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A Study Group for Zinn's People's History

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April 8th, 2007

Chapter 6

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snow

Something bothered me about this chapter. I think it was the way that Zinn positioned the experiences of blacks as slaves and the experiences of women as the same ("In this invisibility they were something like black slaves" p. 81). I can obviously agree that women were oppressed. I don't think that it is a problem to compare the situations, but only if they are contrasted as well. The way that Zinn ends the chapter with Sojourner Truth's quote confused me. His conclusions, that she "joined the indignation of her race to the indignation of her sex"  did not match up with mine. I interpretted her quote to say "Hey, what about black women?" Even if that was not the intention of her words, it still left me thinking "what about black women?" I felt that Zinn painted women and blacks with too broad a stroke where women = white and black = men.

April 7th, 2007

Chapters 6 and 7

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Moon
I have nothing profound to say about Chapters 6 and 7, either. I am curious, however, to know whether the role of American (Caucasian) women in the Abolitionist movement was indeed disproportionate to their power in the political sphere overall. Zinn hints that this may be the case, but doesn't really back up that line of thought with much evidence.

That brings me to my greatest criticism of A People's History: Zinn seems to rely too heavily on anecdotes, rather than the general facts-and-figures type of evidence, to back up his points. I admit that hearing the actual words of the people makes for more exciting reading, but he argues most powerfully when he includes survey data, e.g., "Colonial newspapers reported a total of N slave insurrections between 1700 and 1850." Perhaps I'm biased toward big numbers because I'm a statistician by trade. However, in our current society, the FOX-thinker belief that any opinion, no matter how far-fetched (e.g., intelligent design or the "Apollo hoax"), deserves equal time with ideas backed by overwhelming evidence has become distressingly prevalent; and in consequence, when making an argument counter to mainstream thought, one should be careful to substantiate it thoroughly. (Or not: mere facts won't likely sway the minds of anyone who has had their thinking done for them already. Sigh. But at least the pool of ignorant-but-open-minded Americans may be receptive to a well-documented argument.)
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