments to fight the Indians Berkeley proclaimed him a rebel and had him captured, whereupon two thousand Virginians marched into Jamestown to support him (41). Schweikart and Allen mention nothing even somewhat similar to this, making the only pieces of information about the Bacon Rebellion focused on how Nathaniel Bacon was not really rebelling for a cause, but rather rebelling as an excuse to attack the Indians. Zinns book should be taught in high schools because Bacons Rebellion is quite significant in ways that most cookie cutter conservative textbooks to do not bring up, mainly the point that Bacons Rebellion is an early example of a populist movement in America. Zinn makes a point of mentioning this by stating Bacons Declaration of the People of July 1676 shows a mixture of populist resentment against the rich while Schweikart and Allen make no attempt at mentioning this fact, similar to how their book also does not mention a single fact about the massive railroad strike of 1877 (41). During the year of 1877, America was in the middle of a depression, and just during this one year there were multiple railroad strikes, all which started with wage cuts for workers. Wages for railroad workers were already astonishing low, and problems within the railroad industry like deaths and injuries were prevalent. The one strike that sparked a chain reaction of other strikes began in Martinsburg, West Virginia at the Baltimore & Ohio station. Workers at this station went on strike, demanding that the ten percent wage cut would be cancelled, and a large mob of spectators and supporters gathered at the station. Since the crowd was too massive for the police to contain

themselves, they requested the governor for military protection, and a militia was then sent over to the station. A train then attempted to make its way through the station but a striker trying to prevent the train from traveling any further shot a militiaman who was trying to stop the striker and the striker ended up being shot as well. The striker died a few days later. Trains only started to move through the station when the governor of West Virginia requested the President at the time, Rutherford Hayes to send in federal troops to move the strike along, and once the federal soldiers arrived, trains were finally able to pass through. A group of supporters in Baltimore ended up surrounded the armory of the National Guard which was requested by the governor of West Virginia after the Baltimore and Ohio station strike was cleared up. The mob then proceeded in throwing rocks, and soldiers in the proximity ended up opening fire, ten people were dead, and many more were injured. This strike then spread to the Pennsylvania Railroad in Pittsburgh, and the strike resulted in two thousand trains and freight cars idle in the station, which then led to troops coming in to break up the strike, all while killing at least ten people. The incident in Pittsburgh infuriated the population of Pittsburgh, and as a result trains and buildings were set on fire, troops were cornered, the city had gone into a general strike, and after a couple of days, twenty-four people were dead. Zinn goes into detail about how massive the railroad strike of 1877 really was by quoting the St. Louis Republican: strikes were occurring almost every hour. The great state of Pennsylvania was in an uproar; New Jersey was afflicted by a paralyzing dread; New York was mustering an army of militia; Ohio was shaken from Lake Erie to the Ohio River; Indiana rested in dreadful suspense. Illinois, and especially its great metropolis, Chicago, apparently hung on the verge of a vortex of confusion and tumult . St. Louis had already felt the effect of the premonitory shocks of the uprising(246).

Schweikart and Allen on the other hand, do not even mention even one railroad strike that occurred in 1877, let alone any other type of strike. The only thing their book mentions in the year 1877 is the election of 1877. This is a major reason why Zinn should be taught in high schools as opposed to Schweikart and Allen, because the railroad strikes of 1877 were an enormous deal, and affected everyone in the nation, and if this major event is not even mentioned Schweikart and Allens book, why should we teach it in high school? Howard Zinn author of A Peoples History of the United States, and Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen, authors of A Patriots History of the United States both provide an in-depth look at American history through two totally different lenses. Zinn is more of a liberal view, speaking for the minorities, the factory workers and the women of America, while Schweikart and Allen have a more conservative view, similar to what can be found in a modern day American history textbook. Both books provide excellent details and insight of American history, but Zinns A Peoples History of the United States should be taught in high schools, because it provides the other side of the events Americans are familiar with, and like stated earlier, people can only form reasonable opinions about a topic if they have quality knowledge pertaining to both sides.