Zinns of Omission

Zinns of Omission

a History of the United States by an America hater, and this is your childrens’ school textbook. no wonder we are in the state we are.

Zinns of Omission

Mary Grabar definitively discredits America’s top history textbook.

September 3, 2019
Bruce Bawer

[ Mary Graber’s new book, Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation against America: you’ll have to look for it.]
Perhaps the nicest thing you can say about Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States is that it shows that even in the era of the Internet a book can continue to have an immense social impact.

In Zinn’s case, however, that impact could hardly be more dangerous. Published in 1980, Zinn’s book has for some time been, as Mary Grabar notes in her definitive new study of it, Debunking Howard Zinn, both the bestselling trade history of America and the bestselling American history textbook. When Zinn wrote it, he intended it to provide a skeptical (shall we say) alternative to previous accounts of US history, which Zinn, hardcore America-hater that he was, saw as excessively pro-American. Today, Zinn’s book isn’t just an insidious alternative; it is the reigning book in the field, and its once alternative take on US history has become received wisdom on the establishment left. Not a few of the students who read the book years ago when they were college students, and who fell for Zinn’s take on US history hook, line, and sinker, are now teachers who are using the same book to indoctrinate their own charges.

Many of us have been aware for years of Zinn’s perfidious influence – and have fretted over it in print. But to read Grabar is to realize that the situation is even worse than many of us thought – and to learn things about Zinn that one didn’t know before. One of the things I learned from Grabar is that Matt Damon – who, in the 1997 movie Good Will Hunting (which he co-wrote and starred in) worked in a plug for Zinn’s book that gave it a major boost – grew up with Zinn as a neighbor and was sucked in by People’s History by the age of ten.

Grabar supplies a useful catalog of major historians who, although left-wing themselves, have given Zinn’s book an unambiguous thumbs-down. Eugene Genovese considered it nothing but “incoherent left-wing sloganizing”; Arthur Schlesinger called Zinn “a polemicist, not a historian.” Yet no amount of cogent criticism has dislodged the book from its pedestal. One reason is that teachers who use the book reflexively reject any criticism of it; another is that ignorant mainstream journalists routinely cite it as if it’s a legitimate, reliable work, and a constellation of even more ignorant showbiz Zinn fans, like Damon, have prominently sung its praises. Among the many highly disturbing examples of this misguided promotion was the 2006 publication of the book’s Russian translation – by, believe it or not, the US Embassy in Moscow. Imagine Russians getting their US history from Howard Zinn!

One of the big achievements of Zinn’s book was his utter discrediting of Christopher Columbus. Once regarded as a hero, Columbus is now commonly viewed as having initiated the genocidal destruction of a peaceful paradise. In her first chapter, by going carefully through Zinn’s account of the great navigator, Grabar demonstrates that it is based not on original sources but is heavily dependent on, indeed almost copied straight out of, the work of an earlier Columbus-basher, Hans Koning, who, for ideological reasons, engaged in extremely selective quotation and in wholesale misrepresentation. Ultimately, Grabar shows convincingly that Zinn, in his effort to smear the discoverer of America and to depict American Indians as noble savages, repeatedly ignores historical context, suppresses inconvenient facts, cites exceedingly dubious statistics, and so on. In short, Grabar thoroughly discredits Zinn’s discrediting of the Admiral of the Ocean Sea.

As Zinn progresses beyond Columbus to the British settlement of North America, he routinely deplores relatively minor anti-Indian actions by colonists while defending or ignoring huge, brutal massacres by Indians – whom he insists, against all evidence but in accordance with the historical revisionism of know-nothing Sixties radicals, on portraying as gentle and innocent, indeed, as proto-Communists who lived in hippie-type communes and had no concept of private ownership or gender inequality.

