Discussion Questions for “A People’s History of the United States”

By Bill Bigelow

Here are discussion questions and selected activities to accompany A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, chapters 1 – 11, and 18. Questions for the remaining chapters will be added. Let us know if you use or adapt them.

Chapter 1: Columbus, The Indians, and Human Progress

Questions for Reflection

  1. There is relatively little disagreement among historians over what happened to the Taínos. Why do you think this story is not more widely taught in school?
  2. Given the information in this chapter, why is Columbus Day still an official U.S. national holiday?
  3. How should we commemorate “Columbus Day”?
  4. Howard Zinn writes, “Any chosen [historical] emphasis supports, intentionally or not, some kind of interest — whether economic or political or racial or national or sexual.” What does he mean? What is the “emphasis” of this chapter? Why does it take this emphasis?
  5. Do you think it is “inevitable” that history-telling take sides? Explain.
  6. “The cry of the poor is not always just, but if you don’t listen to it, you will never know what justice is.” What is your reaction to this quote? What does it mean? Do you agree?
  7. What was the root of the conflict between European immigrants and the Indians of North America?
  8. How did white colonists justify taking Indian land?
  9. Could conflict between white settlers and Indians have been prevented or was it inevitable?
  10. What is “that special powerful drive born in civilizations based on private property” described in this chapter?
  11. What is meant by the statement that because of this powerful drive, “human need was transformed into the murder of whole peoples”?
  12. List the “European values” brought to the Americas by various groups of colonists.

Chapter 2: Drawing the Color Line

Questions for Reflection

  1. According to this chapter, “Everything in the experience of the first white settlers acted as a pressure for the enslavement of blacks.” What were these “pressures”?
  2. At the beginning of the slave trade, African societies were complex and highly developed in many respects. Millions of people lived on the African continent. How were Europeans able to enslave so many people?
  3. Were you surprised by any of the descriptions of African societies in this chapter? What did you learn that you didn’t know before?
  4. Make a list of all the groups that profited from the slave trade.
  5. Most of the whites involved in the slave trade considered themselves Christians. One principle of Christianity is to “love your brother as yourself.” How could Christians justify enslaving other human beings?
  6. People are not born believing that their skin color makes them better than another person with a different skin color. This attitude of superiority must be learned. How was this notion taught to whites in the early years of North American slavery? What role did laws play?
  7. Africans fought against their enslavement from the very beginning of the slave trade. What were some of the ways Africans resisted slavery?
  8. According to this chapter, “Only one fear was greater than the fear of Black rebellion in the new American colonies. That was the fear that discontented whites would join Black slaves to overthrow the existing order.” Try to predict some of the laws that colonies will enact to keep Blacks and whites apart — to keep them from seeing any common interests and from acting together.

Essay Topics

  1. This chapter outlines the “complex web of historical threads to ensnare Blacks for slavery in America.” Research some of these historical threads and write an essay on the topic: How did racism start in America?
  2. This chapter asks: “Is it possible for whites and Blacks to live together without hatred?” Using information in this chapter, from your research, and from your own experiences write an essay that attempts to answer this question.

Chapter 3: Persons of Mean and Vile Condition

Questions for Reflection

  1. How might the Indians have viewed Bacon’s Rebellion?
  2. What were the similarities and differences between slavery and indentured servitude?
  3. Why didn’t enslaved Black people and white servants organize together to end their bondage?
  4. White people justified the mistreatment of enslaved Black people by arguing, in part, that they were racially inferior. How could white masters justify the mistreatment of white servants?
  5. In this chapter, Howard Zinn writes, “What if these different despised groups — the Indians, the slaves, the poor whites — should combine? Even before there were so many Blacks, in the 17th century, there was, as Abbot Smith puts it, ‘a lively fear that servants would join with Negroes or Indians to overcome the small number of masters.’” Why didn’t these groups unite against “the small number of masters”?
  6. How did the development of a middle class help keep the wealthy in power?
  7. Activity: Based on the chapter, make a drawing of the class structure of early America. Your drawing should illustrate the different conditions and amounts of power possessed by each group.

