I read A People’s History of the United States in the summer before my junior year of high school — fifteen years ago now. It was an interesting time. This would have been 2005-2006, so the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were well underway, and I was beginning to pay attention to what those around me were saying about war.
As I sat in Boston Common reading my paperback copy of A People’s History, I must have had dozens of people come up to me to tell me how much it had changed their lives. Some were former students, some were fans, some were college students reading Zinn for the first time. Howard Zinn gave me a gift — a radical awakening. His work has that kind of power. You don’t forget injustice easily, and he unearths the injustices the other textbooks would rather forget.
I had the distinct honor of meeting Zinn when he gave the opening remarks at an adaptation of Grace Paley’s work. For all that Zinn was — activist, educator, historian, pacifist, mensch — he reminded me of why our people fight for justice. I love the long, anti-capitalist, anti-white supremacist tradition he carried forward as a Jew. We are obligated by our religion to fight for all who are oppressed, and every time I read Zinn, I am graced with that reminder, and that memory.
I believe in the power of radical change through progressive education and fully support the work of the Zinn Education Project.