When I was a kid I inherited my uncle’s Mad magazine collection which had some comic books mixed in including a three-part series about the Civil War. This was a hagiographic history where all the soldiers called one another “Billy Yank” and “Johnny Reb” done in the style of Classics Illustrated.
A People’s History of American Empire is a very different comic book history. Based on Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States as well as Zinn’s own life this is a graphic depiction of the times in American history where the nation failed to live up to the standards of liberty and equality for all. Mainly this involves the repression of people within the United States (Indians, blacks, immigrants, and labor), wars in foreign lands (Phillipines, Vietnam, and Iraq) and intervention into the autonomy of other nations (Iran, El Salvador, and many more) for the benefit of powerful and wealth American elite. A comic version of Zinn narrates the book frequently turning over the story to characters contemporary to the events described. Interspersed in this narrative are stories of the social movements in America such as Civil Rights, labor, and anti-war.
I particular found it interesting in the parts that covered events I’d only heard of or knew nothing about, such as:
- The Black 25th Infantry who fought valiantly at San Juan Hill but were denied credit.
- The Jitterbug Riot
- The counter-cultural protests of R&B fandom in the 1950’s.
- The Diem Regime and South Vietnam “essentially a creation of the United States.”
- The Second Battle of Wounded Knee
- Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
This is a good introduction to the other side of American history in a brief and well-illustrated manner.
Recommended books: Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen