Thursday 28 January 2010

RIP: Howard Zinn

Today I learned of Howard Zinn's heart attack and subsequent death on Wednesday, January 27 - in the United States, that is. I think time will prove him to be one of the greatest American historians - Howard was a real progressive hero of mine. I can't believe he was 87. I hope I have even half his energy and wits if I ever reach that age!

Below find an initial tribute to Howard on the Democracy Now! website. Their program on Thursday will be devoted to a retrospective of his contributions.

Some readers here might have seen Zinn's incredibly powerful "The People Speak" documentary which premiered on the History Channel last month! (December)

As Bill Moyers said: "Howard Zinn has long been known as the historian of the American everyman and woman. His groundbreaking work, THE PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, turned history on its head — concentrating on the power of the people to effect change, not just the deeds of great men and those in political power."

Zinn's contributions to people in the United States and around the globe were and are massive - he will be very deeply missed by a multitude. His emphases on honesty, justice, education and "the power of people to effect change" are exactly what was needed as we struggle to initiate the many reforms and changes that some of us deem to be essential.

He deployed his energies so well - to the very end.

One can find plenty of additional links below to help round out the picture of his legacy.

Grace and Peace,

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What follows is the initial tribute at Democracy Now!

Howard Zinn, one of the country’s most celebrated historians, died of a heart attack Wednesday in Santa Monica, California. He was 87.

His classic work, A People’s History of the United States, changed the way we look at history in America. First published a quarter of a century ago, the book has sold over a million copies and continues to sell more copies each successive year.

After serving as a shipyard worker and then an Air Force bombardier in World War II, Zinn went on to become a lifelong dissident and peace activist. He went to college under the GI Bill, received his PhD from Columbia. He was active in the civil rights movement and many of the struggles for social justice over the past half-century. He taught at Spelman College, the historically black college for women in Atlanta, was fired for insubordination for standing up for the women. He is now Professor Emeritus at Boston University and was recently honored by Spelman.

Zinn has received the Thomas Merton Award, the Eugene V. Debs Award, the Upton Sinclair Award, and the Lannan Literary Award. He is the author of many books, including the People’s History Series; a seven-volume series on the Radical ’60s; several collections of essays on art, war, politics and history; and the plays Emma and Marx in Soho.

In December, The People Speak a documentary based on the live performances of A People’s History of the United States and Voices of a People’s History of the United States premiered on the History Channel.

(A collection of his appearances on Democracy Now! is then listed.)

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Recently shared:

For more on Howard Zinn and to see powerful small segments from "The People Speak," see the Dec. 11 interview with Zinn on the Bill Moyers Journal here. For additional resources and a biography see this link.

The following brief transcribed excerpts from the programs mentioned above will give you a feel for the power of Zinn's humanity, scholarship, and film:

[BILL MOYERS: There's a long tradition in America of people power, and no one has done more to document it than the historian, Howard Zinn. Listen to this paragraph from his most famous book. Quote: "If democracy were to be given any meaning, if it were to go beyond the limits of capitalism and nationalism, this would not come, if history were any guide, from the top. It would come through citizen's movements, educating, organizing, agitating, striking, boycotting, demonstrating, threatening those in power with disruption of the stability they needed."

This son of a working class family got a job in the Brooklyn shipyards and then flew as a bombardier during World War II. He went to NYU on the G.I. Bill, taught history at Spellman College in Atlanta, where he was first active in the Civil Rights movement, and then became a professor of political science at Boston University.

There, he and his students sought a more down-to-earth way of looking at American history. And when no book could provide it, Zinn decided to write one. Since his publication in 1980, "A People's History of the United States" has sold more than two million copies.

This Sunday night, the History Channel will premiere a 90-minute special, "The People Speak" based on Howard Zinn's book. It was produced by Zinn along with Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Chris Moore and Anthony Arnove.]

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Howard Zinn has long been known as the historian of the American everyman and woman. His groundbreaking work, THE PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, turned history on its head — concentrating on the power of the people to effect change, not just the deeds of great men and those in political power.

Now, selections from his collection of voices from the American past are being performed by actors, poets and writers in a new documentary directed by Matt Damon which is airing on The History Channel. Find out more about some of those voices below, and delve further into American history through the JOURNAL's coverage of American history on-air and online.

* "Ain't I a Woman?" Sojourner Truth (1851)
* The Rev. J. W. Loguen, as a Slave and as a Freeman. "A Narrative of Real Life"(1860)
* Mark Twain, "Comments on the Moro Massacre" (1906)
* Industrial Workers of the World, "Why the IWW is not Patriotic to the United States" (1918)
* Langston Hughes, "Ballad of Roosevelt" (1934)
* Dalton Trumbo, "Johnny Got His Gun" (1939)
* Daniel Ellsberg; "Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers" (2003) ]

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More interesting and informative links:

Howard Zinn

Howard Zinn: Obama "Is Going to Need Demonstrations and Protest and Letters and Petitions" to Do the Right Things - Liliana Segura - AlterNet 3/12/09

Changing Obama's Mindset - Howard Zinn - The Progressive 5/09

Archive of Recent Articles by Howard Zinn - AlterNet

"Empire or Humanity? What the Classroom Didn't Teach Me about the American Empire" (Narrated by Viggo Mortensen; from "A People's History of American Empire" by Howard Zinn) - Henry Holt Video (8:35 min) 3/28/08

Rest in peace, Howard Zinn.

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