Howard Zinn contributed in so many important ways to creating an understanding of U.S. history that put at the center the struggles of oppressed people for dignity, and for economic and social justice. His classic, A People’s History of the United States, has had a profound effect in this regard. It is my favorite book. I have probably given away 25 copies as gifts over the last 25 years and used it in countless classes. Howard was a very wise and humane person who relentlessly criticized our unjust capitalist system while believing in and giving us historical examples of individuals and movements who in ways big and small worked and struggled against all injustice and for a just society. In language and analysis that was simple but not simplistic, radical but accessible, Howard Zinn’s anti-racism and anti-imperialism and his strong identification with working people stood out. So did his strong anti-war commitment and perspective. He listened to and respected the non-elites, those usually omitted in the official histories.
While motivated in his writing by his values of the right to self-determination and of the dignity of all people, and by his belief in the centrality of ending poverty and all forms of oppression such as sexism and racism, and for peace and justice, Howard told the truth and did not exaggerate and omit facts that were uncomfortable to his beliefs. He also acted on them by participating in countless demonstrations and other forms of activism from the 1930’s until the present.
Based on Howard’s profound historical understanding of the U.S. history and his respect for people and his understanding of the obscene inequality and militarism that marks the United States today, Howard Zinn continued to have hope and believed that we, the people, of the United States, could and would transform this society into some form of democratic socialism that lived in harmony with the rest of the world. We can all learn from this truly outstanding thinker, historian and human being.
Howard Zinn presente!