As the majority of the voices in this book are those that were raised in protest against the actions of the government of the time, there will be those who will accuse it of presenting history from a liberal or left wing bias. However, what they will fail to mention is that the histories we have been presented with up until now are just as biased in the other direction. Think of this rather as an attempt to balance the scales. We've heard about Rockefeller and Carnegie and how they built their empires and as captains of industry helped to make the country great. Well, now you'll hear from those who worked in their factories and mines and fought for living wages, safe working conditions, child labour laws, and a 40-hour work week. In fact many of the things we take for granted now — the right of women to vote, equal rights, and the abolition of slavery — were once considered dangerous subversions and the people who spoke out for them threats to public safety.
However, how many textbooks have quoted ex-slave Sojourner Truth's 1851 speech "Ain't I A Woman?" where she espouses not only the rights of African Americans but women as well? Rights which none of us think twice about now. However only 22 years after Truth's speech, Susan B. Anthony was arrested for trying to vote in a presidential election and was told by her judge that she had been found guilty according to the established forms of law. These two women, along with many of the voices recorded in this book, were considered to be dangers to society, criminals, radicals, and threats against the established norm. Yet they, along with the men and women who were shot down by Rockefeller's private militias when they went on strike, or arrested by Alabama police for protesting segregation, are responsible for the freedoms most of us enjoy today. But whose names are the prominent ones in the history books? Not the ones who fought for our rights, but rather the ones who fought tooth and nail against them.
Voices Of A People's History Of The United States is just what it says it is, voices of the people — from those you've heard of, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, and Bruce Springstein, and individuals you haven't, like Private John G. Burnett of the American army who served on the infamous "Trail Of Tears". Born and raised in Tennessee, he grew up roaming the woods and mountains of the Smokey Mountain County which was the traditional home of the Cherokee. In 1838 he took part in what he called "the most brutal order in the history of American warfare" — the rounding up of every single Cherokee in the region, and their forced march through the mountains without proper clothes, shelter or food. "Murder is murder," he says, "and somebody must answer. Somebody must explain the streams of blood that flowed in the Indian country in the summer of 1838 ... the 4000 silent graves that mark the trail of the Cherokee to their exile. I wish I could forget it, but the picture of 645 wagons lumbering over the frozen ground with their Cargo of suffering humanity still lingers in my memory..."