Saturday, January 30, 2010

Remembering Howard Zinn: August 24 1922 – January 27 2010

Howard Zinn, author of "A People's History of the United States," died Wednesday at the age of 87.

Adapted from the Harper Collins Summary: Howard Zinn was a historian, playwright, and social activist. He was a shipyard worker and Air Force bombardier before he went to college under the GI Bill and received his Ph.D. from Columbia University. He taught at Spelman College and Boston University, and was a visiting professor at the University of Paris and the University of Bologna. He received the Thomas Merton Award, the Eugene V. Debs Award, the Upton Sinclair Award, and the Lannan Literary Award. He lived in Auburndale, Massachusetts.

“He was the best human being I've ever known. The best example of what a human can be, and can do with their life.”

Daniel Ellsberg

“I always wondered why Howard Zinn was considered a radical. He was an unbelievably decent man who felt obliged to challenge injustice and unfairness wherever he found it. What was so radical about believing that workers should get a fair shake on the job, that corporations have too much power over our lives and much too much influence with the government, that wars are so murderously destructive that alternatives to warfare should be found, that blacks and other racial and ethnic minorities should have the same rights as whites, that the interests of powerful political leaders and corporate elites are not the same as those of ordinary people who are struggling from week to week to make ends meet?”

Bob Herbert (NY Times)

"He's made an amazing contribution to American intellectual and moral culture. He's changed the conscience of America in a highly constructive way. I really can't think of anyone I can compare him to in this respect. He was a person of real courage and integrity, warmth and humor.”

Noam Chomsky

"Howard had a great mind and was one of the great voices in the American political life. He taught me how valuable -- how necessary -- dissent was to democracy and to America itself. 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."

Ben Affleck

"Howard had a genius for the shape of public morality and for articulating the great alternative vision of peace as more than a dream. But above all, he had a genius for the practical meaning of love. [He was] simply one of the greatest Americans of our time. He will not be replaced -- or soon forgotten.”

James Carroll (Boston Globe)

“Zinn's brand of history put common citizens at the center of the story and inspired generations of young activists and academics to remember that change is possible.”

Peter Rothberg (The Nation)

“Zinn's influence will live on in the great power of his words, and the courage and modesty with which he lived his life.”

Victoria Brittain (The Guardian)

"From the start, my teaching was infused with my own history. I would try to be fair to other points of view, but I wanted more than 'objectivity'; I wanted students to leave my classes not just better informed, but more prepared to relinquish the safety of silence, more prepared to speak up, to act against injustice wherever they saw it.”

Howard Zinn

“Where progress has been made, wherever any kind of injustice has been overturned, it's been because people acted as citizens, and not as politicians. They didn't just moan. They worked, they acted, they organised, they rioted if necessary to bring their situation to the attention of people in power. And that's what we have to do today."

Howard Zinn

"My hope is that you will not be content just to be successful in the way our society measures success; that you will not obey the rules, when the rules are unjust; that you will act out the courage that I know is in you."

Howard Zinn

Random Note: When I made plans to publish the Jazzman Chronicles I sought the comments and support of America’s two pre-eminent progressives: Chomsky and Zinn. Zinn replied that he did not have time to read my work but encouraged me to keep writing. When I pressed him to comment on a short essay entitled True History he replied “… a succinct and heartfelt statement about the importance of teaching good history to the new generation.” He was and is a hero who fought the good fight to the end of his days and I will always be grateful.


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