Voices of a People's History of the United States: Fantastic voice actors read the historic work of people who demanded justice from America

Howard Zinn's remarkable book, A People's History of the United States tells the underside of American history, the stories of everyday people who were on the losing side of America's prosperity and expansion, from the indigenous people and slaves to the conquered people, conscriptees and refugees. People who demanded, but did not receive, justice.

A companion to this book is this CD, "Readings from Voices of a People's History of the United States" -- a collection of famous speeches from people who held America to the standard it set, and found it wanting. These are inspiring and infuriating, and are expertly read by a cast of talented voice-actors including Danny Glover ("The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro -- Frederick Douglass"); Paul Robeson, Jr. ("Ballad of Roosevelt -- Langston Hughes"); Wallace Shawn ("Why We Fight -- Vito Russo"); Marisa Tomei ("It's Time the Antiwar Choir Started Singing -- Cindy Sheehan"); John Sayles ("Comments on the Moro Massacre -- Mark Twain") and many others.

These are the words of people who refused to accept injustice as inevitable, who demanded better. Someone once said, "All countries fail to live up to their ideals; the ideals that America fails to live up to are nobler than most." I agree with that sentiment. The liberty and justice guaranteed by America's foundational documents are a high standard to meet, and if the country is to live up to it, it must be held to account by those who suffer as a result of its failures.

Readings from Voices of a People's History of the United States

See also: Howard Zinn's "A People's History of American Empire" graphic novel

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  1. I always thought this book should be required reading for anyone who wants to participate in our democracy. This is a great project.

  2. If everyone read this book, and believed what is espoused in it, we probably wouldn’t have a democracy. Zinn is not a historian, but rather he is a socialist who molds his “history” to fit his own political proclivities. This book is a stark example of this America hating ideologue’s work, and serves, appropriately, as the American Left’s bible. I am quite sure Barack Obama would strongly endorse this propaganda, which is an indication that we need to gird orselves for the dark days ahead.

  3. Sure, we’re going to hear from the same people who are still pissed off at 1st Lt. Howard Zinn for killing so many of their Kameraden ” during WWII.

  4. “If everyone read this book, and believed what is espoused in it, we probably wouldn’t have a democracy. Zinn is not a historian, but rather he is a socialist who molds his “history” to fit his own political proclivities. ”

    So true.. Zinn is a joke.

  5. Weird coincidence, I picked the first edition of this book just yesterday at the library after seeing it on one of my favorite authors “favorite books list”. I’m only 50 or so pages into it right now, but I’m not really seeing ROEMUN’s view about Zinn molding the history to his own agenda. I mean, he use exact quotes to back up his content, and they seem so far to paint the picture pretty well. Specific incidences to look for in the book?

  6. somewhat tangential, but for the geeks among you I highly recommend

    A People’s History of Science: Miners, Midwives, and Low Mechanicks by Cliff Conner

  7. My first thought was: ‘Great Christmas present!’

    I read the APHOTUS in high school and found it quite inspiring – not just because of the lefty political slant (as any HS kid should be interested in) but simply because it was (and is) intended as a supplementary text exploring some of the lesser-known or unknown stories of our country – things that we should all have at least some idea of. In the newer age of blogs and a rapidly decentralizing (and thus further democratizing) of our primary news sources, this book was a precedent of alternative journalism.

    Those who accuse Zinn of taking an ideological slant are not wrong, but that doesn’t mean the work is useless. The winners of wars and ideological struggles may get to write history, but that doesn’t mean the losers didn’t exist…

  8. The best education class I ever took used the People’s History as a main text. Later, I used the some of the speeches in the Voices version as lessons with my own students. All of it is absolutely fascinating, and terribly depressing at times.

    Another terrific chronicler of the people’s history is Studs Terkel. I remember reading a slew of the interviews he did with union organizers and coal miners and others in his book, “Working.” In some ways you get a much clearer picture of history when told from an average person’s pov instead of just government and diplomacy.

  9. The late great Studs Terkel? Another “America hating” [sic] socialist? Alert Srah Palin — they’re everywhere!

    Both Zinn and Terkel — Redistributors!!

  10. “The best education class I ever took used the People’s History as a main text. Later, I used the some of the speeches in the Voices version as lessons with my own students. All of it is absolutely fascinating, and terribly depressing at times.”

    Nah, teachers as whole are not liberals who are trying to indoctrinate their students. It’s just a myth. I wish a teacher of my child tried to use that book.

    “Another terrific chronicler of the people’s history is Studs Terkel. I remember reading a slew of the interviews he did with union organizers and coal miners and others in his book, “Working.” In some ways you get a much clearer picture of history when told from an average person’s pov instead of just government and diplomacy.”

    Zinn is in no way shape or form on the same level of Terkel.

