Readings from Voices of a People's History of the United States (Anglais) CD – Version coupée, Livre audio
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This audio CD consists of sixteen readings thoughtfully selected by Zinn and Arnove from Voices of a People’s History of the United States, the long-awaited primary source companion to Zinn’s seminal A People’s History of the United States. The voices of our history are given new voices, the brazen spirit of rebellion and resistance are alive and well again.
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It's impossible for any honest person to not challenge that sort of fairy tale.
Around thirty years ago, I read Zinn's "A People's History of the United States." First, for those who think that's some kind of Marxist diatribe (before the word "liberal" was made dirty by some of your favorite rightwing talk show demagogues), it isn't. Many have reminded us over the centuries that history is often written by the victor. So there is an inherent bias of the victor toward his or her objectives. Zinn's book challenges some of that. It's well researched, well thought out, not just leftie diatribes. So to this day I recommend it.
Then we often lose track of the underdog. We talk about Washington and Jefferson, maybe even include that they owned slaves. But do we hear the side of the slave? (I was at a plantation in Charleston last January in which the docent made it sound like the slaves rather liked it there as their masters treated them so well. I reminded her that the slaves had no choice but to be there. They were effectively abducted from their home lands, and, if they were to have escaped, their chance of death was pretty great.)
This CD, while short, starts with part of a speech by Bartolme de Las Casas who knew what Columbus's crew really did to the Indians they encounted. It includes part of a speech by Frederick Douglass on what July 4 means to black people. There are excerpts of speeches on imperialism (Mark Twain) women (Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth), patriotism (Emma Goldman) and others.
I acknowledge that we may have a tendency to romanticize excerpts in particular. For instance, those of us who challenge the norm sometimes make saints--nearly perfect people--of those we oppressed. And we must remember they were human too. Just remember that the excerpts and the speeches fit into the times and historical circumstances in which they were made. But the "other side" MUST BE heard. This is a great intro to that other side, and it may entice the listener to read the book by the same name, or others which, one hopes, would moderate the view of some Americans that we are the pinnacle of perfection.
If you ever listen to recorded books, you know that the choice of reader makes a huge difference to your enjoyment. Here, the producers of this CD made excellent choices, with most of the cast of readers also contributing acting talent to their roles.
I have read and even heard Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman?" more times than I can remember, but have never enjoyed it as much as this reading by Kerry Washington. As I worked to get out the votes in our recent historic election, I listened and relistened to Christina Kirk and Josh Brolin re-enacting Susan B. Anthony's address to Judge Ward Hunt and Hunt's futile attempts to silence her during her trial for "knowingly voting without having a lawful right to vote." As people debated whether a black man was electable, I heard Paul Robeson Jr. (what brilliant casting!) read from Langston Hughes' writing about dreams deferred.
Josh Brolin also brings to life Joseph Plumb Martin, a soldier during the American Revolution whose writings reveal that being a foot soldier in the Continental Army was a long way from the glory our history books have preserved. Although I am about as WASPy as one can get, my father, who fought overseas with the Army Air Corps in WW II, taught me about and never stopped being ashamed of the detention of Japanese Americans detailed in Sandra Oh's reading of Yuri Kochiyama's "Then Came the War." The list of star performances continues with Sarah Jones, Viggo Mortensen, Lili Taylor, Danny Glover, Marisa Tomei, and many more.
This CD may well inspire you to read the book from which the readings are excerpted, "A People's History of the United States" (it has me). However, the CD stands on its own as a powerful, moving performance and really, I promise you will be entertained!
This is not entertainment, and it does take some effort to pay attention to the serious matters and the serious comments. Kudos to the people who went to read these quotes, and to the people who made it possible. Something to sit down, watch and discuss with your kids, who will likely have to be begged to pay attention..