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?”
May 14 marks the 75th anniversary of the death 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.” Zinn began assigning Living My Life to his students who “loved it. They found in her what I found in her: free spirit, bold, speaking out against all authority, unafraid, and as the title suggests, living her life, as she wanted to live it, not as the rules and regulations and authorities were telling her how to live it.” Zinn continued to use her writings in his classes and wrote a play about her titled Emma.
The following is an excerpt from Chapter 10 of Howard Zinn Speaks, “Emma Goldman, Anarchism, and War Resistance,” in which Zinn recounts the Haymarket Affair, commemorated as May Day, an event that led to Goldman’s life long commitment to activism. Resources for learning more about Goldman and labor history follow. Read More
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
For Veterans Day, we highlight this article, “Dissent at the War Memorial,” written by Howard Zinn for The Progressive in 2004. Asked to speak on a panel called, “War Stories,” Zinn said, “I don’t want to honor military heroism–that conceals too much death and suffering. I want to honor those who all these years have opposed the horror of war.”
This is followed by additional resources for learning and teaching about war.
As I write this, the sounds of the World War II Memorial celebration in Washington, D.C., are still in my head. I was invited by the Smithsonian Institution to be on one of the panels, and the person who called to invite me said that the theme would be “War Stories.” I told him that I would come, but not to tell “war stories,” rather to talk about World War II and its meaning for us today. Fine, he said. Read More
Voices of a People’s History of the United States, The New School for Public Engagement, and Seven Stories Press, in association with Haymarket Books, present a special evening of music and readings to celebrate the tenth-anniversary edition of Voices of a People’s History of the United States.
This special tenth anniversary event will include Voices co-editor Anthony Arnove, actors Viggo Mortensen, Peter Sarsgaard, Kelly MacDonald, Aasif Mandvi, Jessica Pimentel, Wallace Shawn, Elizabeth A. Davis, Christina Kirk, Erin Cherry, Susan Pourfar, Brian Jones, and Jeff Zinn, singer-songwriter Allison Moorer, poets Staceyann Chin and Kevin Coval, playwright Idris Goodwin, and other special guests to be announced. With music by DJ Charlie Hustle.
The first-ever Howard Zinn Bookfair will be held on November 15th, 2014 at the Mission High School in San Francisco. Professor Robin D.G. Kelley is one of the featured keynote speakers. Lifetime Achievement Awards will be presented to Marcus Bookstore, the nation’s oldest black-owned bookstore, and Elizabeth “Betita” Martínez, Chicana feminist, community organizer and author. The bookfair will also feature a full day of workshops.
Learn more at HowardZinnBookfair.com.
For Columbus Day, we feature an excerpt from Chapter One of A People’s History of the United States. Howard Zinn describes why he tells the story of Columbus’s arrival “from the viewpoint of the Arawaks” and “the inevitable taking of sides which comes from selection and emphasis in history.” This is followed by additional resources for examining the impact of Columbus’s arrival. Read More
With Banned Book Week (Sept. 21-28) in full swing, we call attention to the recent—sometimes successful—attempts to ban Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.
In 2012, the Tucson Unified School District decided to abolish the highly-successful Mexican American Studies Program and called for an immediate removal of all program books, including A People’s History of the United States and other people’s history texts.
In 2013, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels orders to ban the use of any of Zinn’s books in K-12 classrooms gained national attention, especially since Daniels is now the president of Purdue University. Read More
On April 20, 1914, the Colorado National Guard attacked a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families in Ludlow, Colorado. An estimated two dozen people were killed, including young children.
Known as the Ludlow Massacre, Howard Zinn described its importance and obscurity in The Politics of History, “The culminating act of perhaps the most violent struggle between corporate power and laboring men in American history. Despite five thousands pages of testimony, taken at the time by Congressional investigating bodies, it remains an obscure event, rarely mentioned in textbooks on American history.”