  11. @snoid: You say Zinn is a joke and not on the same level as Terkel. But you’ve not made any substantial points. Please explain yourself better.

    What complaints would you make to a teacher who used A People’s History as a source?

    Have you read the book? What passages would you point out as worthy of criticism?

  12. “What complaints would you make to a teacher who used A People’s History as a source?”

    The reason I’d have an issue with using this book as source is that it’s not in any way impartial. If you are talking about using it in public school, I’d never stop trying to stop it’s use, university level, well as I remember you have to use what the professors make you use, unfortunately. Boy did I go a few rounds with my history professors.

    “Have you read the book? What passages would you point out as worthy of criticism?”

    Yes, the entire book is one long hate filled diatribe against America. Not one passage the WHOLE book.

    “You say Zinn is a joke and not on the same level as Terkel. But you’ve not made any substantial points. Please explain yourself better.”

    Do you really need me to point out why Terkel is great writer? And why I would think Zinn is not?

    And to be clear here, so I’m not painted as some sort of Sarah Palin loving lunatic, I didn’t vote for W either time and voted for Obama this time around and I think the Iraq war was a big mistake. I just have ZERO tolerance for the Zinn’s and Chomsky’s of the world.

  13. @17:

    “Yes, the entire book is one long hate filled diatribe against America. Not one passage the WHOLE book.”

    errr….no

    “Do you really need me to point out why Terkel is great writer? And why I would think Zinn is not?”

    Good way to answer a question with a question

    also, apostrophe abuse!

  14. Roemun @2:

    If everyone read this book, and believed what is espoused in it, we probably wouldn’t have a democracy.

    Aha! Gotcha, Roemun. You haven’t read the book, and you have no idea what’s actually in it. You’re just spitting up a set of loony-right talking points you picked up on some other website.

    Zinn is not a historian, but rather he is a socialist who molds his “history” to fit his own political proclivities.

    In the edition I read, Zinn started out by explaining very clearly what he was up to. It wouldn’t be hard for you to read it too — it’s short, easy to find, and you can probably read it standing up in the bookstore, which will save you the cost of the book.

    This book is a stark example of this America hating

    Just in case I was in any doubt about where you picked up your canned opinions (I wasn’t), that bit nails it.

    ideologue’s work,

    Aw, sweetie, haven’t you figured out yet that you’re the rigid ideologue in this exchange?

    and serves, appropriately, as the American Left’s bible.

    Woo hoo! You really haven’t got a clue, do you? First, the American Left doesn’t have a bible. Second, what quite a few of them use as a bible is the Bible. Third, have you ever even met a leftist?

    I am quite sure Barack Obama would strongly endorse this propaganda,

    I see you’ve swallowed that batch of propaganda, too.

    You can either look forward to eight or more years being wrong every five minutes, or you can acquaint yourself with the real world. I recommend the latter, but it’s your choice.

    which is an indication that we need to gird ourselves for the dark days ahead.

    Chill. There has to be a limit to how silly you’re willing to look.

  15. Snoid? Studs Terkel and Howard Zinn were engaged in very different projects. Thinking well of Studs Terkel (as we all do) doesn’t invalidate a word of Howard Zinn.

    Also:

    Yes, the entire book is one long hate filled diatribe against America. Not one passage the WHOLE book.

    I can tell you haven’t read it either, you big phony. Now knock this off before your vowels start disappearing.

  16. “I can tell you haven’t read it either, you big phony. Now knock this off before your vowels start disappearing.”

    Trs, s rthr thn th shnnng lght f fr spch y ppl hr clm t b, y r jst nthr blg tht wll bn ths wh dr t dsgr wth th prty ln. Sd, rlly.

    And think what you want, I did read the book. I know it’s hard to believe that someone might not have the same opinion as you about it, but it’s true. The world is filled with people who don’t think like you. Imagine that.

  17. The SNOIDs and the ROEMUNs are attacking bookmobiles again. They don’t read books, they try to burn them.

  18. man, is there anything less interesting than folks going ’round accusing others of “hating america”? inherently divisive behavior is surely more of an enemy to democracy than written accounts of the losing sides of various battles.

  19. you’ve got to refute specific points.

    where is zinn actually wrong?

    (and don’t say there are no facts in the book. i’ve read it.)

    if you call zinn/chomsky/churchhill “crazy” or “unamerican” you have not said anything.

  20. To say that A People’s History is “one long diatribe against America” just smacks of nonsense. Zinn certainly isn’t against Native Americans, African slaves, disenfranchised women, labor activists, and the like – or is that these people somehow don’t count as part of “America”? The America that I live in is not solely composed of robber barons, politicians, and military men. Furthermore, it is not the actions and interests of these elite few that constitute a national identity or history.

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