A People’s History of American Empire, graphic novel by Howard Zinn

This video from the USA is called Howard Zinn: “On Human Nature and Aggression.”

From Socialist Worker in the USA:

Review: Books

Howard Zinn, Mike Konopacki and Paul Buhle, A People’s History of American Empire. Metropolitan Books, 2008, 273 pages, $17.

Picturing resistance to empire

Zach Zill reviews a book that sets Howard Zinn‘s history from below in a new form–the graphic novel.

May 29, 2008

OVER THE past 25 years, anyone coming to radical conclusions about the U.S. and its history has likely traveled through the pages of at least one Howard Zinn book. A People’s History of the United States is undoubtedly the most popular, widely read radical analysis of U.S. history.

First published in 1980, it has sold more than 1.7 million copies, become required reading in many high school and college classrooms and spawned several offshoot projects–most notably, the primary source reader Voices of a People’s History of the United States.

Now, Zinn, along with cartoonist Mike Konopacki and historian and activist Paul Buhle, has delivered a new book that is sure to delight and enlighten activists, radicals and those newly come to left-wing ideas.

A People’s History of American Empire is the first attempt to recreate Zinn’s history in a new form–that of the graphic novel. Like the theatrical performances of Voices and the forthcoming documentary The People Speak, A People’s History of American Empire uses a new medium to spread Zinn’s basic message to a wider audience.

The book provides an animated, bottom-up telling of U.S. history, with a focus on U.S. military interventions and their repercussions at home.

Here, the reader discovers one of the most consciously disguised historical facts: the U.S. was not born “the world’s greatest democracy,” destined to spread its message of freedom around the globe. Rather, from early in its history, it has striven to become a new form of empire, time and again playing an anti-democratic role in the world.

Zinn’s version of history draws out the social forces whose interests have driven the American empire–major corporations, the U.S. military, the ultra-wealthy American elite and politicians of both major parties.

From the 1890 massacre of Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee, to the funding and training of contras in Nicaragua [see also here] and the predecessors of the Taliban in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the book depicts the major battles and military machinations of a U.S. ruling class bent on increasing its power and wealth, no matter what the human cost.

Zinn, Konopacki and Buhle show how the promise of American democracy has been realized only as a result of struggle against these interests, locating the source of progressive historical change where it rightly belongs–with the millions of people around the world who resisted the encroachment of U.S. empire.

See also here.


5 thoughts on “A People’s History of American Empire, graphic novel by Howard Zinn

  1. http://rustbeltradical.wordpress.com/2010/12/29/wounded-knee-and-the-birth-of-empire/

    Wounded Knee And The Bloody Birth Of Empire

    “The settlement of the Americas was accomplished with as much racism as the slave trade, indeed it can be said to be a source of modern racism. The history of capitalism is entwined with racism and none were the greater recipients of its poison than native Americans.”

    Wounded Knee, December 29th, 1890 is full of meaning. Not just for the Miniconjou and Hunkpapa Lakota who were victims and perished in their hundreds, but for the course of imperial America. Its violence an echo of the violence that was the settlement of this country. The expropriation of the land from Native Americans necessarily involved a genocidal struggle, something evident very early in the history of Europeans on this continent. That genocidal struggle was also bound up with an economy based on private property and at irreconcilable odds with the economy of native peoples which recognized no such form of property. The Dawes Act of 1887 makes perfectly clear that the struggle against native peoples was also a struggle against native collective property notions. And look how the land itself reels from that war!

    Fly over the country today and you’ll see division imposed upon the land; plots neatly parceled (and at odds with their terrain, with nature) in the interest of sale and of tax. This pattern emerged 100 years before the Dawes Act in the Northwest Ordinance’s township and range system. The way even the land was surveyed being determined by the dictates of private property. The Revolution meant the expansion of settlement, first into the Ohio River Valley and expansion meant the commodification of land; speculation in becoming the source of great fortunes in the early ‘Republic’. For the gentleman farmers of Jefferson’s generation native land use was simply a waste of resources, the exploitation of which they hungered for themselves. From the air private property is clearly visible, from the ground fences frame the story.

    The settlement of the Americas was accomplished with as much racism as the slave trade, indeed it can be said to be a source of modern racism. The history of capitalism is entwined with racism and none were the greater recipients of its poison than native Americans. Yet, it would not be the first time that a race war was waged over property, nor the last. It is necessary to dehumanize those you would do to the likes of which you would never tolerate being done to. ‘Primitive accumulations’ are an ongoing, not historical, mode of capitalist appropriation. They didn’t end at Wounded Knee. It happens now in India, in Indonesia and in Ecuador to name but a few. It was seen in the conversion of the formerly state properties of the East into private hands. It can be found even in the most developed of capitalist economies today; anywhere where sovereignty over land, labor and resources is wrenched from one group or class to another. Where economies are brought forcefully into the market. The closing of the west made gorily real on this day 120 years ago by that bitterly cold Dakota creek signaled the entrance of the United States into international struggle for markets and influence. It is a bloody marker denoting the birth of an empire.

    The Seventh Cavalry responsible for the massacre was Custer’s old troop, formed in 1866 with the expressed purpose of pacifying native resistance in the West. A few short years after Wounded Knee, where 17 men were awarded the Medal of Honor, would see the Seventh in the Philippines putting down a different native rebellion, accompanied by more Medals of Honor. The great wealth amassed from a continental appropriation would now be exported, in the name of democracy, in a manner as rapacious as the violation of the Americas, also under the name of democracy. Today, the whole world lives in the shadow of Wounded Knee.

    I have been to the mass grave on the Pine Ridge Reservation, the colored ribbons tied to the surrounding fence snapping in the wind coming off the plains. It is a terribly sad place, a place befitting the terribleness it holds. In my mind the site is this country’s most important monument. Their grave holds not just the remains of the dead, but the reality, the horrible reality of the meaning of America; its birth, its growth, its present. What would justice, genuine justice, be to the native peoples of this continent? From my perspective as the descendant of some of those settlers and citizen of the state that now strides this land, the only justice possible is a death sentence on the Empire, whose epitaph will surely contain the words ‘Wounded Knee’, and a restoration of collective ownership. An irrevocable removal of those fences, those divisions that the geometry of capitalist expansion knifed into a blood-stained earth.


  2. Sioux raise land fears

    Sunday 19 August 2012

    Native Americans warned at the weekend that they could lose access to one of their most sacred sites when it goes up for sale next week.

    Sioux nation tribes have tried to raise money to buy back as much of the land near Mount Rushmore as they can.

    But they have only raised about $110,000 (£70,000) for property that will sell for up to $10 million (£6.4m).

    They fear that if the property they call Pe’ Sla is sold, it will be developed and they will lose access.

    The area is the only sacred site on private land outside Sioux control.

    Congress seized the land in 1877 after the discovery of gold.

    In 1980 the Supreme Court awarded tribes money for the land, but the Sioux refused, saying it was never for sale.



  3. Pingback: US historian Howard Zinn dies | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: BBC whitewashing of Iraq war crimes | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Pingback: Graphic novel on history of protests in English-speaking countries | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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