A People's History of American Empire: The American Empire Project, A Graphic Adaptation

A People's History of American Empire: The American Empire Project, A Graphic Adaptation

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Overview

Adapted from the bestselling grassroots history of the United States, the story of America in the world, told in comics form

Since its landmark publication in 1980, A People's History of the United States has had six new editions, sold more than 1.7 million copies, become required classroom reading throughout the country, and been turned into an acclaimed play. More than a successful book, A People's History triggered a revolution in the way history is told, displacing the official versions with their emphasis on great men in high places to chronicle events as they were lived, from the bottom up.

Now Howard Zinn, historian Paul Buhle, and cartoonist Mike Konopacki have collaborated to retell, in vibrant comics form, a most immediate and relevant chapter of A People's History: the centuries-long story of America's actions in the world. Narrated by Zinn, this version opens with the events of 9/11 and then jumps back to explore the cycles of U.S. expansionism from Wounded Knee to Iraq, stopping along the way at World War I, Central America, Vietnam, and the Iranian revolution. The book also follows the story of Zinn, the son of poor Jewish immigrants, from his childhood in the Brooklyn slums to his role as one of America's leading historians.

Shifting from world-shattering events to one family's small revolutions, A People's History of American Empire presents the classic ground-level history of America in a dazzling new form.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780805087444
Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 04/01/2008
Series: American Empire Project Series
Edition description: S&s Hdcvr ed.
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 381,661
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 10.86(h) x 0.95(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Howard Zinn, author of numerous acclaimed histories, taught history at Spelman College and Boston University, and received the Lannan Literary Award, among many others. A People's History of the United States was a finalist for the 1981 National Book Award. Born in 1922, Zinn died in 2010.

Mike Konopacki has collaborated on five collections of cartoons, and his work is regularly syndicated. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

Paul Buhle is a senior lecturer in history at Brown University and the editor of the Encyclopedia of the American Left, among other books. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

Reading Group Guide

Questions for Discussion

1. One thing that sets this book apart, particularly as a work in the "graphic novel" genre, is its great variety of visual imagery. We find within these pages various photographs, maps, printed-page excerpts, diagrams, posters and poster-like advertisements, newspaper and magazine clippings, political cartoons, and, of course, many drawings both comics-based and realistic. Point out memorable examples of each of these categories.

2. What is meant in this book by the word "empire"? Discuss this key term with your fellow students.

3. Define "ghost dance." Also, who was Black Elk? What does he mean when he states (on page 17): "The nation's hoop is broken and scattered"?

4. The phrase "Certain White Men" appears on more than one occasion in these pages. When, and in what context, does the phrase first appear? Who does this phrase signify, both specifically and generally?

5. Eugene V. Debs makes his first appearance in this book on page 22. Who was Debs? Why was he both revered and hated? For what is he best known today? And where else do we encounter him in these pages?

6. Page 28 gives us a full-page illustration of America's so-called "Open Door Policy," which is said to hang on "two hinges—military and economic expansionism." What does this policy mean? How does it work? Where has it been utilized, over the years and across the globe?

7. In the bottom panel of page 33, we see a maid (or domestic servant) waiting on a wealthy white person. It's a scene that we find more than once in A People's History (although in this case, given the speech balloon appearing at far right, the drawing might be ironic). Where else in this book do we see such an illustration?

8. Explain the origin of the term "yellow journalism," as detailed in Chapter II. Also, explain why—as we find a bit later, in Chapter IV—"This Machine Kills Fascists" is written upon Woody Guthrie's guitar.

9. What was the Sykes-Picot Agreement? For whom was the agreement named? What did it achieve? And how, per page 87, was this agreement "essentially codified" by the 1919 Peace Treaty of Versailles?

10. Who was Emma Goldman? Why is she remembered by history? We are "introduced" to her on page 101—but, actually, we've seen her name previously in this book. Can you find where? (Hint: It's on a poster in the "Resistance to War" section of Chapter IV.)

