Professor- Amy Bell
March 11, 2018
“What is History?” When almost all the students like us are asked this question, the very common answer will be the study of series of past events, connected to someone or something, especially in human affairs. Often regarded as the most uninteresting subject in the school, History has made its position to “List of Top 10 Boring Subjects in School”. History should be the subject that studies about the past facts and events which are linked to present day’s human life rather than presenting useless facts. Since the first standard of our education, we have been taught history. We can easily answer who was the first president of America. We can tell each and every date of historical events when they happened. But in reality, no one cares about the events for a long term because, in reality, we don’t find any relationship between the history and their present life. we either study the history as a compulsion to complete the course requirement or just to pass the exam. From our teacher, we were just taught to idolize our history. The main reason behind why we are perceiving the history in this way is because the way our teacher taught us history. History teachers never teach the big picture of history, but just the irrelevant and useless fact. We can easily tell Christopher Columbus as the founder of America. Our so-called Historians and Textbook publishers have made him one of the heroes. But, we never knew how was Christopher Columbus, how did he treat the native people when he arrived here. We can easily tell about the American Civil War, about slavery abolishment, Black segregation, and many other historical events. We can easily explain about World War II, the role of America in World War II. But, what we have learned up to here about history, is totally different from the actual reality. Being an international student, I don’t have much knowledge about US history. But, even though I don’t have much knowledge about American history, I found a vast difference between what I have learned till now about American history and what I learned from this class.
The difference between the way history is taught in my previous class and the way it is in this class? American history fundamentally centers around the general population, places, and events that maintain the possibility of American exceptionalism. We need to go thoroughly through the pages of the internet and vast research to know about the existence of America and the Native Americans who were well-established had lived in America for millions of years, before the arrival of European settlers. The Native Americans were much more civilized than the earlier settlers who sailed to America, they have their own governing systems. But, what I was taught about the Native American was that they were savage and uncivilized. Most history textbooks have mentioned Columbus as the hero of America as he found the land. But, they kept us in dark and hide the reality that Columbus was a cruel person, his only motive to land in America was in search of gold. He treated the native Americans like animals. While talking about superiority between these two sides, “settlers and the natives”, settlers were advanced and equipped with arms and weapons while the natives had to rely on the traditional equipment. Equality between these two sides was reserved for all except who were native and had a different color, culture, or religion. This was one of the main difference between what I was taught and what I found.
Over the years of research and study, historians have found some traits on history books and have been suggesting us to avoid those textbooks which provide false information. Same way, the above quote in question by W.E.B. DuBois highlights the intrinsic falsity while studying history. He is indirectly telling us that there is some level of editing in materials while publishing the textbooks. Howard Zinn and James Loewen are also trying to reorganize the US history. They are repeatedly trying to convince people that Christopher Columbus wasn’t the hero of America because they have studied history through clear and unbiased aspects. and have found what Columbus had done that made him bad. The main intention of Columbus to sail to the new world was to find riches as according to my professor Amy Bell, she said, “The only intention of the settlers from European Puritans was to find the gold and riches, rather than seeking religious freedom.” Even from the article by Howard Zinn, “As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts.” (Zinn 1) This was said by Columbus when he got here. From this quote too, we can say that the main intention of Columbus was to find treasures.
Even, the pilgrims in Mayflower, the way we studied about them till now is quite different with what we studied in this class. Being a Hindu, I don’t have much knowledge about Thanksgiving, but during my high school, I got little bit information from one of the history teachers from my high school. What I was taught is, Thanksgiving started when pilgrims from Mayflower arrived in New England. The pilgrims left Europe searching religious freedom all over the world and when they arrived at the New World, they shared their religion with the native Indians. But in reality, when they arrived here, they started being greedy and getting hungry for gold, they forgot their main aim. Actually, when they left Europe, they had already abandoned their religious freedom. Then, there was a dispute between the Puritans and the native Americans. When the dispute ended, the Americans were enslaved by the Puritans, puritans started them treating the natives like animals. The only reason they treated the natives in such way is that of their civilization, their religion as said by Howard Zinn “cultures that are different are often taken as inferior, especially when such as judgment is practical and profitable.” (Zinn 3) Thus, from here we can conclude that Puritans were not as they were described in the history textbook.
So, Loewen’s points of view on the American history, through his book “Lies My Teacher Told Me”, question the behavior of Americans. In the book, Loewen contends that antiquarians disregard the defects of people, who formed the U.S. history. For example, Christopher Columbus to influence them to seem gallant. For example, he asserts that it isn’t right to believe that Columbus found America as according to him many settlers had already sailed to America before Columbus. Additionally, he inquiries regarding the Europeans convictions on why they rule the world. Same way, Zinn, in his book “A People’s History of the United States”, gives repudiating accounts of the American history. For example, he asserted that Columbus set a point of reference for victory and remorselessness that proceeds, as we’ll see, all through American history. Thus, from the time of Columbus’s exploration to the significance of Thanksgiving, Loewen, and Zinn give invigorating look on the American History. These efforts from Loewen and Zinn will empower Americans to question the publishers and Textbooks writer about the false information they are providing us about the history and hiding us the truth.
“1. Columbus, The Indians, and Human Progress.” Libcom.org, libcom.org/a-peoples-history-of-the-united-states-howard-zinn/1-columbus-the-indians-and-human-progress.