Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rest in Peace & Thank You Dr. Howard Zinn

"Howard Zinn, the Boston University historian and political activist who was an early opponent of US involvement in Vietnam and a leading faculty critic of BU president John Silber, died of a heart attack Jan 27, 2010. He was 87.

"His writings have changed the consciousness of a generation, and helped open new paths to understanding and its crucial meaning for our lives," Noam Chomsky, the left-wing activist and MIT professor, once wrote of Dr. Zinn. "When action has been called for, one could always be confident that he would be on the front lines, an example and trustworthy guide."

For Dr. Zinn, activism was a natural extension of the revisionist brand of history he taught. Dr. Zinn's best-known book, "A People's History of the United States" (1980), had for its heroes not the Founding Fathers -- many of them slaveholders and deeply attached to the status quo, as Dr. Zinn was quick to point out -- but rather the farmers of Shays' Rebellion and the union organizers of the 1930s.

As he wrote in his autobiography, "You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train" (1994), "From the start, my teaching was infused with my own history. I would try to be fair to other points of view, but I wanted more than 'objectivity'; I wanted students to leave my classes not just better informed, but more prepared to relinquish the safety of silence, more prepared to speak up, to act against injustice wherever they saw it. This, of course, was a recipe for trouble."

Howard Zinn shed light on American History, and walked the walk of the peace & justice ideals he taught.

He is an icon, and his works will live on.


Life As I Know It Now said...

I will miss him greatly. Thanks for this tribute to should a good man. Wish there were more like him, I do.

Fran said...

Hi Lib~ I really like the opening segment, where Zinn talks about how he'd like Obama to embrace the ideals of MK jr. Not just the surface tribute-- but to really ask what would MLK do-- in terms of wars, health care, etc. Even the way he said it... to date he has not run his presidency in this way- leaving the door open to hope he may see the light & change these wrong courses of direction.
Zinn was a kind of history superstar, and everyman wrapped together. He stayed true & down to earth, and encouraged everyone to stand up & make their voices heard.

His message was very empowering.