Chapter 4: Tyranny Is Tyranny

Questions for Reflection

  1. This chapter describes the beginning of some trends in American politics: “the mobilization of lower-class energy by upper-class politicians, for their own purposes.” Do you see this today? Give an example.
  2. What determined which colonists supported the revolution and which were neutral or supported Great Britain?
  3. Why did the wealthy colonists fear the popular violence aimed at British authorities in the years before the revolution?
  4. Why did some colonists worry that the talk of American independence “not go too far in the direction of democracy?”
  5. The Declaration of Independence says “all men are created equal.” Who did Thomas Jefferson and the signers of the Declaration include in this statement? Who did they exclude?  Why?
  6. This chapter asks, “How could people truly have equal rights, with stark differences in wealth?” How would you answer that question?
  7. What is meant by the title of this chapter, “Tyranny is Tyranny”?

Chapter 5: A Kind of Revolutionary

Questions for Reflection

  1. What might determine whether a colonist would support or oppose the Revolution?
  2. The chapter suggests that war makes “ruling elites” more secure against internal trouble. Why might this be true?
  3. Previous chapters have shown that there were class conflicts between rich and poor in the years leading up to the Revolution. How did these class conflicts shape people’s lives during the course of the Revolution?
  4. What kind of “freedom” was the Revolution fought for? What “freedoms” wasn’t it fought for?
  5. Did rich and poor have different reasons for supporting the Revolution? Explain.
  6. What did Black people stand to gain — or lose — from the Revolution?
  7. Why would Washington refuse to allow enslaved African Americans to fight the British in exchange for their freedom?
  8. In this chapter, historian Edmund Morgan is quoted, “The fact that the lower ranks were involved in the contest should not obscure the fact that the contest itself was generally a struggle for office and power between members of an upper class: the new against the established.” If that was true, why would the “lower ranks” involve themselves in fighting for one side or another?
  9. Why did most Indians fight for Great Britain during the Revolution?
  10. According to Charles Beard, why did the wealthy want a strong federal government?
  11. What was the significance of Shays’ Rebellion?
  12. According to Alexander Hamilton, one of the writers of the Constitution, the rich deserve more say-so than the “mass of the people.” Why didn’t Hamilton trust the “mass of the people”?
  13. What is “the long-fundamental agreement” between the two political parties referred to in this chapter?

Chapter 6: The Intimately Oppressed

Questions for reflection

  1. In this chapter, describing women’s conditions, Howard Zinn writes: “An oppression so private would turn out hard to uproot.” Why would this “intimate” oppression be so hard to uproot?
  2. How would relations between men and women be different if, as in Zuñi society, a woman could divorce a man when she wanted, keeping all the property?
  3. What do you imagine life must have been like for the women who arrived in 1619 and were sold, supposedly “with their own consent”?
  4. How might a judge have responded to Miss Polly Baker in 1747?
  5. Design a statue or other visual memorial that commemorates Miss Polly Baker.
  6. The Spectator, an American and British journal, described the role of the father in the family: “Nothing is more gratifying to the mind of man than power or dominion; and. . .  as I am the father of a family . . . I am perpetually taken up in giving out orders, in prescribing duties, in hearing parties, in administering justice, and in distributing rewards and punishments. . . In short, sir, I look upon my family as a patriarchal sovereignty in which I am myself both king and priest.” In general, how do you think life in U.S. families has changed?
  7. What actually allowed men to have so much power over women in early America?
  8. What justifications might men have offered for why women should not be permitted to vote?
  9. How does Howard Zinn account for why “aggressiveness” became more and more defined as a male trait? Do you agree? Explain.
  10. What similarities and differences do you see in the images of women in the media today and the way women were expected to behave in early America?
  11. Here’s the advice offered in The Young Lady’s Book of 1830: “. . . in whatever situation of life a woman is placed from her cradle to her grave, a spirit of obedience and submission, pliability of temper, and humility of mind, are required from her.” Offer your own sentence or two of advice to young women today.
  12. In what ways did women resist the “feminine” behaviors and attitudes they were pressured to adopt?
  13. A girl in 1791 said she looked at marriage much the same as she looked at death. In what ways might she have seen them as similar?
  14. Howard Zinn suggests that the growing capitalist economy in the U.S. required that women play particular roles. What was the relationship between the economy and the “proper” attitudes and behaviors women were expected to have?
  15. In what ways would going on strike have been considered by some people to be “unlady-like”?
  16. Compare the life of working class and upper class women in the early 19th century.
  17. As Howard Zinn points out, Nancy Cott’s book, The Bonds of Womanhood, has many meanings. What were some of the “bonds of womanhood” — in all senses — in the early 19th century?
  18. Why would some white women have been sympathetic to the plight of enslaved African Americans?
  19. What were the similarities and differences between the conditions of enslaved African Americans and white women?
  20. Frances Wright argued that men would only know happiness when they could truly treat women as equals. Does happiness depend on equality? Explain.
  21. What reasons might some women have had for opposing more rights for women?