11. This work is presented, both visually and textually, as though its main author, the great historian Howard Zinn, were delivering a lecture. Zinn is our narrator; we as readers are "attending" his lecture. But with Chapter V, we find that Zinn's own story—his remarkable life—intersects with the very history at hand. The American story, then, includes (however partially) the Zinn story. Discuss how Zinn's life has informed his arguments and beliefs. How has his biography has shaped his personal philosophy?

12. Just above the sequence of five photographs at the bottom of page 121, we read: "Many of our wars were launched on the quicksand of public deception." Explain what this means, paying particular attention to the "quicksand" metaphor, and also explain how this remark applies to each of the five wars pictured.

13. Who are the two men depicted at the bottom right of page 159? Where have we seen them before in this book (as represented with these very same portraits)? What is each saying about race and the U.S. military?

14. Who are the four girls shown amid flames in the bottom-right panel of page 178? Can you tell who they are, even though they are not named specifically?

15. On page 191, in the "Manifesto of the Wounded Knee Airlift," we read: "The frustration and disillusionment we may at times feel are only the result of a misunderstanding of our real ability to affect the course of this country's policies." And earlier, on page 99, we see a speech balloon along the same lines: "So you see, protest DOES work!!" Where else in these pages did you grasp this message?

16. The exact same unflattering—yet "presidential"—illustration appears on pages 193 and 204 of this book. What is the gist of this self-contained political cartoon? Name as many of the faces and logos in this illustration as you can.

17. On page 203, Zinn asks us, rhetorically, "Was there a connection between Watergate and Vietnam? Of course! It was the same policy." What does he mean by this? And do you agree with him? Explain.

18. As a reader of this book, and as a viewer of its graphic imagery, account for the "secret agent" (or even "film noir"?) characteristics of the artwork rendered on page 238—the shading, coloring, perspectives, subject matter, silhouetting, shadowing, etc.

19. What did you make of the fact that this detailed, often disturbing (if not downright tragic) record of America's blood-lust for money and power—that is, its ongoing quest for empire—ends with the words "a marvelous victory"? Did this seem apt, or credible, to you? Or foolish? Or ironic? Or naive? Explain.

