US historian Howard Zinn dies


This video from the USA is called Conversations with History: Howard Zinn.

From NowPublic in the USA:

Howard Zinn, noted writer and academic, died today of a heart attack today in Santa Monica. He was 87. Zinn was a noted activist who was involved in the Civil Rights movement as well as the movement to end the Vietnam war. Zinn is perhaps best known as the author of A People’s History of the United States, an influential history book that focused not on America’s Founding Fathers, but on average Americans who helped shape history.

See also here.

Democracy Now! Archive of Howard Zinn speeches and interviews: here.

Howard Zinn: The Historian Who Made History: here.

On February 1, 1960, four students of the all-black Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina staged a sit-in at a Woolworth’s store in Greensboro, North Carolina. Woolworth’s many stores, like most public space in the US South, were segregated, providing no seats for black customers at their service counters: here. And here. And here. And here. And here.

FBI Releases ‘Radical Historian’ Howard Zinn‘s File, Which It Opened In 1949: here.

A History of the World in 100 Objects – reveals how our labour defines us: here.

Zinn on nuclear bombs in Japan: here.

Arkansas: Recently, Republican Kim Hendren, introduced legislation that would prohibit teachers in all public schools or state-supported charter schools from including any books in their curriculum by—or even “concerning”—the historian Howard Zinn, author of the classic A People’s History of the United States, who died in 2010: here.

8 thoughts on “US historian Howard Zinn dies

  1. ‘People’s History’ author Howard Zinn dies at 87

    Source: AP (1-27-10)

    Howard Zinn, an author, teacher and political activist whose leftist “A People’s History of the United States” became a million-selling alternative to mainstream texts and a favorite of such celebrities as Bruce Springsteen and Ben Affleck, died Wednesday. He was 87.

    Zinn died of a heart attack in Santa Monica, Calif., daughter Myla Kabat-Zinn said. The historian was a resident of Auburndale, Mass.

    Published in 1980 with little promotion and a first printing of 5,000, “A People’s History” was – fittingly – a people’s best-seller, attracting a wide audience through word of mouth and reaching 1 million sales in 2003. Although Zinn was writing for a general readership, his book was taught in high schools and colleges throughout the country, and numerous companion editions were published, including “Voices of a People’s History,” a volume for young people and a graphic novel

    “I can’t think of anyone who had such a powerful and benign influence,” said the linguist and fellow activist Noam Chomsky, a close friend of Zinn’s. “His historical work changed the way millions of people saw the past.”

    At a time when few politicians dared even call themselves liberal, “A People’s History” told an openly left-wing story. Zinn charged Christopher Columbus and other explorers with genocide, picked apart presidents from Andrew Jackson to Franklin D. Roosevelt and celebrated workers, feminists and war resisters.

    Even liberal historians were uneasy with Zinn. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. once said: “I know he regards me as a dangerous reactionary. And I don’t take him very seriously. He’s a polemicist, not a historian.”

    In a 1998 interview with The Associated Press, Zinn acknowledged he was not trying to write an objective history, or a complete one. He called his book a response to traditional works, the first chapter – not the last – of a new kind of history.

    “There’s no such thing as a whole story; every story is incomplete,” Zinn said. “My idea was the orthodox viewpoint has already been done a thousand times.”

    “A People’s History” had some famous admirers, including Matt Damon and Affleck. The two grew up near Zinn, were family friends and gave the book a plug in their Academy Award-winning screenplay for “Good Will Hunting.” When Affleck nearly married Jennifer Lopez, Zinn was on the guest list.

    “He taught me how valuable – how necessary dissent was to democracy and to America itself,” Affleck said in a statement. “He taught that history was made by the everyman, not the elites. I was lucky enough to know him personally and I will carry with me what I learned from him – and try to impart it to my own children – in his memory.”

    Oliver Stone was a fan, as well as Springsteen, whose bleak “Nebraska” album was inspired in part by “A People’s History.” The book was the basis of a 2007 documentary, “Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind,” and even showed up on “The Sopranos,” in the hand of Tony’s son, A.J.

    Zinn himself was an impressive-looking man, tall and rugged with wavy hair. An experienced public speaker, he was modest and engaging in person, more interested in persuasion than in confrontation.

    Born in New York in 1922, Zinn was the son of Jewish immigrants who as a child lived in a rundown area in Brooklyn and responded strongly to the novels of Charles Dickens. At age 17, urged on by some young Communists in his neighborhood, he attended a political rally in Times Square.

