RIP Howard Zinn


Howard Zinn, the Boston University historian and political activist who was an early opponent of US involvement in Vietnam and a leading faculty critic of BU president John Silber, died of a heart attack today in Santa Monica, Calif, where he was traveling, his family said. He was 87.

“His writings have changed the consciousness of a generation, and helped open new paths to understanding and its crucial meaning for our lives,” Noam Chomsky, the left-wing activist and MIT professor, once wrote of Dr. Zinn. “When action has been called for, one could always be confident that he would be on the front lines, an example and trustworthy guide.”

For Dr. Zinn, activism was a natural extension of the revisionist brand of history he taught. Dr. Zinn’s best-known book, “A People’s History of the United States” (1980), had for its heroes not the Founding Fathers — many of them slaveholders and deeply attached to the status quo, as Dr. Zinn was quick to point out — but rather the farmers of Shays’ Rebellion and the union organizers of the 1930s.

His A People’s History of the United States is one of the most important books of my life and had a profound impact on shaping how I would view history of not just the United States, but of the world.


  1. I just mentioned Zinn today to friend of mine still living with the elementary school image of Columbus shaking hands with a Native American. At least Zinn’s ideas are still steamrolling along, may he rest in peace.

    Hopefully pat robertson won’t comment on his passing.

  2. The documentary “Howard Zinn – You can’t be neutral on a moving train.” is narrated by Matt Damon, explaining the democratic means of civil disobedience. However I’ve seen a different film about how the Chinese have tried “civil disobedience”, and a couple of hundreds where shot/crushed by tanks on Tienanmen Square.

    And we are currently (sort of) witnessing how “civil disobedience” doesn’t/won’t change anything in Iran.
    Today’s governments have a much higher level of control, it will take nothing less than a communications breakdown for any protest to seriously disrupt order.

    All these Mob rule fantasies end in a nightmare anyways. Lobbying is the “Civ.Disob.” of the 21st century.

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