In late 2007, former Boston University journalism student William Holtzman watched You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, the film about the life of historian, professor, and activist Howard Zinn. It brought back memories of attending Professor Zinn’s remarkable lectures at Boston University in the 1970s. He always marveled at how Zinn’s “people’s history” was so much more alive and accurate than the traditional history he received in high school.
After a successful career in technology, Holtzman wanted to bring Zinn’s work to a new generation of students. So he called Howard Zinn. “I contacted Howard and said I that I wanted to honor him and extend the reach of his work,” said Holtzman. “Howard didn’t care about the former, but was very open to the latter.”
Zinn introduced him to two non-profit organizations, Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change. With the support of Holtzman and others, Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change partnered to launch the Zinn Education Project in 2008.
Some 30 years after his exposure to Howard Zinn’s “people’s history,” the former Boston University student who initiated this project demonstrates that classroom experience can have a lifelong impact.
Holtzman has continued to support the Zinn Education Project with donations, outreach, advice, and rolling up his sleeves to help at our annual exhibit at the National Council for the Social Studies. In addition, he has shared more stories about Zinn’s role as a professor. These include “The Day I Met Father Dan Berrigan — Thanks To Howard Zinn” and Zinn’s lesson on compromise. Holtzman shared one of those stories at the dedication of the Howard Zinn Room at Busboys and Poets in 2012.