Zinn on Zinn

On January 19, historian and activist Howard Zinn gave his final radio interview, which Rethinking Schools has published in its entirety. In the question-and-answer session, Zinn relates that his experiences as the child of immigrants, combined with a great deal of reading, pushed him in an “activist direction.” He also developed a consciousness that the country is divided into rich people and a lot of other people, the vast majority of whom struggle to get by. Many are rendered invisible by poverty and immigrant status. Yet even in our founding documents, Zinn said, we pretend these disparities don’t exist: “The preamble of the Constitution begins with the words ‘We, the people of the United States…,’ as if all of the people established the Constitution. But that wasn’t true because we were a class-divided country before, during, and after the revolution. The Constitution was not adopted by ‘we, the people.’ It was adopted by 55 rich white men who met in Philadelphia in 1787.” Zinn’s advice for prospective history teachers is to not be intimidated by “what they say you must teach… You have to play a kind of guerilla warfare with the establishment in which you try not to be fired.”