The history of the United States is a complex and compelling story. It is very often a story of conflict and struggle. This becomes the pervading point in Howard Zinn's opus, A People's History of the United States. Zinn chronicles disputes between the diverse castes of American society from the landing of Columbus, to the lackluster presidential elections of the Nineteen Nineties. What transpired from these conflicts is what has shaped modern day America. A quest for equality between the oppressed and the oppressor provides the central and underlying theme in the formation of American history. Although every struggle is different in its own right, they are all fundamentally equal. American history can be described as a quarrel between those who control the balance of power, and those who wish to share in that responsibility.
An example of this class struggle is exemplified in occurrences where the oppressed rise up in violent conflict against their oppressors. During the Nineteen Sixties and early Nineteen Seventies, these class struggles reached a boiling as evidenced by the massive prison uprising in Attica, New York. (Zinn, A People's History, 514) "The prisons in the United States had long been an extreme reflection of the American system itself: the stark life differences between rich and poor . . . and the use of victims against one another." (Zinn, A People's History, 515) In any given year, there are over 1,600,000 people who enter the American penitentiary system, and a large majority of those are in the lowest economic class. (Zinn, A People's History, 515) The death of George Jackson, a politically outspoken inmate from California, in August of 1971 at the hands of prison officials sent shockwaves throughout the prisons of the United States. (Zinn, A People's History, 519) He had been the voice of the thousands of inmates, who witnessed firsthand the injustices of the American judicial system.