Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Activist, Author, and Historian Howard Zinn, Dead at 87

I was saddened by to hear this news this evening. Howard Zinn, renowned historian, author and activist, has died of a heart attack while traveling at the age of 87.

Zinn is well known for his book "A People's History of the United States: 1492-Present" and for challenging the status quo that is often presented in other history books.

From the Boston Globe:

"He's made an amazing contribution to American intellectual and moral culture," Noam Chomsky, the left-wing activist and MIT professor, said tonight. "He's changed the conscience of America in a highly constructive way. I really can't think of anyone I can compare him to in this respect."


For Dr. Zinn, activism was a natural extension of the revisionist brand of history he taught. "A People’s History of the United States" (1980), his best-known book, 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 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."

Dr. Zinn is survived by a daughter, a son, three granddaughters and two-grandsons.

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