R.I.P. Howard Zinn, 1922-2010


Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States and many other books died this week.

Here are references I found to Duluth and Minnesota in “A People’s History of the United States”

When I was reading it as a young college student I gained a new pride in myself and my family when I realized that the stories my Grandpa told us about his struggles in the labor movement actually were really important to a lot of people. They weren’t just the musings of an old man, they were AMERICAN HISTORY! I gave him a copy to read himself and when he died in 1998 I got it back. I reread much of it recently and while today I don’t necessarily regard that book as a totally balanced or even completely accurate telling of history, it is still one of my most cherished possessions.

History from a point of view, what a concept! And at least he admits it’s from a certain point of view and he gives good reason for approaching the subject from that angle. All of the history books I read in grade school and high school before a People’ History of the US neglected to mention they had a bias. And once I became aware of how bias works I saw the world and all of its literature in a totally different way. Forever.


osbie feel

about 13 years ago

Also: Zinn spoke at UMD in the middle 1990s (one of the highlights of my college career).


about 13 years ago

I was there, too, it was a great speech, and he was a brilliant historian. What a loss to the world.


about 13 years ago

If People's History was the national high school text instead of the watered-down crap coming out of the Texas School Board, perhaps this country would finally get a grip.

Dave Sorensen

about 13 years ago

The new film The People Speak  is based on the People's History. 


Thank you, Howard.


about 13 years ago

Has there ever been a more calm, rational, and tireless voice for the downtrodden in this country? 

Howard Zinn's life took him from spraying Napalm on a French Village as a WWII fighter pilot, to assisting his black students as they bravely stood up to the powers that be in SNCC lunch counter sit-ins in Atlanta, to risking his tenure by providing the historical and intellectual justification to the counterculture determined to end the Vietnam war.

I will suggest it is impossible to read "the people's history" without being forever changed. What a devastating book for anyone inclined to believe American history's official narrative.

Personally, the most dramatic way Howard Zinn affected me was through his idea that you can't be neutral on a moving train. That is, the world is going in a certain direction and as a citizen in a democracy your leaders act on your behalf.  In reality, taking a neutral stance makes me complicit and responsible for the acts of my fellow humans. Tacit cooperation with an amoral system is not justifiable. When faced with injustice, non-violent resistance is the only defensible option.

Thanks to Howard Zinn - for living his ideals.


about 13 years ago

Thanks and farewell to a good man who has done good work all us "peoples" should read. 

I have a collection of cds with Zinn offering thoughts on a number of topics--great for listening to in the car on the way to the Cities.

Here's a description:

Willing to loan them to responsible persons with interest.


about 13 years ago

RIP.  You're a hero.

And yes, A People's History should be a required text book in high school, or at least college.  But then again, those who seek to bury the truth are unfortunately quite influential.


about 13 years ago

Dear Howard,

Your words speak truth to the projected illusions of power trying to protect itself. 




Great Tribute to Mr. Zinn.  I personally like the part where he calls out the FBI provocateurs luring around at the protest.

The Big E

about 13 years ago

Not to be overly pedantic, but Zinn was a bombardier on a B-17 crew rather than a fighter pilot.  I've yet to read A People's History in full, but I've tended to think of Zinn as over the top--too strident, to the extent that he made it easier for people in the wavering middle to tune out his message.  Maybe that was a necessary step along the way--I'm not sure how I feel about that.  He was very much in earnest, and I respect that.

Anyhow, If we're referencing a handful of mentions of Duluth in the index of Zinn's book, I feel compelled once more to cheerlead for By the Ore Docks, which is  excellent.


about 13 years ago

Bombardier indeed. I stand corrected.


about 13 years ago

Yeah.  Cheerlead away.  I think books like the one you mention are all literary children, or at least nieces and nephews of A People's History of the United States.  Two similar book (also with local ties)are "Indian Givers" and "Native Roots" by Macalester College Professor Jack Weatherford.  I'm giving the link to Amazon, but I think it would be more in the spirit of Dr. Zinn to stop at Northern Lights, Amazing Alonzos or even the local public library to get your copy:  http://www.amazon.com/Jack-Weatherford/e/B000APS46W/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

beryl john-knudson

about 13 years ago

"The challenge remains. On the other side are formidable forces; money, political power, the major media. On our side are the people of the world and a power greater than money or weapons: the truth." Howard Zinn 1922-2010

Zinn's voice rose above the media for those who had the capacity to hear. His truths reached beyond the gated voices of "major media" who too often give us half a story, a compromised perspective...too often a story that patronizes the reader, the listener; judging our capacity for understanding by their own innocence, arrogance or ignorance...

...and in the words of the late poet Thomas McGrath, "the light...weaker these mornings..."

afterthought: and if you haven't been there already, you might want to check out realnews.com for five interviews with Zinn over the last couple years...

...and again...Funny image I like by a professor friend of his who missed him terribly but "still can see him (paraphrasing here)"shuffling across the campus eating a banana thinking whatever one can certainly imagine."... on Obama, the Supremes ; the Pentagon, our latest global actions etc...always wearing that same old sweater; same sweater all these years I bet."

I like the image. He was one great voice who should have stayed around a little longer. Maybe I'll find an old sweater; peel a banana whenever I sit down to reread  books...way to go maybe.

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