THEY SAID IT
One of the books I’ve been reading lately is Howard Zinn’s Voices of a People’s History of the United States. Brothers and sisters, let me tell ya. This here’s a good book. Zinn gives each historical speaker’s (or writer’s) bit a brief set-up for historical context, but he essentially lets the people’s words speak for themselves. I’ll give you a few nuggets, just so you can get the gist.
…murder is murder whether committed by the villain skulking in the dark or by uniformed men stepping to the strains of martial music.
—John G. Burnett, writing about his experiences regarding the “Trail of Tears”
Here Sir, was a time in which your tender feelings for your selves had engaged you thus to declare, you were then impressed with proper ideas of the great valuation of liberty, and the free possession of those blessings to which you were entitled by nature; but Sir how pitiable is it to reflect, that altho you were so fully convinced of the benevolence of the Father of mankind, and of his equal and impartial distribution of those rights and privileges which he had conferred upon them, that you should at the Same time counteract his mercies, in detaining by fraud and violence so numerous a part of my brethren under groaning captivity and cruel oppression, that you should at the Same time be found guilty of that most criminal act, which you professedly detested in others, with respect to yourselves.
—Benjamin Banneker, to Thomas Jefferson
Continual fear and laborious servitude have in some degree lessened in us that natural force and energy which belong to man; or else, in defiance of opposition, our men, before this, would have nobly and boldly contended for their rights. But give the man of color an equal opportunity with the white man from the cradle to manhood, and from manhood to the grave, and you would discover the dignified statesman, the man of science, and the philosopher. But there is no such opportunity for the sons of Africa, and I fear that our powerful one’s are fully determined that there never shall be.
Okay, that’s enough. I’ve barely read a third of this book, and that’s only a fingernail’s worth of what I’ve read. Get thee to a bookstore (or library).