Actor and activist Jesse Williams, best known for his role on Grey’s Anatomy, won the BET Humanitarian Award on June 26, 2016. Williams, who read in the 2014 Voices Performance in Los Angeles, and serves on the board of the Advancement Project, is the son of public school teachers and a former U.S. history teacher (in Philadelphia) himself. He acknowledged the role of teachers and students learning history (outside the textbook) in his acceptance speech. Here is an excerpt,
I want to thank my parents for teaching me to focus on comprehension over career, they made sure I learned what the schools are afraid to teach us.
Now, this award, this is not for me, this is for the real organizers all over the country, activist civil rights attorneys, the parents, the teachers, the students who are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do. All right? It’s kind of basic mathematics, the more we learn about who we are and how we got here, the more we will mobilize.
We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries and we’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people — out of sight and out of mind — while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil, black gold, ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit. The thing is though… the thing is that just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real.
Watch the full speech below and/or read here.
Two years ago, Williams was one of the readers in the 2014 Voices Performance in Los Angeles. He read Zinn’s, “The Problem Is Civil Obedience” (November 1970), from Voices of a People’s History of the United States on November 13, 2014, at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center George and Sakaye Aratani Japan America Theatre in Los Angeles, California. The message is timely.
The filmed stage performance of Howard Zinn’s play Emma is now available for rent or purchase.
Emma dramatizes the life of Emma Goldman, the famed anarchist, feminist, and free-spirited thinker who was exiled from the United States because of her outspoken views, including her opposition to World War I. Read More
June 27 marks the birth of Emma Goldman (June 27, 1869–May 14, 1940), an anarchist who was an early advocate of free speech, birth control, women’s equality and independence, and unions. After reading Richard Drinnon’s biography of Emma Goldman, Rebel in Paradise, Howard Zinn read Goldman’s autobiography, Living My Life. As a historian with a PhD, he was astonished he had never learned about Goldman in his studies. “Here was this magnificent woman, this anarchist, this feminist, fierce, life-loving person.” Read More
French filmmakers Daniel Mermet and Olivier Azam of Les Mutins de
Pangee have released part one of a three-part documentary about Howard
Zinn. Only available in French, it can be rented or purchased on
Vimeo.com. The 1:40 hour film, called Howard Zinn une histoire
populaire américaine, features interviews with Howard Zinn, Noam
Chomsky, and Chris Hedges.
Proceeds from film sales will help fund production of parts 2 and 3.
The Zinn Education Project collects stories from former students at Spelman College and Boston University about his role as a teacher. Here is one example, a story by Michael Stavros, Class of 1973. If you are a former student of Zinn, please contribute your story here.
As we approach a new calendar year, we revisit Howard Zinn’s warmth, humor, and optimism in this interview with David Barsamian from July 1997. Zinn discusses being considered non-scholarly in the academic world (“…if you write stuff that an ordinary person can read, you’re suspect”), the notion of a pure well of academe (“a well that I would argue was itself poisonous. It perpetuated an education that left out large numbers of the world’s people”), and how social change happens (“You never know what spark is going to really result in a conflagration”). Originally published in The Progressive, the following is excerpted from The Historic Unfulfilled Promise. Read More
As the school year gets underway, we share this excerpt from Original Zinn: Conversations on History and Politics on democratic education, the value of skepticism, and building trust with students. In this interview with David Barsamian at Alternative Radio, Howard Zinn explains that he built trust with his students “by showing them that outside the classroom I was not retreating into my home and my study. I was involved in the social struggle that related to their lives. When they decided to participate in this struggle, that I was with them, I was walking on picket lines with them, I was engaging in demonstrations with them, I was sitting in with them. And that, more than anything, created an atmosphere of trust, of democracy in our relationship.” Following are related classroom resources.
There are contrasting perspectives on what the term well educated means. What does it mean to you?
There is an orthodox view of what it means to be well educated, and the orthodox view is that a person is well educated who has gone through all the realms of education. And the higher up you go, the more degrees you have, the better educated you are. The more knowledge you have, the more facts you have acquired, the more languages you can speak, the more important people you can quote, the more reading you have done, all of that falls within the orthodox definition of higher education, of education itself, being well educated. And, of course, a lot of that is legitimate; that is, to me a lot of that makes sense.
But it is not sufficient for me. Read More
August 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. In the following excerpt from You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, Howard Zinn, a WWII bombardier, recalls, “Hiroshima and Royan were crucial in my gradual rethinking of what I had once accepted without question—the absolute morality of the war against fascism.” He continues, “I had become aware, both from the rethinking of my war experiences and my reading of history, of how the environment of war begins to make one side indistinguishable from the other.” Related resources on Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and WWII follow.
There was only one point during the war when a few doubts crept into my mind about the absolute rightness of what we were doing. I’d made friends with a gunner on another crew. We had something in common in that literary wasteland of an air base: we were both readers, and we were both interested in politics. At a certain point he startled me by saying, “You know, this is not a war against fascism. It’s a war for empire. England, the United States, the Soviet Union—they are all corrupt states, not morally concerned about Hitlerism, just wanting to run the world themselves. It’s an imperialist war.” Read More
Visit www.howardzinnbookfair.com for updates, schedule, and more information.
Writing a column to appear in the July 4, 1975, issue of the Boston Globe, I wanted to break away from the traditional celebrations of Independence Day, in which the spirit of that document, with its call for rebellion and revolution, was most often missing. The column appeared with the title “The Brooklyn Bridge and the Spirit of the Fourth.”