In short, Zinn transforms violent warriors into flower children. In one instance, he accuses early Virginia settlers of wanting to “exterminate” local tribes when in fact the latter sought to wipe out the former. Of course, in the encounters between natives and settlers there were misdeeds on both sides, but Zinn reduces the entire history of colonization as a simple matter of genocidal whites constantly going to war against peace-loving Indians. Nor does Zinn just make virtual saints out of the Indians of the Caribbean and North America; he also whitewashes the Aztecs, Mayans, and Incas. Though he does, surprisingly, mention the Aztecs’ “ritual killing of thousands of people as sacrifices to the gods,” he claims that these bloodthirsty savages nonetheless exhibited “a certain innocence.” Neat trick!

Then there’s Zinn on slavery. In typical fashion, as Grabar notes, he “acknowledges that slavery existed in Africa…but presents it as a kinder, gentler kind of slavery” and is mum on the fact that it predated American slavery by centuries. In his effort to portray slavery, or at least the bad kind of slavery, as distinctively American, Zinn ignores the fact that it was without question opposition to slavery that was distinctively Western, whereas slavery itself had existed in every known African and Asian civilization since the beginning of recorded history. Far from recognizing the war to emancipate slaves as a uniquely American act of virtue, Zinn laments that the Civil War sought to free slaves rather than to overthrow capitalism, and maintains that blacks were, in any case, no better off after the war than before. He also fails to admit that America’s success in banishing slavery inspired emancipation movements around the Western world, even as he deep-sixes the role of Muslims in the slave trade and the fact that slavery continues to be practiced in the Islamic world.

Zinn manages even to make America’s role in World War II look perfidious. Here, as Grabar says quite rightly, he “hits a new low,” drawing moral equivalence between the US and Nazi Germany, painting Japan as America’s victim, and attributing America’s participation in the war entirely to “imperialist” motives. As for the Cold War era, Zinn dismisses Americans’ fear of Soviet Communism as “hysteria” and describes Americans’ demonstrably legitimate concern about Communist influence in Washington and Hollywood as “paranoid.” He even depicts the Marshall Plan – another unique act of American virtue – as a nefarious effort to prepare “the European capitalist countries for all-out war against the USSR and the People’s Democracies of Eastern Europe.”

Anyway, on it goes. Castro’s Cuba is great; Ho Chi Minh was a hero. Then there’s Grabar’s illuminating account of Zinn’s life. Not only was he almost certainly a card-carrying member of the Communist Party; he also belonged to several CPUSA front groups. Teaching in the late 1950s at the historically black Spelman College, which was “emphatically Christian,” he sought to turn it into a “school for protest.” In 1960, he co-founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, one of the major radical groups of that decade; years later, he co-founded the New Party, which Grabar identifies as “the socialist party that helped Barack Obama win his Illinois Senate seat.” Other groups with which he was associated included ACORN, the Democratic Socialists of America, a “Marxist-Maoist collective” called STORM, and International ANSWER.
This, then, is the man who has shaped the twisted picture of American history – and of America itself –that exists inside the heads of tens of millions of Americans. Grabar’s subtitle is Exposing the Fake History that Turned a Generation against America; my only problem with this subtitle is that in place of “a Generation” she could arguably have said “Generations,” because Zinn’s book, now almost forty years old, has poisoned the minds not only of countless college students today but also of many of their parents.

In her introductory note, Grabar points out that there exist valuable challenges to Zinn, such as A Patriot’s History of the United States (2004) by Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen, which, I have been informed to my delight, is used in conjunction with Zinn in a number of history courses; it would be nice to see Grabar’s own, equally invaluable book find its way onto such curricula. A generation – or generations – of Americans raised on Howard Zinn can result only in an America that turns against its own founding values, in all their nobility, and that follows the likes of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and, God help us, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez down the path to socialist disaster.


I have read a few times on the Internet phrases like, “I miss Howard Zimm!” after he died. I gave away my copy of this “history” years ago after I read the initial chapter on how the Indians had the perfect socialist society and how the Pilgrims went wrong when they abandoned collectivism, which, in reality, almost resulted in their starvation.

I should have persevered and read the whole thing. Then I would have been understood why my nephews embrace socialism with such fervor.

That wasn’t Zinn, that was a priest named
Bartolomé de las Casas.

