RIP Howard Zinn 1922-2010
Howard Zinn’s death at 87 is a great loss to those who wish to see history as not just from the perspective of textbooks and governments, but from the grass roots. Victoria Brittain in The Guardian wrote a beautiful profile of the professor, activist and author whose A People’s History of the United States sold more and more books as time went on. As Noam Chomsky eulogized, “I can’t think of anyone who had such a powerful and benign influence, his historical work changed the way millions of people saw the past.”
…it was his lifetime of participation in the everyday grind of such struggles that, above all, made him so beloved of his students and of anyone who participated in any such movements. Everyone knew Zinn too would be beaten by the police, would lose a job or two, would be arrested, if that was the price of speaking out.
It was typical of Zinn to find simple, brave things that anyone could do, and encourage young people to do them. As chairman of the history and social science department at the all black women’s college of Spelman in Atlanta in the late 1950s, he encouraged his students to request books from the segregated public libraries, and was a presence at sit-ins in restaurants.
His own bravery in clashing openly with his employers, both at Spelman, for their feebleness on the civil rights issue, and later at Boston University, over the Vietnam war, was an example of moral leadership which marked a whole generation of young activists in the 1960s.
Amy Goodman at Democracy Now assembled a great panel to discuss the life of Howard Zinn, beginning with Amy’s words: “After serving as a bombardier in World War II, Howard Zinn went on to become a lifelong dissident and peace activist. He was active in the civil rights movement and many of the struggles for social justice over the past fifty years.”
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