In New York, a small army of policemen, laid off and angry, have been blocking the Brooklyn Bridge, and garbage workers are letting the refuse pile up in the streets. In Boston, some young people on Mission Hill are illegally occupying an abandoned house to protest the demolition of a neighborhood. And elderly people, on the edge of survival, are fighting Boston Edison’s attempt to raise the price of electricity.
So it looks like a good Fourth of July, with the spirit of rebellion proper to the Declaration of Independence. Read More
Memorial Day will be celebrated … by the usual betrayal of the dead, by the hypocritical patriotism of the politicians and contractors preparing for more wars, more graves to receive more flowers on future Memorial Days. The memory of the dead deserves a different dedication. To peace, to defiance of governments.
In 1974, I was invited by Tom Winship, the editor of the Boston Globe, who had been bold enough in 1971 to print part of the top secret Pentagon Papers on the history of the Vietnam War, to write a bi-weekly column for the op-ed page of the newspaper. I did that for about a year and a half. The column below appeared June 2, 1976, in connection with that year’s Memorial Day. After it appeared, my column was canceled.
Continue reading “Whom Will We Honor Memorial Day?”
Spelman College girls are still “nice,” but not enough to keep them from walking up and down, carrying picket signs, in front of supermarkets in the heart of Atlanta.
By Howard Zinn and Paula J. Giddings • The Nation • March 23, 2015
This article is part of The Nation’s 150th Anniversary Special Issue. Download a free PDF of the issue, with articles by James Baldwin, Barbara Ehrenreich, Toni Morrison, Howard Zinn and many more, here.
By Howard Zinn • First published in The Nation • August 6, 1960
One afternoon some weeks ago, with the dogwood on the Spelman College campus newly bloomed and the grass close-cropped and fragrant, an attractive, tawny-skinned girl crossed the lawn to her dormitory to put a notice on the bulletin board. It read: Young Ladies Who Can Picket Please Sign Below.
The notice revealed, in its own quaint language, that within the dramatic revolt of Negro college students in the South today another phenomenon has been developing. This is the upsurge of the young, educated Negro woman against the generations-old advice of her elders: be nice, be well-mannered and ladylike, don’t speak loudly, and don’t get into trouble. On the campus of the nation’s leading college for Negro young women—pious, sedate, encrusted with the traditions of gentility and moderation—these exhortations, for the first time, are being firmly rejected. Read More
Formerly named the “Thomas Paine Award,” the Freedom to Write Award was re-named in honor of Howard Zinn. PEN New England stated,
“In awarding Johnetta Elzie and DeRay McKesson the 2015 Zinn Award, we are recognizing their work in speaking truth to power and providing a necessary counterpoint to the mainstream narrative.
“Their reporting and This Is the Movement newsletter engaged and unified disparate voices in the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Their activism focused an enraged community, and has been instrumental in transforming a cycle of tragedies into a movement, assuring that the world would not forget the names of Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and too many others.”
Continue reading at PEN New England.
This year, as the Pentagon prepares to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, we revisit this essay by Howard Zinn written in 1998, the 30th anniversary year of when he traveled with the Reverend Daniel Berrigan to Hanoi to receive prisoners released by the North Vietnamese. In talking about the terrible effects of the Vietnam War, Zinn states, “all wars are wars against civilians, and are therefore inherently immoral” and “political leaders all over the world should not be trusted when they urge their people to war claiming superior knowledge and expertise.” This is an excerpt from Howard Zinn on War followed by related resources.
On this 5th anniversary of the passing of Howard Zinn, we encourage you to read Zinn’s biography, articles, and interviews. The site was rebuilt in August of 2014 and provides a treasure trove of his work. If you have additional interviews, photos, or archival materials by Howard Zinn that can be published online, email email@example.com.
Read more from the Winter 2015 Newsletter.
In the 1960s, Howard Zinn, along with Ella Baker, served as advisers to SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. On this 50th anniversary year of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery marches and the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, we revisit Zinn’s first-hand account of Selma’s Freedom Day in 1963. “The idea was to bring hundreds of people to register to vote, hoping that their numbers would decrease fear. And there was much to fear,” Zinn writes.
The following excerpt is from Chapter 5 of Zinn’s autobiography, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, and is followed by related resources about Selma’s voting rights campaign, Freedom Day, and SNCC.
December 30 is the anniversary of Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo being indicted in 1971 for releasing the Pentagon Papers. The papers were part of a 7,000-page, top secret history of the U.S. political and military involvement in the Vietnam War from 1945-71. In other words, their “crime” was to make the American public aware of the history of the war.
Excerpted from chapter 12 of You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, Howard Zinn recounts the lead-up to Ellsberg and Russo’s indictment. Following are resources for learning more about the Pentagon Papers, Vietnam, and Anti-War Movements. Read More
For Thanksgiving, we highlight Native American resistance that caught the nation’s attention in the 1960s and 70s. As Howard Zinn wrote in Chapter 19 of A People’s History of the United States, “Never in American history had more movements for change been concentrated in so short a span of years.” Following are additional resources on Native American history and resistance.
Voices of a People’s History is a companion to Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, with first person voices—speeches, letters, poems, and songs.
The 10th anniversary edition features new voices including whistleblower Chelsea Manning; Naomi Klein, speaking from the Occupy Wall Street encampment in Liberty Square; a member of Dream Defenders, a youth organization that confronts systemic racial inequality; members of the undocumented youth movement, who occupied, marched, and demonstrated in support of the DREAM Act; a member of the day laborers movement; and several critics of the Obama administration, including Glenn Greenwald, on governmental secrecy.
Available from Seven Stories Press, Nov. 2014.