Chapter 7: As Long As the Grass Grows or Water Runs

Questions for Reflection

  1. Why would most Indian nations have sided with the British in the Revolutionary War?
  2. Based on the excerpt from the Shawnee chief, Tecumseh, what might he say about property ownership in the United States today?
  3. When U.S. leaders spoke of “civilization,” exactly what did they mean?
  4. Chapter 7 points out that one method the U.S. government used against the Indians was to force them to own land only in individual plots. How might this policy have affected relationships between different Indian groups and individuals?
  5. List the methods whites used to obtain land from the Indians.
  6. How did whites justify their treatment of the Indians?
  7. Why did white authorities find the Seminoles especially threatening?
  8. Howard Zinn writes that the U.S. acquisition of Florida “appears on classroom maps politely as ‘Florida Purchase, 1819.’” How does it appear in textbooks, maps, or encyclopedias that you have in your school or classroom? What might be a more accurate map description for how the U.S. obtained Florida?
  9. Why don’t the “respected historians” mention Jackson’s Indian policies?
  10. In Chief Black Hawk’s 1832 surrender speech he says, “The white men do not scalp the head; but they do worse — they poison the heart . . .” What does he mean? What about today: are any people’s hearts being poisoned? By whom, or by what?
  11. One government agent is quoted in the chapter telling the Sac and Fox Indians, “If they cannot be made good they must be killed.” What did he mean by “good”?
  12. Lewis Cass, onetime Secretary of War and governor of Michigan Territory wrote, “We must frequently promote their [the Indians’] interest against their inclination.” This is reminiscent of James Madison’s opinion, expressed in Federalist Paper #10 [see Chapter five], that an elite group of representatives will make decisions that “will be more consistent to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves.” When and why do people believe that they know best what is good for someone else?
  13. U.S. government leaders often referred to Indians as children — “my Choctaw children,” “children of the forest,” etc. Why was the parent-child metaphor used so often by white leaders talking about U.S. relations with various Indian groups?
  14. Use examples from the history of white/Indian relations to illustrate Speckled Snake’s speech.
  15. How did contact with white society change the Cherokee people? Write an interior monologue from a Cherokee reacting to these changes.
  16. What Constitutional rights guaranteed to white Americans of the time were denied to the Cherokees by the state of Georgia?
  17. Secretary of War Eaton and others said things to various Indian nations, such as, “If you will go to the setting sun there you will be happy; there you can remain in peace and quietness; so long as the waters run and the oaks grow that country shall be guaranteed to you and no white man shall be permitted to settle near you.” Do you think they were intentionally lying or had they somehow deceived themselves into believing that this was true? Explain.
  18. How would Andrew Jackson have responded to the Cherokees’ plea?
  19. If the Supreme Court is the highest court in the land, how could President Jackson refuse to abide by its decision that Samuel Worcester should be freed from his imprisonment in Georgia?
  20. When the Treaty of Washington with the Creeks was violated by white land seekers and others “within days” after it was signed, why didn’t the U.S. government act to protect the Creeks?
  21. Howard Zinn calls the demoralization of the U.S. army in their war against the Seminoles “the classic fatigue of a civilized army fighting people on their own land.” What is “classic” about this response? At what other points in U.S. history have we seen this response?
  22. What was likely to happen to the Cherokees and other southeast Indian nations when they moved to Oklahoma?
  23. If the U.S. government consistently broke the treaties it made with Indians, why did it bother to make them in the first place?



  1. Locate a typical U.S. history textbook or encyclopedia. Read the segment on the Louisiana Purchase. Does the book question whether Jefferson and the United States has the right to purchase Indian land from the French?
  2. Draw a picture of the Cherokee or Choctaw removal.
  3. Research the relationship between African Americans and the Seminoles.
  4. Research the groups and individuals of white Americans who opposed U.S. policy towards the Indians of the Southeast.

