Seattle Rep’s A PEOPLE’S HISTORY: Beyond the Theatre

Poster image for Seattle Rep's A People's HistorySeattle Repertory Theatre presents A PEOPLE’S HISTORY by Mike Daisey, from October 17 to November 25, 2018. Librarians at Seattle Public Library created this list of books and video to enhance your experience of the show: Seattle Rep’s A PEOPLE’S HISTORY: BEYOND THE THEATRE.

Through his discovery of Howard Zinn’s classic work, A People’s History of the United States, public Monologist Mike Daisey has discovered the narrative power of historians to shape events to suit the purposes of their stories.   The narrator can affect our collective understanding of the story.

Daisey, with Zinn as his muse, will appear at The Seattle Rep from October 17 to November 25, in a series of 18 performances chronologically exploring slices of history that expose parts of the American story that were either untold or purposefully suppressed in traditional histories.

Book cover art for A People's History of the United StatesA juxtaposition between the beat up copy of the history textbook he had in high school and A People’s History is the catalyst for the performances, as Daisey looks at moments ranging from Columbus’s landing, our history of exploitation, and the gaps between our ideals and our behaviors.

Always controversial, Zinn, whose work is now a standard title, altered the way history is told in America. A People’s History of the United States was published in 1980 and ironically has become regular reading in traditional history classes. Zinn, who died in 2010, was a professor at Spelman College, the noted African American women’s college in Atlanta, and a Civil Rights-era activist who was fired by Spelman because the school felt he was a radical influence on the students. He moved to a position at Boston University and participated in Civil Rights and anti-war movements through the rest of his long life.

His book remains a treasured but frequently criticized iconic work, inspiring to many, such as Daisey, but also problematic in some eyes. According to Professor Sam Wineburg of Stanford, “Zinn’s desire to cast a light on what he saw as historic injustice was a crusade built on secondary sources of questionable provenance, omission of exculpatory evidence, leading questions and shaky connections between evidence and conclusions.”¹

On the other hand, James Levin, a scholar at the University of New York praised the book a 1980 Library Journal review, “Howard Zinn has written a brilliant and moving history of the American people. …This book is an excellent antidote to establishment history, especially high school textbooks. …While the book is precise enough to please specialists, it should satisfy any adult reader. It will also make an excellent college text for basic history courses.”  (As quoted by Michael Kraus, Davis D. Joyce in the book The Writing of American History.)

~ posted by Carl K.


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