    “Suddenly, I heard the sirens sound, and I looked around and saw the policemen on horses galloping into the crowd and beating people. I couldn’t believe that,” he told the AP.

    “And then I was hit. I turned around and I was knocked unconscious. I woke up sometime later in a doorway, with Times Square quiet again, eerie, dreamlike, as if nothing had transpired. I was ferociously indignant. … It was a very shocking lesson for me.”

    War continued his education. Eager to help wipe out the Nazis, Zinn joined the Army Air Corps in 1943 and even persuaded the local draft board to let him mail his own induction notice. He flew missions throughout Europe, receiving an Air Medal, but he found himself questioning what it all meant. Back home, he gathered his medals and papers, put them in a folder and wrote on top: “Never again.”

    He attended New York University and Columbia University, where he received a doctorate in history. In 1956, he was offered the chairmanship of the history and social sciences department at Spelman College, an all-black women’s school in then-segregated Atlanta.

    During the civil rights movement, Zinn encouraged his students to request books from the segregated public libraries and helped coordinate sit-ins at downtown cafeterias. Zinn also published several articles, including a then-rare attack on the Kennedy administration for being too slow to protect blacks.

    He was loved by students – among them a young Alice Walker, who later wrote “The Color Purple” – but not by administrators. In 1963, Spelman fired him for “insubordination.” (Zinn was a critic of the school’s non-participation in the civil rights movement.) His years at Boston University were marked by opposition to the Vietnam War and by feuds with the school’s president, John Silber.

    Zinn retired in 1988, spending his last day of class on the picket line with students in support of an on-campus nurses’ strike. Over the years, he continued to lecture at schools and to appear at rallies and on picket lines.

    “The happy thing about Howard was that in the last years he could gain satisfaction that his contributions were so impressive and recognized,” Chomsky said. “He could hardly keep up with all the speaking invitations.”

    Besides “A People’s History,” Zinn wrote several books, including “The Southern Mystique,” “LaGuardia in Congress” and the memoir, “You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train,” the title of a 2004 documentary about Zinn that Damon narrated. He also wrote three plays.

    One of Zinn’s last public writings was a brief essay, published last week in The Nation, about the first year of the Obama administration.

    “I’ve been searching hard for a highlight,” he wrote, adding that he wasn’t disappointed because he never expected a lot from Obama.

    “I think people are dazzled by Obama’s rhetoric, and that people ought to begin to understand that Obama is going to be a mediocre president – which means, in our time, a dangerous president – unless there is some national movement to push him in a better direction.”

    Zinn’s longtime wife and collaborator, Roslyn, died in 2008. They had two children, Myla and Jeff.

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  2. Sun Jul 21, 2013 12:07 pm (PDT) . Posted by:
    “bigraccoon” redwoodsaurus

    https://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/07/19#.UetJE7wokso.facebook

    Indiana’s Anti-Howard Zinn Witch-Hunt

    Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States, one of the country’s most widely read history books, died on January 27, 2010. Shortly after, then-Governor of Indiana Mitch Daniels got on his computer and fired off an email to the state’s top education officials: “This terrible anti-American academic has finally passed away.”

    But Gov. Daniels, now president of Purdue University, was not content merely to celebrate Howard Zinn’s passing. He demanded that Zinn’s work be hunted down in Indiana schools and suppressed: “The obits and commentaries mentioned his book ‘A People’s History of the United States’ is the ‘textbook of choice in high schools and colleges around the country.’ It is a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page. Can someone assure me that is not in use anywhere in Indiana? If it is, how do we get rid of it before more young people are force-fed a totally false version of our history?”

    We know about Gov. Daniels’ email tantrum thanks to the Associated Press, which obtained the emails through a Freedom of Information Act request.

    Scott Jenkins, Daniels’ education advisor, wrote back quickly to tell the governor that A People’s History of the United States was used in a class for prospective teachers on social movements at Indiana University.

    Daniels fired back: “This crap should not be accepted for any credit by the state. No student will be better taught because someone sat through this session. Which board has jurisdiction over what counts and what doesn’t?”

    After more back and forth, Daniels approved a statewide “cleanup” of what earns credit for professional development: “Go for it. Disqualify propaganda and highlight (if there is any) the more useful offerings.”