Chapter 8: We Take Nothing by Conquest, Thank God

Questions for Reflection

  1. Why did the United States government want to obtain California?
  2. What is meant by the term Manifest Destiny? Look up each word separately.
  3. What were the pressures on the United States government to push for expansion?
  4. What if you believed the war with Mexico was immoral, but both major parties, Democratic and Whig, supported it. What would you do to try to bring an end to the war?
  5. Re-read Abraham Lincoln’s quote from his speech on July 27, 1848. Explain why you agree or disagree that, even if you opposed the war before it began once it was underway, the correct thing to do was to support the war and vote money for it.
  6. Comment on the belief of some Americans: The Mexican War was a good thing, because it would give the blessings of liberty and democracy to more people.
  7. In what ways could it be said that the Mexican War was a racist war? Give examples.
  8. Describe the resistance to the War with Mexico. How effective was the opposition?
  9. From a Mexican standpoint, given the origins and nature of the U.S.-Mexico War, how might people today respond to the efforts to exclude Mexicans from U.S. territory, and deny them schooling and health benefits once they are here?
  10. In Civil Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau writes that what is legal, is not necessarily what is right. Do you agree? Give examples.
  11. The Reverend Theodore Parker said that the Mexicans must eventually give way, as did the Indians. What similarities do you see between the Mexican War and the war against the Indians?
  12. Why might ordinary citizens — workers or farmers, who did not enslave Black people, and had no plans to move onto Mexican territory — join demonstrations in support of the war? Does war itself hold attraction for people, or was it the Mexican War in particular that excited some Americans?
  13. As was the case with the organized opposition to Indian Removal in the 1820s and 1830s, racism infected the movement against the war with Mexico. Give some examples. Why do you think this racism existed?
  14. If the U.S. army was supposed to bring liberty and civilization to Mexico, why do you think rape and mistreatment of Mexicans was so widespread?
  15. Based on what you read in Chapter 8, what do you think the typical U.S. soldier thought he was fighting for in the Mexican War?
  16. Who benefited from the Mexican War?


  1. Design a monument or memorial exhibit to commemorate the U.S. war with Mexico. Consider what symbols might best represent this war. Given that your audience is likely to know little about the war, what are the essential points to teach? Perhaps design the commemoration from a Mexican standpoint.
  2. Write a children’s book on the Mexican War.
  3. Design a role play on the Mexican War.
  4. Read Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience and write a response.
  5. Write a diary entry or letter explaining why you are volunteering to fight Mexico. Or write a diary or letter explaining why you oppose the war and will refuse to fight.
  6. Write an interior monologue from the point of view of an individual mentioned in Chapter 8 — for example, a California Indian listening to naval officer Revere; a Mexican woman in Santa Fe, as General Kearney’s troops enter; a volunteer U.S. soldier who is just experiencing the horrors of war for the first time; one of General Cushing’s men as he speaks to them at their reception dinner in Massachusetts, etc.

Chapter 9: Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom

Questions for Reflection

  1. In Chapter nine, Howard Zinn writes that, “It would take either a full-scale slave rebellion or a full-scale war” to end slavery. Do you agree? Do you think that slavery could have been ended non-violently? Explain.
  2. Draw a line down the center of a blank piece of paper. On one side, list the ways slavery affected the people who were enslaved. On the other side, list the many ways enslaved African Americans resisted their enslavement. Afterwards, write about which of these forms of resistance, if any, had the best chance of ending slavery. What were some of the other effects of resistance?
  3. How have some historians tried to downplay or dismiss the effects of slavery?
  4. How do you think slavery influenced white people in Southern slave-holding regions?
  5. Why didn’t many poor whites in the South unite with Black people to attack the plantation system?
  6. What role did poor whites play in the system of slavery?
  7. What role did free Black people play in the movement to end slavery?
  8. What was the Fugitive Slave Act and how was it resisted? How was the Act indirectly related to the outcome of the U.S. war with Mexico?
  9. Why did Frederick Douglass see Fourth of July celebrations as a “sham”?
  10. Write an essay on how slavery still affects our society today.
  11. Frederick Douglass writes: If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. What examples from history prove or disprove his point?
  12. What role did white abolitionists play in the struggle against slavery?
  13. Howard Zinn writes, the U.S. government “would never accept an end to slavery by rebellion. It would end slavery only under conditions controlled by whites.” Agree or disagree with this statement and tell your reasons.
  14. Compare the descriptions of Abraham Lincoln in this chapter with the descriptions of him in a traditional U.S. history textbook.
  15. Lincoln claimed that, as president, he was legally powerless to abolish slavery. Explain why you agree or disagree.
  16. How did the Civil War influence racism in the North?
  17. If what Congress declared in 1861 was true, that the war was not to be fought to free the slaves but “to preserve the Union,” why was maintaining the Union more important than freeing the slaves?
  18. Who, or what, “freed the slaves” in your opinion?
  19. In what ways did slaves resist during the Civil War?
  20. Why didn’t the Confederacy, early on, enlist Black people to fight for the South?
  21. React to this quote from the Black physician, Dr. John Rock: Why talk about compensating masters? Compensate them for what? What do you owe them? What does the slave owe them? What does society owe them? Compensate the master?. . . It is the slave who ought to be compensated. The property of the South is by right the property of the slave . . .
  22. What did the people newly freed from slavery need to be truly free and independent?
  23. What were some of the accomplishments of African Americans and their allies in the Reconstruction period after the Civil War?
  24. Make two columns on a page. In one column, include all the ways Black people fought for their freedom after the Civil War. In the other, list the ways some whites tried to block that freedom.
  25. Why did the Ku Klux Klan and some other whites resort to violence during the Reconstruction period?
  26. If at one point, northern industrialists supported freedom and votes for Black people, why did they later form a coalition with “southern businessmen-planters”?
  27. What was the compromise in the so-called Compromise of 1877? Who compromised? Who was left out? Why was it significant?
  28. What was the “New South” of the late 1800s?

