Howard Zinn, US historian and activist, dies aged 87
The American historian, playwright and author of the bestseller A People's History of the United States, which presents a leftist view of US history, has died
By Alison Flood
American historian, playwright and social activist Howard Zinn died yesterday, aged 87.
The author of the million-plus bestseller A People's History of the United States, which gave a leftist view of American history, died of a heart attack in Santa Monica, California, his daughter Myla Kabat-Zinn told the Associated Press today.
Zinn wrote more than 20 books and his plays have been produced around the world, but it is for A People's History, first published in 1980 with a print run of just 5,000 copies, which the historian is best known. Told from the perspective of America's women, Native Americans and workers, the book provides a revisionist view of American history from the arrival of Christopher Columbus – who Zinn charges with genocide – to president Bill Clinton's first term.
"My point is not that we must, in telling history, accuse, judge, condemn Columbus in absentia. It is too late for that; it would be a useless scholarly exercise in morality," wrote the author in the bestselling book. "But the easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress (Hiroshima and Vietnam, to save western civilization; Kronstadt and Hungary, to save socialism; nuclear proliferation, to save us all) – that is still with us. One reason these atrocities are still with us is that we have learned to bury them in a mass of other facts, as radioactive wastes are buried in containers in the earth."
Harper Perennial and The Zinn Education Project are pleased to present a conversation with Howard Zinn on A People's History of the United States. The Zinn Education Project has solicited questions from teachers through their website, https://zinnedproject.org. Bill Bigelow, a teacher and writer, will present these questions to Professor Zinn for discussion. During the last twenty minutes of the show, the chat room and phone lines will be open for live participation in the discussion and for listeners to present their own questions to Professor Zinn.
By Alan Singer
As a social studies teacher, a political activist, and a historian, I am a big fan of Howard Zinn, and I very much enjoyed watching The People Speak on the History Channel Sunday night. Well-known and not so well-known actors read speeches, letters, and other primary source documents from the history of the United States. There were also photo montages and songs. It was not great theater or television, but it was a wonderful teaching tool. I have been using many of these documents in my social studies classes for the past four decades. They show aspects of United States history that are either ignored or minimized in most traditional textbooks and curricula. In the near future I hope we see secondary school students across the country participate in similar readers. Our schools, and our country, very much need it.
Currently, I have pre-service teachers in my social studies methods classes use Voices of a People's History as a resource book when preparing lessons and units. I will now recommend that they have schools purchase copies of The People Speak and that they themselves sign up for the resources available from the Zinn Education Project (http://www.zinnedproject.org). I am pleased that an article I wrote about high school students tracing the history of slavery in New York City is included (Please note I did not get paid).
As their announcement states:
The new site features over 75 free, downloadable teaching activities for middle- and high- school students to bring a people’s history to the classroom. These are the best U.S. history-teaching articles from the Rethinking Schools archives. The site also lists hundreds of recommended books, films, and websites. The teaching activities and resources are organized by theme, time period, and grade level.
Though teachers would have to modify the materials to make them accessible to English Language Learners, the site is truly extraordinary. It’s development is timed with last night’s debut on the History Channel of The People Speak presentation. It was narrated by Howard Zinn and based on his best-selling books, A People’s History of the United States and Voices of a People’s History of the United States,
I’m adding the new website to The Best Teacher Resource Sites For Social Justice Issues.