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A People's History of American Empire (American Empire Project) Paperback – April 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 10 Up–A study of empire-building by established politicians and big businesses from the 1890 Massacre at Wounded Knee through the current Iraq war. As nonfiction sequential art narrative, this stellar volume is compelling both as historical interpretation and you-are-there observation during many eras and in many climes. Konopacki melds realistic and energetic cartoons–Zinn lecturing in the present day, American and Vietnamese soldiers in the jungle, the Shah of Iran's White Revolution–with archival photos and document scraps to create a highly textured visual presentation. Each episode has its own period-specific narrator: Woody Guthrie sings about the Ludlow Massacre, a zoot suiter recounts the convergence of racial politics with popular music, and Zinn remembers his class-conscious boyhood through World War II soldiering and activism undertaken as a Civil Rights-era college professor. Politically charged, this book can't stand alone as a history text, but it is an essential component for contemporary American government education, as well as an easy work to suggest to both narrative nonfiction and sophisticated comics readers.–Francisca Goldsmith, Halifax Public Libraries, Nova Scotia
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“At the heart of this wide-ranging comics indictment of American Empire are the terrific human stories of those who have resisted--including wonderful autobiographical episodes from author Howard Zinn's own courageous and inspiring life.” ―Joe Sacco, author of Safe Area Gorazde

“Ingenious in its conception and brilliant in execution, this comics version of Howard Zinn's classic history breathes new life into the stories of people who never thought their stories would be told. It is urgently necessary for our times: read this book and see how to raise your voice against all the forces that would drown you out. A modern activist's primer!” ―Ben Affleck


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Product Details

  • Series: American Empire Project
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; Gph edition (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805087443
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805087444
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 0.8 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,473 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Howard Zinn (1922-2010) was a historian, playwright, and activist. He wrote the classic A People's History of the United States, "a brilliant and moving history of the American people from the point of view of those ... whose plight has been largely omitted from most histories" (Library Journal). The book, which has sold more than two million copies, has been featured on The Sopranos and Simpsons, and in the film Good Will Hunting. In 2009, History aired The People Speak, an acclaimed documentary co-directed by Zinn, based on A People's History and a companion volume, Voices of a People's History of the United States.

Zinn grew up in Brooklyn in a working-class, immigrant household. At 18 he became a shipyard worker and then flew bomber missions during World War II. These experiences helped shape his opposition to war and passion for history. After attending college under the GI Bill and earning a Ph.D. in history from Columbia, he taught at Spelman, where he became active in the civil rights movement. After being fired by Spelman for his support for student protesters, Zinn became a professor of Political Science at Boston University, were he taught until his retirement in 1988.

Zinn was the author of many books, including an autobiography, You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train, the play Marx in Soho, and Passionate Declarations. He received the Lannan Foundation Literary Award for Nonfiction and the Eugene V. Debs award for his writing and political activism.

Photographer Photo Credit Name: Robert Birnbaum.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

151 of 183 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on April 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
The word "propaganda" has an almost universally negative connotation. Whenever we use it, we generally mean to refer to systematic and deliberate misinformation. But it's worth remembering that the word is etymologically derived from the same root as the word "propagate," to increase or grow. Propaganda, as the word was originally used, is simply a means of spreading the news, of getting the word out to large numbers of people, of disseminating information that needs to be disseminated.

It's in this original sense of the word that A People's History of American Empire is propaganda. Using the medium of the comix or graphic novel, Howard Zinn, Mike Konopacki, and Paul Buhle get the word out about a side of U.S. history that almost never gets taught in public schools, and about which many Americans even today remain clueless. Their treatment is entertaining and accessible--which means that it has a potentially huge audience--but neither patronizing nor simplistic--the book contains an extensive bibliography, and references both graphics and narrative claims. It's ideal for folks who have neither the time nor inclination to read Zinn's bulky classic A People's History of the United States, from which much of the volume is mined.

The format is ingenious. Zinn (wonderfully drawn, by the way) is the up-close narrator of the book. He begins by expressing bewilderment that the U.S. response to 9/11 has followed the same old violent pattern that the U.S. (and, of course, not only the U.S.) has typically adopted when threatened. This response, Zinn argues, ultimately only makes matters worse because it does nothing to get to the root causes of unrest.
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31 of 41 people found the following review helpful By puravida on April 15, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book absolutely blew me away. I'm a big Howeard Zinn fan and remember using his book "A People's History of the United States" in high school for research projects.

This book takes Howard Zinn's arguments and presents them in a graphic adaptation that makes history come alive. There's real emotion in this book and it's a true page turner. During much of our own history we have been imperialistic and have taken advantage of the rest of the world to advance our own agendas, without regards to the suffering these actions have caused in many countries around the world. Let's turn back to compassion, collaboration and start promoting real sustainable development. In an election year this book should be convincing enough!
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46 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 5, 2008
Format: Paperback
I just picked up this book today, and I don't often just start reading a book then buy it, but this one was well worth it. A brutal expose of the injustice going on in America, and perpetuated by it. Not just an expose of the "Rich Elite" and their hold on our supposed Democracy, but all those they've hurt to make an extra dishonest dollar as if they did not have enough already.
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28 of 38 people found the following review helpful By M Chapman on May 22, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book should have been better; if you squint just right it becomes a wonderful breakdown of the so-called 'dark side' of American history. It serves as an effective gut punch to anyone who grew up indoctrinated by history textbooks portraying the U.S. as an unrivaled model of decency and equality. We the readers are presented with a breakdown-by-era of our failings as a nation, both on the domestic and international front, ranging on topics from racism to all-out genocide. With this much needed historical alternative and all the potential it embodies, why didn't it score higher?

First, Mr. Zinn's tale presents a world of absolutes. There seems to be no room for grey morality in this history; historical figures are either upstanding and pure of heart or dastardly bigots hellbent on destruction and profit. The black and white morality is further exaggerated by the artist's deliberate emphasis on giving the hero figures martyred, compassionate expressions while the villains scowl, cackle maniacally and all but twirl their mustaches with evil gusto. This might be excused in a children's title, but for something clearly written for adolescents and adults it comes off as insulting, as if they felt readers would be unable to comprehend their message without knowing exactly who you should be rooting for on any given page. If we're already pandering, why not take it one step further and give the respective figures halos or devil horns to remove any and all doubts in our minds?

Second, while the book makes an excellent case in presenting its alternative viewpoints, it takes great pains to ensure that its views are the only ones on display.
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24 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Martin Gugino on June 18, 2008
Format: Paperback
It takes a while to get through the book, because you can't take too much at one sitting. Make sure you've got your meds. We killed the Indians, but you know that, and dominated the Chinese of the canneries and the railroads, and enslaved the blacks, and shot the people who joined unions, locked up the Japanese ... hey but that's only in this country. You should see what we've been doing in the rest of the world.
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