A People`s History of the United States Or Does it Explode?

APeople’s History of the United States: Or Does it Explode?

APeople’s History of the United States: Or Does it Explode?

Zinnmade it very clear that this chapter: “Or does it explode?”,focuses on protests, movements, and attempts African-Americans madein the 1950s for them to gain equality. The chapter begins with apower poem by Langston Hughes, who is among the most recognized poetsin the history of poetry. The poem: “Lenox Avenue Mural” askswhat could have happened to the dream deferred. Does it dry up? Likethe raisin in the sun? Or does it foster like a sore? And run? Doesit stink like a rotten meat? Or does crust like sugar over? Just likesyrup sweet? Or maybe it just sags like heavy load (Zinn, 2013).

Hemade it obvious that this poem talks about dream of blacks that aretreated as equals. It is meant there is struggle to fulfill thatdream. It looks like the protesters and leaders are talking one stepforward but are than pushed one two steps backward by the law thatwas made and is controlled by the whites. The first reaction to thisthat one of the complete admiration and awe for those people that puttheir selves in line for purposes of their equality. It is easy tobelieve and so does Zinn that every individual is supposed to betreated like equals, and the way the chapter makes it evident, manyblacks were present that stepped up as movement leaders and boycotts(Zinn, 2013).

Fromthe author’s point of view, it was in the city of Montgomery,Alabama, which set the platform for many future major events. It wasin 1955, approximately three months after the arrest was carried out,and Rosa Parks revealed herself and explained that the reason she hadrefused to switch places from her seat when she was seated on thebus. As a result of this, there was a large meeting in Montgomery,which was decided that there could be a very influential boycott onall the city buses. The response to this saw the city officialsarrest leaders that were leading the boycott. Towards November, 1956,the Supreme Court declared an outlaw on segregation in buses (Zinn,2013). In reaction this, the event made a remarkable historic impact,and it is seen today as an act to justify defiance and unmatchedsense of courage that led to progress. The event triggered thethought of awareness that is present today and privileges that shouldnot be taken for granted.

Duringthis era of Civil Rights movement, there was another troubling issuethat was at hand, which was not just the equality for the Americans.At the time, what also occupied the American mind was the VietnamWar. However, these impactful issues had not been dealt with utmostcare by the government of the United States. The 1968 Civil Right Actwas partly included, in that the government was able to put anyindividual in prison for five years most (Zinn, 2013). This revealsthe feeble attempt by the government to quell civilian’s unrestwhile it did not deal with it directly.

Itis evident that a lot of focus was shifted instead towards the war.It demonstrates with kings quote the much domestic problems were notprioritized, and that it was affecting individuals. Zinn put moreemphasis on this because of the much the inner turmoil United Stateswas undergoing and the little the government was focusing upon. Itlinks, in a way, to the whole chapter’s title, “Or does itexplode?” Again, there is so much that something could be draggedto the backseat or is suppressed without by an issue that is withoutput more focus on it before it bursts. From this, Zinn reveals thatthe government ignored the whole matter and its consequences.

Thequote midway through the chapter is used by Zinn to reveal differsbetween Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X ideologies. Luther Kingthought there was still success to the match, or at least they werestepping in the right direction even though he was forced to keep upwith the rules that were set up by the white people. Malcolm Xcompletely shut down by saying that it was another example by thewhite government to initiate submission from the government. Here,the believe was that it had to be fought hard with a lot of emotionsand passion, and the most important thing could be to do it withoutsubmission. The march could be a joke if there was not passion andanger (Zinn, 2013). Malcolm on the other hand believed that this kindof a fight had to be fought hard by being submissive to the rulesmade by the people that are responsible for segregation. Reactionthis this, is that the author used direct quotes, which helped himpaint the picture from direct characters of both men. From this, itrevealed the calmness and patience of King, while Malcolm on theother hand was very opinionated, angry, and passionate.

1950sand 1960s remained very turbulent decades for some reasons, of whichZinn asks: Or does it explode? Of which he referred to the secondthat was about to take place at the time, across the country. Thedifference in perspective presents a motif, which Howard Zinnhighlights in every paragraph of the chapter. The famous MartinLuther King’s “I Have a Dream” is experience from a verydifferent angle. Here, plight is being expressed of an uncompromisingand honest black population, which follows the culmination ofanti-climactic efforts (Zinn, 2013). Zinn in this case adds atestimony to make it legitimate the claim that: there are a lot oftruths to be told. Here, an educated, militant, and very angryconsciousness of the African has been omitted from every conversationmade. Again, contrary to that, the broadcasted opinion to the matchon Washington was not eagerly received as a success rather, it wasthe organized obstruction and circumvention of the battle against theoppression of the blacks.


Zinn,H. (2003). A people`s history of the United States: 1942-present. NewYork: HarperCollins.