Chapter 10: The Other Civil War

Questions for Reflection

  1. Howard Zinn writes about the decline of the Anti-Renters movement: The farmers had fought, been crushed by the law, their struggle diverted into voting, and the system stabilized by enlarging the class of small landowners, leaving the basic structure of rich and poor intact. It was a common sequence in American history. What similar instances in American history can you think of?
  2. The Dorr Rebellion was in response to residents of Rhode Island not being allowed to vote unless they owned land. How could lawmakers justify a law like this?
  3. Is it ever justified to use violence to change unjust laws? If so, in what circumstances?
  4. Why do traditional textbooks downplay or ignore conflicts between upper and lower classes?
  5. Why is this chapter called “The Other Civil War”?
  6. How did government help corporations in the period described in this chapter?
  7. In the years before the Civil War, Daniel Webster wrote, “The great object of government is the protection of property at home, and respect and renown abroad.” What is the “great object” of the U.S. government today?
  8. One quote in the chapter describes the way the powerful were “uncontaminated by the diseases of the factory town . . .” Can you think of powerful people today who are similarly protected from having to deal with the social consequences of their actions?
  9. The preacher Theodore Parker told his congregation: “Money is this day the strongest power of the nation.” What is the strongest power of the nation today? Explain.
  10. What similarities and dissimilarities do you see between the period described in this chapter and our own time today?
  11. Why weren’t more white working class people sympathetic with the plight of enslaved African Americans?
  12. See the quote from Harriet Hanson. From her standpoint, write a letter home explaining why you did what you did.
  13. Give examples from this chapter to illustrate the following quote: The division of society into the producing and non-producing classes, and the fact of the unequal distribution of value between the two, introduces us at once to another distinction — that of capital and labor . . . labor now becomes a commodity . . . Antagonism and opposition of interest is introduced in the community; capital and labor stand opposed.
  14. Make a list of the grievances that workers had throughout the period described in this chapter. Do workers continue to have any of these grievances today?
  15. Historian Alan Dawley is quoted saying that Irish shoe and leather workers rejected the “myth of success.” What is the myth of success? Is there a myth of success today? How is it different from and similar to the earlier 19th century myth?
  16. How does Howard Zinn account for the huge increase in strikes and labor organizing during the Civil War?
  17. Why did the federal government take the owners’ side in labor struggles?
  18. The chapter describes the practice of allowing individuals to pay $300 or to buy a substitute to fight in one’s place during the Civil War. How could the government justify this practice? How might it anger the poor?
  19. Howard Zinn calls this chapter “The Other Civil War.” What would be another title? Imagine that this chapter was an entire book. Illustrate the book’s cover.
  20. Agree or disagree with Howard Zinn’s following statement: “In premodern times, the maldistribution of wealth was accomplished by simple force. In modern times, exploitation is disguised . . .” Give examples to support your position.
  21. The labor struggles of 1877 were extraordinary. What do United States history textbooks teach about these events? Compare the descriptions in this chapter to a traditional U.S. history textbook.

