A People's History of the United States Characters

A People's History of the United States Character List

Charles Beard

Beard is a 20th century historian who argues that all governments—including democracies and America—are the result of the interests of the wealthy exerting control either directly or by influencing the laws to become first and foremost agents of their own protection.

Emma Goldman

Goldman is an anarchist, feminist, and revolutionary pain in the neck to historians trying to create a sustained vision of American as a place where Marxist theory and socialist sentiment never took hold. She was deemed so dangerous to the preservation of democratic capitalism at any cost that she was deported—even though she was a naturalized citizen—thanks to illegal maneuvers by a young Justice Department official named J. Edgar Hoover.

Andrew Jackson

Jackson is a symbol of the conventional methodology of writing history in which the purpose is to create a record for the sake of propaganda supporting the prevailing power elite. For much of American history, Jackson has been upheld as one of the greatest Presidents; a view which has only in the past few decades underdone such a revision that his worthiness of being portrayed on currency came under review. As the author explains, school textbooks have presented the image of Jackson as “the frontiersman, soldier, democrat, man of the people” while conveniently leaving out information about his legacy as “slaveholder, land speculator, executioner of dissident soldiers, exterminator of Indians.”

J.P. Morgan

Morgan was a war profiteer who sold defectives guns to the Union Army while paying to avoid the draft himself. When analyzing this robber baron of inestimable personal wealth and no apparent morality, Zinn nevertheless credits Morgan with being instrumental in assisting the U.S. economy maintain equilibrium as it transitioned from a primarily agriculture-based system to an industrial powerhouse. In this way, Morgan comes to be seen as the iconic figure of the American businessman who is forgiven his ethical lapses as long as he produces jobs, keep stock prices rising and introduces innovation.

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