Howard Zinn passed away four years ago on January 27, 2010. We miss him—we miss his wisdom, his humor, his kindness, his capacity to place just about any current event in its historical context. The phrase “speak truth to power” perfectly describes the life’s work of Howard Zinn.
The Zinn Education Project continues to draw inspiration from the words and deeds Zinn left behind.
Here, we include a passage from Howard Zinn’s stirring autobiography, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train. In it he describes what he witnessed during Freedom Day in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, held almost exactly 50 years ago, on January 22, 1964. SNCC—the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee—attempted to register to vote hundreds of black Mississippians, in a county without a single registered black voter.
Howard Zinn’s essay “Unsung Heroes,” posted at the Zinn Education Project site sums up the source of Zinn’s hope for humanity:
To ward off alienation and gloom, it is only necessary to remember the unremembered heroes of the past, and to look around us for the unnoticed heroes of the present.
An accompanying lesson shows one way to bring this insight to students.
Howard Zinn was a beloved teacher—at both Spelman College in Atlanta and Boston University. The Zinn Education Project has been working to collect students’ memories of Zinn as a teacher and mentor.
In 2008, the Zinn Education Project sponsored a talk by Zinn at the National Council for the Social Studies conference in Houston. Here we describe the “fundamental premises” that Zinn argued we needed to rethink in order to radically change our society for the better.
In the passage we link to about the SNCC struggle in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Howard Zinn writes about what it means to participate in a social movement—words that speak to us today:
The reward for participating in a movement for social justice is not the prospect of future victory. It is the exhilaration of standing together with other people, taking risks together, enjoying small triumphs and enduring disheartening setbacks—together.
The Zinn Education Project is honored to help bring the wisdom of Howard Zinn to educators and students across the country.