Chapter 11: Robber Barons and Rebels

Questions to think about:

  1. Make a drawing of the U.S. “pyramid of wealth” that shows the “skillful terracing” to “create separate levels of oppression as Howard Zinn describes in the beginning of the chapter.
  2. Howard Zinn writes that the U.S. government was behaving almost exactly as Karl Marx had predicted: “pretending neutrality to maintain order, but serving the interests of the rich.” Give some examples.
  3. The chapter points out numerous ways that government benefitted the wealthy. Why does government act in the interests of the rich?
  4. Why was it important for working class children “obedience to authority” in school? What behaviors are taught in school today?
  5. React to the quote from William Bagley in his book, Classroom Management: “One who studies educational theory aright can see in the mechanical routine of the classroom the educative forces that are slowly transforming the child from a little savage into a creature of law and order, fit for the life of civilized society.” The word “civilized” or “civilization” comes up again and again in U.S. history. You might discuss how it’s used here.
  6. Describe some of the many effects of the large numbers of immigrants arriving from southern and eastern Europe in the latter decades of the 19th century.
  7. How could immigrants be taken advantage of by corporations?
  8. List the demands that working people and unions made of owners.
  9. List the tactics that workers and unions used to try to win better conditions and greater equality. Which of these seemed to be most effective?
  10. The period described in this chapter is called the “Gilded Age” in some textbooks. What might be another phrase to describe it? The _________ age.
  11. Why did union leader Eugene Debs turn to socialism?
  12. Debs said that “Money constitutes no proper basis of civilization.” What did he mean by that? What is the “basis of civilization” today? In your opinion, what should be the “basis of civilization”?
  13. Why is it unlikely that either the Republican or Democratic parties could have become parties of true reform for farmers and workers?

Chapter 18: The Impossible Victory: Vietnam

Questions for Reflection

  1. What started the war in Vietnam?
  2. Why didn’t the United States government support the Vietnamese Declaration of Independence announced in 1945?
  3. Why did the U.S. government support the French as they sought to reconquer Vietnam after World War II?
  4. Why didn’t the United States want elections to be held to reunify Vietnam? Why didn’t Ngo Dinh Diem want elections held?
  5. How did the National Liberation Front win the support of large numbers of Vietnamese? If the N.L.F. was the only Vietnamese organization with “any real support and influence on a broad base in the countryside,” as the Pentagon Papers said, why didn’t the United States support them?
  6. What similarities do you see between the explanations the U.S. government gave for its involvement in Vietnam and explanations given for previous or more recent wars?
  7. According to General Maxwell Taylor in late 1964: The ability of the Viet-Cong continuously to rebuild their units and to make good their losses is one of the mysteries of the guerrilla war. . . Not only do the Viet-Cong units have the recuperative powers of the phoenix, but they have an amazing ability to maintain morale. Only in rare cases have we found evidences of bad morale among Viet-Cong prisoners or recorded in captured Viet-Cong documents. How might you explain the “mystery” that Taylor discovered about the so-called Viet-Cong, the National Liberation Front?
  8. Howard Zinn writes that “My Lai was unique only in its details.” Why were the killings of civilians a common occurrence in the Vietnam War?
  9. How would the U.S. government have explained the killing of so many Vietnamese civilians during the war?
  10. Read over the letter that begins, “Dear Mom and Dad.” Imagine that you are this young man’s mother or father. Write a letter back to your son. What questions do you have? What is your reaction to what your son has told you?
  11. What was the U.S. government fighting for in Southeast Asia? What was the government fighting against?
  12. In the New York Times, Jerome Doolittle described the lies that he was ordered to tell about the bombings in Laos. What did the government hope the lying would accomplish?
  13. Why were some African Americans among the first citizens to oppose the war in Vietnam?
  14. List methods that people in the anti-war movement used in their efforts to end the war. To you, which of these seem like they would have been most effective?
  15. What is meant by the quote from Miguel Unamuno, “Sometimes to be silent is to lie”? Do you agree? Can you think of any examples?
  16. Why do you think that people with more education were more likely to support the war than people with less education?
  17. Why might African Americans and other people of color have been especially reluctant to fight in Vietnam?
  18. In what sense could it be said that Vietnam was a “racist” war?
  19. What “lessons” do you think people in this country should learn from the Vietnam War?
  20. Based on information in this chapter and your own knowledge, what ended the war in Vietnam?
  21. What role did the anti-war movement play in ending the war in Vietnam?
  22. What role did public opinion play in how the U.S. government waged the Vietnam war?
  23. Why didn’t the United States government “win” the war in Vietnam?
  24. How has the Vietnam War affected our society today?

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