Las Casas traveled with the Admiral and witnessed the “exploits” of the colonials.

He also transcribed portions of Columbus’ journal.

Any attempt to defend Columbus, has to be squared with what Las Casas reported.

Equally, Columbus also stole the discovery prize from one of his own men, thought that the world was pear shaped, and was arrested by his own Vice-governor for running the colony into the ground.

He was sent back to Spain in chains.

If you want to defend a person like, that good luck. Sounds like a wasted effort to me.

Leave it to AS to denigrate Chris Columbus. Why does this not surprise me? Las Casas was a JESUIT and Jesuits are NOTORIOUS for their contrary versions of our history. The current, far-left POPE is a Jesuit, BTW and he’s driving the Catholic Church off the cliff.

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I have told you many times, AS is a progressive catfish. About 80% of the time he is for open borders and tows the progressive line. Then he says he likes Berry Goldwater and Grover Norquest, and then he expects us to view him as fellow conservative.

Here’s the acid test. Ask him if he’s going to vote for Trump. If he’s honest, he will say, “No.” Julian Castro is his kind of guy.

The left loves to beat up on Christopher Columbus because he was an American hero and icon for many years. Tearing him down serves the left narrative quite well.

Before you dive off the deep end on this issue, you should study some medieval history. I have learned a lot from my studies of English history. Brutal killings, torture, burning people at the stake and prolonged executions were the norm. “Humane treatment” was a good quick beheading.

I know this will PO some people here, but if a Catholic churchman wants to condemn Columbus, he should also look in his own backyard. British Queen Mary had nearly three hundred Protestants, most of them burned at the stake. How about the Spanish Inquisition? The church is in a glass house.

If you want to talk about “bad actors,” go after Cortez and Pizarro. They killed Native Americans to steal their gold and silver. After that, the Spanish enslaved Native Americans to work the mines. BUT condemning Columbus is politically correct and adventurous.

Don’t pull historical figures conduct out of the contex of their time in history.

WRONG, he was a Dominican, and he was there. He witnessed these events.

If you’re trying to tell me a Dominican friar in the 16th century was getting a liberal education, I’m going to laugh at you.

No response to what I said about Columbus?

No denial that he was sent back in chains?

Only a personal attack?

A churchman. Who. was. there?

I think just like Dave, you missed this detail Send.

De las Casas was a 15th/16th century contemporary, calling out evil as he saw it.

AS, you remind me of my mother when she went to the doctor.

At the end her examination, the doctor told her that it was a waste of her time to come to him anymore because if she continued to smoke cigarettes, there was not much he could do for her. My mother, who was a very frugal, influenced greatly by the Great Depression, went home, ripped up and threw away every cigarette she had in the house.

In your case, you are for open borders, and you won’t even condemn criminal illegal aliens. Yet you say you are “a conservative.”

The Democrats want as many aliens as possible to come here because they figure that those people will vote for them. It does not matter if they are citizens or not, the Democrats will see it they get to stuff the ballot boxes.

Florida and Texas are not that far from becoming Democrat controlled states. In the last Florida governor’s race, an avowed socialist came within less than 1% of winning the election. All it would take is a nudge from some illegal votes in Palm Beach County to push the state to the other side. The election apparatus there is totally corrupt. It’s been shown on the national news since the 2000 presidential recount. The illegals will get to vote there, and no one will do anything about it.

Texas is still Republican, but the demographics are changing. Ted Cruz had a tough fight against Beto O’Rourke, who is a joke of a political candidate.

If Florida and Texas flip IT’S OVER. The Democrats will control the White House, and they will turn The United States into a socialist state.

So long as you continue to support open borders, you are no conservative. You are a catfish. You claim you are a conservative, and yet you advocate policies that will turn the election over to the Democrats.

As for Columbus, I view him as a talented explorer who re-opened the American continents for the Europeans. Did he oppress Native Americans? Without doubt, but he was no worse than many other conquistadors who came to America.

