Nicholas Senn High School ap united States History Summer Reading Assignment and Guide 2015-2016

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Nicholas Senn High School AP United States History

Summer Reading Assignment and Guide

Instructors: Joe Lev- Ben Bateman:
General Introduction

Over the summer, Nicholas Senn Advanced Placement US History students will read a secondary source, one written after the events it describes. This will offer students a broad overview of material we will cover in the first quarter of the school year.

Although this reading is difficult, it is certainly manageable. While the vocabulary can be overwhelming and the concepts are complex, it is well worth the effort. We will discuss the book during the relevant era in U.S. History (for this book, it will be throughout 1st quarter) as a supplement to the other readings we do, so it is imperative that this assignment is completed before the first day of school. A word of warning, do not leave this for the last minute, for it is impractical to complete the reading quickly.
Materials Needed

Zinn, Howard. A People's History of America: 1492-Present. New York, New York, USA. Harper Collins Publishers, 2003.1

  1. Pen or pencil- for making notes

  2. Notebook/paper/computer- for notes, journaling and answering questions

  3. Dictionary- for unknown words

1. Pre-Reading: You should read the questions before reading.
2. Vocabulary Attack: As you read, write down unknown terms. Look them up in the dictionary and write the word and definition.
3. Comprehension: Once you define unknown vocabulary, return back and review the paragraph the word was in so you can identify the key point(s) and write them down. In addition, as thoughts, questions, and concerns arise jot them down as well. These are your notes the more you have the more material you will have for studying. You should use Note-Taking strategies you have learned either during the school year or in the summer interdisciplary course. Unfortunately, the books must be returned at the end of the year, so please do not write in the margins or highlight each book. I know it is not ideal, but it is the best way to absorb the material and prolong the life of the book for future APUSH students.
4. Answering Questions: There are questions associated with each chapter of the reading. You are expected to answer each question in as much detail as possible. You may use quotations from the book to support your ideas. If you use a quotation it MUST be cited in the following manner (Zinn, Page #). Incomplete answers will receive poor grades.
5. Due Date: I will collect the answers to the questions, your notes, and vocabulary lists on the first day of school. We will discuss the book that day as well. *Note- Students will forfeit a letter grade for the first quarter for failing to turn in this assignment.

A Note on Academic Honesty

Students who copies and/or uses another’s work without proper documentation will receive a zero for the assignment. No make-up assignment will be afforded, and disciplinary action will be taken. For concerns regarding academic integrity, please visit

Introduction to A People’s History of the United States:

Although many people feel that history is simply lists of names, places, and dates, I believe that the discipline of history is interpretation of evidence. Documents and artifacts can only be understood through the lens of personal knowledge and experience. Every piece of evidence is capable of varying interpretations. Plus, US history is just also one really entertaining story…. Some of our stories are ones of triumph, defeat, joy, loss, controversy, lies, betrayal, and victory. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Nevertheless, the story of American history was generally told from one point of view throughout most of our country’s existence. Historians disagreed over some of the details, but the big picture was generally agreed upon.

This began to change in 1980 with the publication of A People’s History of the United States. Professor Howard Zinn set out to tell the story of America from the point of view of the poor and the powerless. Beginning with the arrival of Columbus and continuing through America’s long war in Vietnam, A People’s History endeavors to give voice to those who were not making policies but were subject to them. Publication of this book created a storm of controversy in 1980, but Dr. Zinn’s thesis is widely discussed today; in fact many of his ideas remain fairly mainstream.

Reading Questions Chapters 1-5 and 7

Answers should be written in complete sentences and will preferably be typed on a computer. Single sentence answers will not be sufficient. You should use quotes from the text to support your opinion. For proper documentation, simply put (author, page number) at the conclusion of the quote. If you have a question, email me.

CHAPTER I: Columbus, The Indians, and Human Progress
1. According to Zinn, what is his main purpose for writing A People’s History of the United States?

2. What is Zinn’s thesis for pages 1-11?

3. According to Zinn, how is Columbus portrayed in traditional history books?

4. Why does Zinn dispute Henry Kissinger’s statement: “History is the memory of states?”

5. Identify one early and one subsequent motive that drove Columbus to oppress indigenous peoples.

6. What was the ultimate fate of the Arawak Indians?

7. What were the major causes of war between the Powhatans and the English settlers?

8. What ultimately happened to the estimated 10 million Indians living in North America at the time of Columbus’ arrival?

9. Evaluate the statement: “If there are sacrifices to be made for human progress, is it not essential to hold to the principle that those to be sacrificed must make the decision themselves?”

10. How does Zinn attempt to prove that the Indians were not inferior? Provide examples.

CHAPTER II: Drawing the color Line
1. According to Zinn, what is the root of racism in America?