    Daniels recently defended his attack on Zinn’s work, telling the Associated Press, “We must not falsely teach American history in our schools.” In a letter posted on his Purdue University webpage, Daniels claimed that, “the question I asked on one day in 2010 had nothing to do with higher education at all.” Daniels should go back and read his own emails.

    There are so many disturbing aspects to this story, it’s hard to know where to begin.

    The first, of course, is Daniels’ gleeful, mean-spirited reporting of Zinn’s death. Anyone with even a passing familiarity with Howard Zinn’s career knows that his great passions were racial equality and peace. Finding cause for joy in the death of someone whose life was animated by confidence in people’s fundamental decency is shameful.

    As someone who spent almost 30 years as a high school history teacher, I’m amused by the impoverished pedagogical vision embedded in Daniels’ emails and subsequent defense. Daniels wants Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States banned from the curriculum, so that the book is not “force-fed” to students. Governor Daniels evidently assumes that the only way one can teach history is to cram it down students’ throats. To see some alternative ways to engage students, Daniels might have a look at our lessons at the Zinn Education Project, which use Zinn’s People’s History of the United States in role plays, in critical reading activities, to generate imaginative writing, and to search for the “silences” in students’ own textbooks.

    Take for example the last textbook I was assigned as a teacher at a public high school in Portland, Oregon, American Odyssey, published by Glencoe/McGraw-Hill. In the book’s one thousand pages, it includes exactly two paragraphs on the U.S. war with Mexico—the war that led to Mexico “ceding,” in the polite language of school curricula, about half its country to the United States. American Odyssey does not quote a single Mexican, a single soldier, a single abolitionist, a single opponent of the war. Well, in fact, the textbook doesn’t quote anyone. As one of my students pointed out when we read the book’s dull passages in class, “It doesn’t even view it as a war. It’s a situation.”

    As the Zinn Education Project reveals regularly in its If We Knew Our History column, the version of U.S. history taught in the textbooks produced by giant corporations is anything but “true.” This scant treatment of such an important event in U.S. and Mexican history is one reason why teachers search out alternatives like A People’s History of the United States, which includes a full chapter on the conflict, focusing especially on President Polk’s hollow justifications for war, the anti-war resistance, and the human impact of the war. Unlike the gray prose of textbooks like American Odyssey, Zinn’s chapter on the U.S. war with Mexico—“We Take Nothing by Conquest, Thank God”—is filled with quotes from soldiers and poets, surgeons and abolitionists, generals and journalists, clergymen and presidents. Every passage reminds young people that war is much more than a “situation.”

    “We must not falsely teach American history in our schools,” said Daniels to the Associated Press, implying that the true history is to be found in the officially adopted textbooks. As the Zinn Education Project reveals regularly in its If We Knew Our History column, the version of U.S. history taught in the textbooks produced by giant corporations is anything but “true.” The corporate textbooks hide the breadth of U.S. military and economic interventions throughout the world; they ignore the roots of today’s environmental crises; they refuse to explore the origins of the vast wealth inequality in the United States; and the textbooks neglect the role of social movements throughout U.S. history, instead focusing on famous individuals; thus, they fail to nurture an activist sensibility—a recognition that if we want the world to be better, then it’s up to us to make it better.

    This is a point Howard Zinn emphasized when he spoke to teachers at the 2008 National Council for the Social Studies conference in Houston—some of them from Indiana!—not much more than a year before he died. Zinn said: “We’ve never had our injustices rectified from the top, from the president or Congress, or the Supreme Court, no matter what we learned in junior high school about how we have three branches of government, and we have checks and balances, and what a lovely system. No. The changes, important changes that we’ve had in history, have not come from those three branches of government. They have reacted to social movements.”

    Governor Daniels’ advisers evidently found no evidence that Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States was in use in K-12 schools in Indiana. I guess they didn’t look hard enough. There are more than 300 Indiana teachers registered at the Zinn Education Project to access people’s history curriculum materials to “teach outside the textbook.” And these are only the teachers who have formally registered at the site; many more share people’s history-inspired lessons.

    And at the Zinn Education Project we’ve heard all week long from Indiana teachers, professors, and parents who have committed themselves to work against censorship in K-12 schools. Their defiance is reminiscent of Indiana’s Green Feather Movement that challenged the McCarthy-era attempt to ban Robin Hood from the elementary school curriculum in 1954. What began as the anonymous posting of green feathers on bulletin boards by a few students at Indiana University spread to campuses across the country. As Howard Zinn wrote at the end of his autobiography, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, “If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.”

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