When we think of American history we envision a heroic, prosperous, and well-intentioned society full of good people. The history that we know today though is muddled with bias. The stories of history books have fed affirmative propaganda to impressionable students for centuries to further the notion that our country is the best in the world. So if we are never getting the true story, why are we receiving the information that we are? Whose story is really being told? It is society’s dominant people who write the history books, it is the conquerors, it is the achievers. Those who are dormant are silenced, for better or for worse, and we never have the opportunity to hear their voices, their opinions.

The story of Okonkwo and the Umuofians is far from unique…nations invading other nations to implant their values amongst the new people has been occurring since the beginning of time. It still happens today, though often out of the international spotlight.

Since 1492, the natives of this land we call home have been brutally shoved off their land. At one time Native American tribes inhabited every corner of North America…today, they occupy the land represented only by the shaded regions:


Sure, when we read a standard American history book we learn that Native Americans have been pushed from their land. But past that, do we ever hear what really happened to them? Do we ever hear of the plight of the 46,000 removed from twenty-five million acres in order for Americans to settle themselves? Over a quarter of the Cherokee Nation was killed off from disease and starvation during the perilous 2200 mile trek known as the "Trail of Tears"…more than 4000 deaths from that tribe alone.

Because the European nations that settled in North America, and later the United States, possessed military power far superior to that of the primitive militias of the natives, those nations were able to (quite easily) subdue and oppress as they pleased. Now it is the descendents of these first Europeans and the United States that writes the history of North America, no one else presents a significant story that is known by the masses.

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The power exerted by the white man over the African Tribesmen in Things Fall Apart is summed up perfectly when the messenger—whom Okonkwo would go on to behead—approaches the meeting of the heads of Umuofia and states to Okonkwo, “The white man whose power you know too well has ordered this meeting to stop” (Achebe, 126). The white man infiltrated the isolated realm of the Nigerian tribes and acquired the power to dictate when and where the entire tribe would assemble. In yet, they managed to do so using little force. Instead, they appealed metaphysically to a people that were already centered on religion. Mr. Brown, the white missionary, preached that “everything was possible” to his “energetic flock” (Achebe, 109). Through his optimistic sermons, he was able to convert a foreign people to the white man’s belief system. Thus we see that the art of persuasion can allow a people to dominate another people and, in turn, dictate whose story is eventually told.

In addition, a monetary advantage can give a people considerable power in writing history. “Okonkwo and his fellow prisoners were set free as soon as the fine was paid” (Achebe, 122). The white man was able to extort the tribe for some of their own resources since they dearly needed the leaders of their tribe out of confinement. Here we see the role that money plays in the writing of history. The group that controls the money controls the resources. Without money, a group is totally reliant on, and therefore subservient to, another group. The faction with the financial power has the final say on everything.

In the end, we will never hear the story of the non-dominant people. Once one group has exerted influence and gained control over another, it becomes impossible for the subservient people to have any power. The prevailing group will tell a story only of their greatness, devoid of any of its downfalls or weaknesses.

Works Cited:

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. Columbus, OH: Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, 1959. Print.

Murphy, Daniel. “Oppression.” www.eatliver.com. 12 Dec. 2010. < http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.eatliver.com/img/2008>

Smith, Andrea. "Native American Communities and Insights into Oppression." 6 Aug. 2009. Online video clip. YouTube.
12 Dec. 2010. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U26s9IZT3m0>