As I said before, you can’t pull historical figures out of their context and place your values on them. The left does it all the time. They do it selectively to push their agenda. There were Europeans who were worse than Columbus, but the left does not want to talk about them because it does not fit their narrative. They want to tear down an American icon. They have succeeded.

The sad thing is you have chosen to join to left, which is not surprising to me since I have seen through you for a long time.

las casas wasn’t a priest all his life. He and his family had vast holdings in the New world themselves. The slavery and gold hunting didn’t bother him a whit. What allegedly changed him was witnessing a massacre of the Indians. SUre those times were terrible. The Spanish were always doing something of the sort and they continued after Columbus. Ferdinand and Isabella were just fine with it. They aren’t americans. None of these people were americans. What Zinn and others have done is to destroy our childrens’ love of this country. Columbus if indeed he did do these things, he was merely the product of his times.

It doesn’t diminish his ideas and his determination to find a route to India.

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btw. a day or two after Columbus left Spain the king and queen banished all jews from Spain.

British King Edward I did the same thing almost 200 years earlier. One of the motivations was that his royal friends owned the Jewish bankers money, and that was one way to relieve those royal folk of their debts.

Oh Send? I don’t see you saying “okay, I made a mistake”.

Just like Democrats and Guest worker programs, you didn’t have the details straight. I want accountability here.

Yes it did, he wrote an autobiography asking God for forgiveness on this.

He changed his tune on black slavery-substitution too; eventually realizing that even they were humans with souls.

Except Columbus was invoking the trinity to bless his slave hunt, while the Pope condemned taking people as slaves.

Which the Pope did, due to urging by Dominicans like Las Casas.

Thus, we have contemporary people of the time criticizing Columbus and the Colonials. That’s fair game Caroline. You can’t argue “context” , when they were right in the middle of it.

Of COURSE you can argue context. Every country in Europe had slaves in the 15th Century. Some didn’t CALL them that, but they were slaves nonetheless and many were taken violently and placed into slavery the same way. I was mistaken about Las Casas’ sect affiliation, but Dominicans weren’t much better at being non-contrarians than the Jesuits were (and remain).

AFTER the fact. he and his family were happy enough for their holdings in the new world. What? are you trying to make this guy into a saint as you malign Columbus. Let’s don’t unfairly put one on a pedestal and tear down another just because it fits your agenda.

Compared to Columbus, who never did?

Who un-ironically cited his faith as justification, when the faith told him he was wrong?

+1 for De las casas. +2 because he literally received the title “Defender of the Indians” because how much he badgered Spaniards into leaving them alone.

+3 He is a saint, I don’t have to do ****:


Columbus stole from his own men, thought the world was pear shaped, and ran the colony into the ground. And never changed his tune on slaves.

You can’t deny any of that (I welcome you to try), he was both cruel, and incompetent.

oh my gosh. WELL on behalf of the united States I accept full responsibility for that.


So this where we stand;

Christopher Columbus unapologetically did bad things, in the name of a faith that said his actions were wrong, at the time.

Dominican Friars who were there pointed out at the time that these actions were wrong. So he can’t be sighted as ignorant, he just did bad things in bad faith.

On top of this, Columbus was incompetent, and self-serving.

When it comes to what there is to respect about the man, no one can name anything.

Calling him “great” goes back to the claim that he proved the world is round. But that was a myth cooked up in the 1830s.

Before that , Americans didn’t think nor cared much about him.

Italian Americans trying to garner respect are the ones who changed that.

Just like Mr. Zinn claiming that before Columbus, Native Americans were bucolics living in edenic peace and prosperity, AS? That is BS and I suspect even YOU realize it. Native Americans were almost constantly at war with one another…even between different sects of the same tribes. They captured and enslaved one another, murdered and tortured each other on sight and raided each other for food and fiber routinely. They lived in abject squalor for most of their fairly short life-spans, infested with lice and intestinal parasites. The “noble savage” was mostly BS. There were things about Native Americans that we can admire, but for the most part, they were NOT admirable any more than Columbus was by your lights.