2. Why were Africans considered “better” slaves than Indians in Virginia?

3. How did 16th century Africa compare to 16th century Europe politically, economically, and militarily?

4. How did slavery in Africa differ from slavery in Europe and the Americas?

5. Describe the conditions that slaves on ships coming to America (“Middle Passage”).

6. In terms of mortality, what was the cost of slavery?

7. What was the relationship between slavery and the plantation system?

8. What evidence exists that America’s slaves did not accept their fate easily?

9. Why did slave owners fear poor whites?
CHAPTER III: Persons of Mean and Vile Condition

1. What is Zinn’s thesis in this chapter?

2. What was the underlying cause of Bacon’s Rebellion?

3. Explain indentured servitude (also known as the “headright system”).

4. How did the voyage of indentured servants to America compare with the “Middle Passage.”

5. What generally happened to indentured servants after they became free?

6. In what ways had a class structure emerged in America by 1700?

7. Explain the statement: “The country therefore was not “born free” but born slave and free, servant and master, tenant and landlord, poor and rich.”

8. How did the rich manage to keep Indians “at a distance?”

9. Explain the statement: “race was becoming more and more practical.”

CHAPTER IV: Tyranny is Tyranny
1. What is the thesis of this chapter?

2. According to Zinn, how did the creation of the United States benefit the upper class?

3. What advice did colonial leaders including -- Samuel Adams and James Otis -- give to the people concerning the Townshend Acts?

4. What class did the leaders of the Sons of Liberty come from? What was their goal?

5. What was the significance of Patrick Henry’s oratory?

6. What was one of John Adam’s concerns vis-à-vis Thomas Paine’s Common Sense?

7. According to Zinn, who does Paine really represent?

8. What groups of Americans were deprived of the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence?

9. Explain the statement: “Tyranny is Tyranny let it come from whom it may.”
CHAPTER V: A Kind of Revolution

1. What support did the Revolutionary War effort have among the colonial population?

2. What incentives did the Revolutionary War leaders use to attract recruits?

3. What was the British strategy concerning slavery in the South?

4. How did land confiscated from Loyalists reflect the Revolution’s effect on class relations?

5. Explain Carl Degler’s assertion that "no new social class came to power throughout the door of the American revolution.”

6. What was the impact of the American victory on Native Americans?

7. What was Daniel Shays’s objective?

8. Why does Zinn state that democracy’s problem in post-Revolutionary America was not primarily due to Constitutional limitations on voting?

9. How is Zinn critical of Madison’s argument in Federalist X?

10. Why does Zinn assert that despite party differences among Federalists and Democratic-Republicans they were both fundamentally similar?

11. How does Zinn characterize the Constitution’s compromises?

12. How does Zinn argue the First Amendment is not as stable as one might assume?

Chapter VII: As Long as Grass Grows or Water Runs
1. What is the major theme (recurring idea) in this chapter.

2. What evidence does Zinn cite to illustrate the overall impact of Indian removal?

3. Contrast Thomas Jefferson’s views as Secretary of State concerning Indian policy with those during his presidency. Why did his views change?

4. Explain Zinn’s use of irony when describing the Battle of Horseshoe Bend?

5. How does Andrew Jackson’s early political/military career foreshadow his Indian policies as President?

6. How does Zinn’s view of the War of 1812 contrast with traditional histories?

7. Create a basic outline of Jackson’s Indian-related activities and their significance prior to his presidency (treaties, land speculation, etc.)

8. Explain Zinn’s view of Arthur Schlesinger’s The Age of Jackson and Marvin Meyers’ The Jacksonian Persuasion.

9. Describe evidence Zinn utilizes to assess the views of Lewis Cass vis-à-vis Native American policy.

10. Create a table illustrating the fate of major Southeastern Indian tribes.

11. To what extent did the Cherokee nation change its culture in order to survive within the U.S?

12. For what purpose does Zinn juxtapose the Nullification Controversy of 1832 and the enforcement of Worcester v. Georgia?

13. Explain the significance of the phrase: “As long as grass grows or water runs.”






Assignment was submitted on the due date.

Assignment was submitted late.


Students vocabulary section clearly demonstrated the reading was attacked.

The vocabulary section included too few words and did not demonstrate the entire work had been analyzed

The vocabulary section was an after thought or was not included in the work.


Every question was answered

5/6 chapters worth of questions were attempted and answered

Less than 5 of the chapters were cponsidered


The student utilizes actual text and appropriately references it to completely address each of the questions.

The student does not use actual text to support answers.

The student does not utilize any evidence to support a claim.


The student included quality notes for each assigned chapter.

The students work included some notes for chapter but not for all of the assigned chapter

There are no notes included with the assignment.

1 A Digital Version of the text can be found at:

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