[News] Howard Zinn has died of a heart attack

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jan 27 18:51:21 EST 2010


<http://gawker.com/tag/howardzinn/>Howard Zinn, historian and author 
of A People's History of the United States, 
died of a heart attack. He was 87.

Zinn was born in New York and worked in the Brooklyn Navy Yards and 
served as a bombardier in World War II. He attended school on the GI 
bill, was active in the civil rights movement, and protested Vietnam.

On his last day at BU, Dr. Zinn ended class 30 minutes early so he 
could join a picket line and urged the 500 students attending his 
lecture to come along. A hundred did so.

A People's History should be required reading for every high school 
student in the nation. Zinn is survived by his daughter, his son, and 
five grandchildren.

Zinn, historian who challenged status quo, dies at 87


January 27, 2010 05:40 PM

By Mark Feeney, Globe Staff

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.

As he wrote in his autobiography, "You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving 
Train" (1994), "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. This, of course, was a recipe for trouble."

Certainly, it was a recipe for rancor between Dr. Zinn and Silber. 
Dr. Zinn twice helped lead faculty votes to oust the BU president, 
who in turn once accused Dr. Zinn of arson (a charge he quickly 
retracted) and cited him as a prime example of teachers "who poison 
the well of academe."

Dr. Zinn was a cochairman of the strike committee when BU professors 
walked out in 1979. After the strike was settled, he and four 
colleagues were charged with violating their contract when they 
refused to cross a picket line of striking secretaries. The charges 
against "the BU Five" were soon dropped, however.

Dr. Zinn was born in New York City on Aug. 24, 1922, the son of 
Jewish immigrants, Edward Zinn, a waiter, and Jennie (Rabinowitz) 
Zinn, a housewife. He attended New York public schools and worked in 
the Brooklyn Navy Yard before joining the Army Air Force during World 
War II. Serving as a bombardier in the Eighth Air Force, he won the 
Air Medal and attained the rank of second lieutenant.

After the war, Dr. Zinn worked at a series of menial jobs until 
entering New York University as a 27-year-old freshman on the GI 
Bill. Professor Zinn, who had married Roslyn Shechter in 1944, worked 
nights in a warehouse loading trucks to support his studies. He 
received his bachelor's degree from NYU, followed by master's and 
doctoral degrees in history from Columbia University.

Dr. Zinn was an instructor at Upsala College and lecturer at Brooklyn 
College before joining the faculty of Spelman College in Atlanta, in 
1956. He served at the historically black women's institution as 
chairman of the history department. Among his students were the 
novelist Alice Walker, who called him "the best teacher I ever had," 
and Marian Wright Edelman, future head of the Children's Defense Fund.

During this time, Dr. Zinn became active in the civil rights 
movement. He served on the executive committee of the Student 
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the most aggressive civil rights 
organization of the time, and participated in numerous demonstrations.

Dr. Zinn became an associate professor of political science at BU in 
1964 and was named full professor in 1966.

The focus of his activism now became the Vietnam War. Dr. Zinn spoke 
at countless rallies and teach-ins and drew national attention when 
he and another leading antiwar activist, Rev. Daniel Berrigan, went 
to Hanoi in 1968 to receive three prisoners released by the North Vietnamese.

Dr. Zinn's involvement in the antiwar movement led to his publishing 
two books: "Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal" (1967) and 
"Disobedience and Democracy" (1968). He had previously published 
"LaGuardia in Congress" (1959), which had won the American Historical 
Association's Albert J. Beveridge Prize; "SNCC: The New 
Abolitionists" (1964); "The Southern Mystique" (1964); and "New Deal 
Thought" (1966).
Dr. Zinn was also the author of "The Politics of History" (1970); 
"Postwar America" (1973); "Justice in Everyday Life" (1974); and 
"Declarations of Independence" (1990).

In 1988, Dr. Zinn took early retirement so as to concentrate on 
speaking and writing. The latter activity included writing for the 
stage. Dr. Zinn had two plays produced: "Emma," about the anarchist 
leader Emma Goldman, and "Daughter of Venus."

Dr. Zinn, or his writing, made a cameo appearance in the 1997 film 
"Good Will Hunting." The title characters, played by Matt Damon, 
lauds "A People's History" and urges Robin Williams's character to 
read it. Damon, who co-wrote the script, was a neighbor of the Zinns 
growing up.

Damon was later involved in a television version of the book, "The 
People Speak," which ran on the History Channel in 2009. Damon was 
the narrator of a 2004 biographical documentary, "Howard Zinn: You 
Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train."

On his last day at BU, Dr. Zinn ended class 30 minutes early so he 
could join a picket line and urged the 500 students attending his 
lecture to come along. A hundred did so.

Dr. Zinn's wife died in 2008. He leaves a daughter, Myla Kabat-Zinn 
of Lexington; a son, Jeff of Wellfleet; three granddaugthers; and two 

Funeral plans were not available.

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