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1.

In these selections, both Zinn and Johnson tell two different stories about the same thing:
industrialization. What aspects of industrialization does Zinn focus on? Johnson? (In other
words, what type of people and events do they discuss in their narratives?) What does this
tell you about their perspectives on industrialization… and about their view of American
history? Answer in a meaty paragraph or two (max), using quotes and evidence from the
readings.

A: Zinn’s view on the American industrialization is rather cynical and pessimistic. The use of
the derogator metaphor for the businessmen in 19th century America in the title of Chapter 11,
Robber Barons and Rebels, suggests that Zinn thinks the booming in America’s economics
during the industrial revolution was merely a tool that made the middle- or upper-class
Americans richer. And in comparison, people from the lower class were worsen off and had
risen in opposition against them as they were rebels. To support this, Zinn states in the very
opening of the chapter that during the era, “the black would be put back; the strikes of white
workers would not be tolerated; the industrial and political elites of North and South would
take hold of the country…in such a way as to create separate levels of oppression-a skillful
terracing to stabilize the pyramid of wealth.” (page 234). From here the audience can already
sense that the industrialization was an era lack of equality in race, equality in wealth, and
outright actions from the government to help the nation as a whole. But instead, the black was
“put back” and the poor were exploited more by the rich with even, perhaps, the help from the
government. To supports this idea that it was an era of exploitation from the rich, Zinn
provides evidence about the overpriced agriculture machines and railroad rates, paid
collaboration between the government and big companies, fatality rate of the railroad workers,
and the controlled railroad by bankers (page 235). And one of the most stunning aspects he
revels is that “Thomas Edison promised New Jersey politicians 1,000 dollars each in return for
favorable legislation. Daniel Drew and Jay Gould spent 1 million to bribe the New York
legislature to legalize their issue of 8 million in “watered stock”.” The aspects he talks about in
this chapter demonstrate and support his cynical and pessimistic view on the American
industrialization, or even the American history in general. Zinn quotes Eugene Debs: “The
issue is Socialism versus Capitalism. I am for Socialism because I am for humanity. We have
been cursed with the reign of gold long enough, Money constitutes no proper basis of
civilization.” (page 260). Before this quote, Zinn revels the fights the workers put on for
decades against the corrupted companies and government, and Debs was one of the heroic
leaders of the fights. From Debs’ quote, the audience can also sense where Zinn stands for
between socialism and capitalism. And unfortunately for Zinn, even till nowadays the U.S.A. is
thoroughly capitalist. Therefore, as a historian who is not a fan of capitalism, Zinn’s view on
the American history should be similar to how he sees the industrialization.
Unlike Zinn, Johnson shows a totally different view on the American industrialization. Johnson
praises the industry revolution and how it was beneficial for not only the rich and government,
but also beneficial especially for the poor, such as farmers, as he states that “the benefits
brought to the American farming community was above all to the intelligence and industry of
the America.” (page 351). Throughout the chapter, Johnson explains in every aspect the
industrial revolution benefited that he thinks the industrial revolution was fair and how the big
companies and the government were falsely blamed. In comparison to how Zinn focuses on
reveling the profit the inventors made during the era, Johnson focuses on how much “those
who invented the new machinery deserve handsome shares of credit”. Johnson also does not
agree with Zinn that the businessmen were robbers barons. Instead, he thinks it is a
misunderstanding and that “the American millionaires in 1902 were those who serviced the
farming community, both ending the backbreaking labor of earlier days and bringing cheap
food for everyone…….Where was the robbing?” (page 352). All the evidence Johnson lists in
the chapter demonstrates his amicable view on the era, and this view, perhaps, projects to his
view on American history in general, which is amicable too. It almost feels like personal bias
that against all the evidence from other historians like Zinn, Johnson still thinks that
industrialization was an era that benefited everyone almost equally. However, perhaps from the
preface of the book he already states that he is optimistic on American history that he think
“Americans to me……were the most remarkable people the world has ever seen. I love them
and salute them, and this is their story.”
2. Quote one phrase, sentence, or paragraph from each author that best reflects his unique
perspective on the historical time period covered in these selections.

A: Johnson: “But a list of American millionaires compiled in 1902 shows that a very large
proportion of the new plutocracy, as its critics called it, were those who serviced the farming
community, both ending the backbreaking labor of earlier days and bringing cheap food to
everyone.……All these men made fortunes in a highly competitive world, and all made
impressive contributions to the transformation of farming lives and consumer budgets. Where
was the robbing?” (page 352).

Zinn: “In the year 1877, the signals were given for the rest of the century: the blacks would be
put back; the strikes of white workers would not be tolerated; the industrial and political elites of
North and South would take hold of the country and organize the greatest march of economic
growth in human history. They would do it with the aid of, and at the expense of, black labor,
white labor, Chinese labor, European immigrant labor, female labor, rewarding them differently
by race, sex, national origin, and social class, in such a way as to create separate levels of
oppression-a skillful terracing to stabilize the pyramid of wealth.” (page 243).