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A People's History of American Empire: The American Empire Project, A Graphic Adaptation 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Eric_Memish More than 1 year ago
           A People’s History of American Empire by Howard Zinn was not exactly what I had expected it to be. First of all I did not expect the book to be a comic book and second of all I did not expect the book to be mostly about corruption in the government of the United States.             I personally did not like the fact that it was a comic book because I was hoping for a more traditional book. I also found the book to be a little too radical for me because of his anti-government opinion. However, I did find that many of the conspiracies were very interesting and the book provided a lot of new knowledge that is not taught in history class.               If you are looking for a book that is all about conspiracy theories in an easy to read and comprehend comic book…  this is the book you are looking for               If you are looking for a book of cold, hard facts about United States history… look elsewhere
EvaCatHerder on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed the visual aspect that this book added to Howard Zinn's writing. However, I found that some of the fictionalized stories made a strong statement that was poorly substantiated. Zinn has a habit of making strong, sometimes counter-intuitive assertions, but usually backs them up with data. There were several places where he did so in this book, but there were also enough places where I wanted to know the how he was able to back his statements,
davidscarter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
his graphic historical narrative is an adaptation of sorts of ideas from Zinn's classic A People's History of the United States. Those familiar with Zinn's works will not be surprised to know that American History in this work is viewed through the lenses of class and race conflict domestically and imperialism internationally.Any historical graphic narrative labors in the shadows of the work of Larry Gonick. Unfortunately, Zinn, Konopacki & Buhle fall short in this comparison. Gonick is an accomplished cartoonist and entertaining storyteller who makes ample use of (often irreverent) humor while presenting his sometimes out-of-the-mainstream histories; A People's History of American Empire (APHoAE) features adequate but by no means exemplary cartooning and is a consitantly serious and humorless affair.As Gonick does with his comics, Zinn is used as a narrative character within APHoAE--a technique that force comparisons with superior works. However, Zinn also appears in some chapters as a viewpoint character. This serves to muddy the waters as to whether APHoAE is meant to be a historical memoir or an objective view of history.Another curious decision is to make liberal use of historical photographs within the work, often in place of regular drawn panels. There seems to be little rhyme or reason for what has been chosen to be drawn and what is represented by a photograph. Also, the reproduction of most of the photographs is quite poor and tends to downgrade the visual quality of the book.* Konopacki is a good enough artist that these photograph panels could have been drawn, and doing so would have given the work better visual cohesion.Whether or not one agrees with Zinn's political and/or historical views, A People's History of American Empire is a less-than-compelling work of graphic narrative.Rating: 2 (of 5)* (This review is based on an advance reading copy provided by the publisher. As an uncorrected proof, there is a statement that reads 'some illustrations are not final,' which seems like a very odd thing to do for review copies of a comic-format work.)
qgil on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting. Europeans will enjoy it.
kiacyclic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A descent graphic adaptation of Zinn's "People's History of the United States." If you know the original well, you may find this to be a little bit of history repeating.
saltypepper on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In theory, a graphic novel version is a great idea. Graphic novels can convey more sophisticated ideas to younger readers in a way that text only books often can't. I was really looking forward to this book as a way to introduce Zinn's work to kids.The art and writing on this is not as good as the ideas deserve. If a kid is old enough to understand the concepts being depicted, then they can also handle more nuanced writing and art that is not simplistic and caricatured.
plappen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a graphic novel adaptation of Zinn¿s famous history book, ¿A People¿s History of the United States.¿It doesn¿t cover everything in ¿A People¿s History...¿, but starts with the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890, when American soldiers killed or wounded 300 Native Americans in about an hour. In the 1890¿s, America was going through a depression, so a foreign enemy was needed against which to rally the public (along with finding new markets to exploit). The Cuban Revolution was attempting to throw off four centuries of Spanish rule. The sister of a Cuban rebel leader told the story of being searched for secret documents by a Spanish matron while on a US steamer. The American press turned it into an accusation by Spain that America was too weak to defend the honor of its women, and that women on American steamers were being strip searched. Calls were made to annex Cuba. The spark needed to start the Spanish-American War was the destruction of an American battleship in Havana harbor (¿Remember the Maine¿). Spain was blamed, but the US government was skeptical.During World War I, the Espionage Act was passed to criminalize any antiwar talk that could be interpreted as discouraging enlistment. The law also secretly empowered private associations to spy on ¿disloyal¿ Americans. After World War II was won, but not officially over, the new American empire decided to start testing its new weapons on defenseless people. Zinn was involved in a bombing raid on a French town where several thousand German soldiers waited for the end of the war. On that day, over 1200 planes dropped nearly 400,000 gallons of napalm on the town of Royan.Did you know that during the war, the wearing of zoot suits was considered dangerous, and was a kind of draft resistance? This book also looks at Vietnam, the Civil Rights era, the Pentagon Papers, the Contra War in Nicaragua, and the Iranian Revolution. It has a bibliography for those who want to read further.For those who have never read ¿A People¿s History of the United States,¿ perhaps intimidated by its several hundred page length, this is a wonderful alternative. For those who have read Zinn¿s book, this helps to put a face to the names, and is still very highly recommended.
boone306 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A graphic novel that shows a negative history of United States.
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TruthBKnown More than 1 year ago
As a work of fiction, in which category this book rightly belongs, this is about the worst possible read there is. It would be far better to write one's own work of fiction and read that. Even an illiterate imbecile would create something of more worth. As a work of historical revisionism it is still an abysmal waste of time (although torturedly amusing so long as one remembers that the authors are attempting to force an ideologically poisonous point of view down your throat). However, this book purports to be a history and as such it would best be used by survivalists to make fires.