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Howard Zinn (1922 – 2010)

January 28, 2010

It is with a heavy heart that I write these words. Howard Zinn, the great radical historian died from a heart attack at the age of 87. Zinn, a WWII fighter pilot, radically influenced millions of lives with his groundbreaking investigation into American history with his book A People’s History of the United States.

 Zinn wrote over 20 books in his lifetime and was inspiration for a whole series of other books that follow the same model of looking at history with books entitled A People’s History of the American Revolution, A People’s History of the Civil War, A People’s History of the Vietnam War, as well as a recent volume by Zinn and Anthony Arnove entitled, Voices of a People’s History of the United States.

I first read Zinn in 1983 and felt like I was learning US history for the first time. I remember feeling both amazement and anger. I was angry because I felt like I had been lied to all throughout my education about what had actually happened in this country’s history and I felt amazed by all the stories of people, organizations and movements that have achieved amazing things.

GRIID has been using A People’s History of the United States as a primary text for a class called “A History of US Social Movements.” In this exploration we look at a rich history of social movements that have been the only real force for radical change in this country’s history. As Zinn would say, social change has always happened from social movements and never from elections.

It is important for all of us to critically come to terms with this country’s history in order to honestly deal with the present policies. Howard Zinn taught us that the US government has not been a positive force for change in the world, but American social movements have been.

In honor of what Howard Zinn has given to those who seek justice, we leave you with one of the many powerful lectures he gave. This lecture focuses on the banality of the so-called US War on Terror.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Peter Ruark permalink
    January 29, 2010 6:17 pm

    RIP. I wish there was as much attention paid in the media to Zinn’s death as to that of J.D. Salinger. Along with all the books, he wrote a monthly column in The Progressive that I always looked forward to reading.

  2. January 29, 2010 7:50 pm

    I couldn’t agree more Peter, but I am certainly not surprised. Zinn challenged power too often for the mainstream media to acknowledge him.

  3. Kate Wheeler permalink
    January 31, 2010 4:18 pm

    There was a commentary on NPR about Howard Zinn’s death. FAIR did a report about it titled, “NPR Finds Right-Wing Crank to Spit on Howard Zinn’s Grave.”

    David Horowitz said, in part, on the show, “There is absolutely nothing in Howard Zinn’s intellectual output that is worthy of any kind of respect. Zinn represents a fringe mentality which has unfortunately seduced millions of people at this point in time.”

    I’m afraid you’re right, Jeff, about your analysis; so many people found Howard Zinn’s truth-telling and perspective of history disturbing because it undercuts so many basic right-wing myths. But it was a shame that NPR chose such a hateful commentator to give “balance” to their report. Zinn was an amazing historian and scholar and deserved better.

    The FAIR article is cross-posted here:


  1. Grand Rapids People’s History Project « Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

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