Chapter Seven Summary of Zinn’s Book
As with the rest of his book, Zinn has a very interesting approach to the topics presented in chapter seven of his book. In this chapter, Zinn discusses the cruelty and deceit of the Native Americans in the United States. This chapter also exposes many leaders like Andrew Jackson, along with significant events such as the Indian Removal, which led to Zinn’s explanation on the survival of Indians due to the Impact of Americans on their lands. I feel this chapter sheds light on these issues and highlights the struggle for Native Americans due to their land being taken from by the Americans.
Zinn’s chapter begins with a brief description of the Indian Removal, and the interesting fact that many of the history books nowadays tend to quite literally “skip” over the Indian Removal. Zinn then explains the purposes for the Indian Removal and mentions leaders such as Andrew Jackson, who is seen as a “hero” in American Textbooks. This chapter overall explains the removal of Indians from their own lands in order for Jackson to acquire the newly conquered lands. This chapter mainly relates to the Indian Removal, and the many conflicts Indians had to go through in order for Americans to obtain the newfound land, which was already the Indian’s land, to begin with. Overall, Zinn does a good job in explaining the harshness of people like Andrew Jackson, and the many violent, racist, and genocidal policies on the Native American people. He concludes the chapter with information regarding the Trail of Tears and the toll that had already been endured by the Native Americans being forced off their land.
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In this chapter, he briefly mentions historians by the name of Marvin Meyers and Arthur Schlesinger in which he calls them out on their books The Jacksonian Persuasion and The Jacksonian persuasion. In Zinn’s book, he calls them out for not mentioning various events during Jackson’s leadership. Zinn claims Their books did not mention events such as Jacksons Indian Policy, however, he did mention many other aspects such as tariffs, banking, political parties, etc. Zinn also comments on other media, stating “If you look through high school textbooks and elementary school textbooks in American history you will find Jackson the frontiersman, soldier, democrat, man of the people-not Jackson the slaveholder, land speculator, executioner of dissident soldiers, exterminator of Indians.” Which further explains his viewpoint on the topic versus sources such as textbooks, which tend to hide various information.
Zinn is known for citing and using various sources in his chapters, while even mentioning various scholars and historians relating to the matter. In the chapter, he mentioned Michael Rogin’s Fathers and Children briefly at the beginning of the chapter. With Rogin’s book, Zinn is able to use his statistics on the matter. Zinn explains “In 1790, there were 3,900,000 Americans, and most of them lived within 50 miles of the Atlantic Ocean. By 1830, there were 13 million Americans, and by 1840, 4,500,000 had crossed the Appalachian Mountains into the Mississippi Valley-that huge expanse of land crisscrossed by rivers flowing into the Mississippi from east and west. In 1820, 120,000 Indians lived east of the Mississippi. By 1844, fewer than 30,000 were left. Most of them had been forced to migrate westward. But the word “force” cannot convey what happened.” He also brings up other authors such as Dale Van Every, and his book The Disinherited, in which Zinn states he sums up what the Indian Removal Act meant to the average Indian during that time. Other books mentioned in this chapter included The Age of Jackson by Arthur Schlesinger and The Jacksonian Persuasion by Marvin Meyers, In which Zinn calls out both of their novels for not mentioning Jackson’s Indian Policy. Instead, focusing on other matters such as tariffs, banking, political parties, etc. The author also mentions various types of newspapers and letters throughout the chapter. Some of the names of the documents include the Cherokee Pheonix, various newspapers from Alabama and New Orleans, and an open letter sent by Ralph Waldo Emerson to President Van Buren referring to the removal treaty with the Cherokees.
Zinn does a great job in explaining his theme in the chapter and he provides a lot of useful info on the subject as well. I always find it interesting that Zinn is able to show a very different perspective on historical events compared to what many people are used to reading, like history textbooks. In the chapter, Zinn states “And so, Indian Removal, as it has been politely called, cleared the land for white occupancy between the Appalachians and the Mississippi, cleared it for cotton in the South and grain in the North, for expansion, immigration, canals, railroads, new cities, and the building of a huge continental empire clear across to the Pacific Ocean. The cost in human life cannot be accurately measured, in suffering not even roughly measured. Most of the history books given to children pass quickly over it.” After reading the text fully with better understanding, I would definintely say that I agree with his statements regarding the suffering of Native Americans and the loss of their lives and land. Zinn’s views are certainly different from other historical sources I have read, which is what makes his points the most interesting to read.
Zinn is very straightforward and precise on how he is able to interpret his information in his book. He is not shy in letting the intended audience know his perspective on a topic. I find his views on Andrew Jackson and the Indian Removal to be very interesting, as I for one did not know much about these topics until after reading the chapter. In this chapter, Zinn states “Jackson was a land speculator, merchant, slave trader, and the most aggressive enemy of the Indians in early American history. He became a hero of the War of 1812, which was not (as usually depicted in American textbooks) just a war against England for survival, but a war for the expansion of the new nation, into Florida, into Canada, into Indian territory.” After reading the chapter, I tended to see Andrew Jackson in another way. It made me wonder why many sources see him as a sort of hero when in reality, I see him as a very controversial person according to his policies.
The chapter 10 module activities gave me some more knowledge of Andrew Jackson, who is one of the main characters in chapter seven of Zinn’s book. The Zinn chapter seven modules also gave me more insight on the topics relating to the subjects mentioned in chapter seven. I found the video on the protests against the Trail of Tears video to be very interesting, as it gave me a new perspective on the event. Like the Trail of Tears meant for forced relocation for Native Americans, it was interesting to see an opposing view from someone who was against the taking of Native American lands by the American government. As I read this chapter, I began to feel that we glorified the growth of the United States, in the past and even now, through people we call “heroes”, who marginalized and killed various Native Americans in order to obtain land.
Before the reading of this chapter, I had little to literally no knowledge on any of the topics mentioned in this chapter of Zinn’s book. Certain events such as the Trail of Tears and the Indian Removal were sort of new to me, so I had to do some research on these topics as I read the chapter. But thanks to the course modules and the resources provided in them, I was able to become more familiar on the topic. I had only had one perspective on Andrew Jackson however, and it was from my past history classes when I was younger. After reading the chapter, I now have a different understanding of him, as my past history books never mentioned the fact that he had very negative feelings towards Native Americans.