We remember Howard Zinn, our friend and teacher (and among the first members of the IOA Advisory Board), who passed away on 27 January 2010, leaving a formidable legacy. In the words of his close friend, Noam Chomsky: “He changed the conscience of a generation. It’s hard to imagine how many young people’s lives were touched by his work and his life.” This writer one of them.
Noam Chomsky remembers Howard Zinn, the great American activist and historian, and his close friend of 45 years. A moving political and personal history of the leading activists of a generation — people who are nearly gone but will always remain for generations to follow.
A presentation at SUNY New Paltz entitled “Honoring Howard Zinn: An Historian Who Made History,” given on 4 December 2011.
Zinn, who died in January at the age of 87, did not advocate violence or support the overthrow of the government, something he told FBI interrogators on several occasions. He was rather an example of how genuine intellectual thought is always subversive. It always challenges prevailing assumptions as well as political and economic structures. It is based on a fierce moral autonomy and personal courage and it is uniformly branded by the power elite as “political.” Zinn was a threat not because he was a violent revolutionary or a communist but because he was fearless and told the truth.
It was beautiful in Boston… as about 250 invited guests gathered at the Arlington Street Church to celebrate the life of Howard Zinn, who died on January 27. The crowd was full of scholars, writers, editors, actors, poets, activists, neighbors—friends all… [Zinn’s daughter, Myla Kabat-Zinn,] told the story of The New York Times calling him up several months before he died and explaining that the paper had a custom of preparing obituaries for people while they were still alive. Without skipping a beat, Howard said: “What’s your deadline?”
Today at 2:00 PM, Boston University held a memorial service for the late Howard Zinn at Marsh Chapel. It featured 15 speakers, many of which were his personal friends and coworkers, including Noam Chomsky, former professors at Boston University, several current Political Science Professors at Boston University, and one Iraq War Veteran turned anti-war student activist.
Historian Howard Zinn’s remarkable work, including his most famous book, A People’s History of the United States, is summarized best in his own words. His primary concern, he once explained, was “the countless small actions of unknown people” that lie at the roots of the great moments of history–a record that would be profoundly misleading, and seriously disempowering, if torn from such roots. Howard, who died Jan. 27 at 87, was devoted to the empowerment of these unknowns.
Howard Zinn: 1922-2010
Amy Goodman interviews Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Alice Walker, and Anthony Arnove.
“Three Holy Wars” – May 2009
The Daily Show with Jon Stuart – 6 Jan 2005
Introducing A People’s History
On human nature and aggression – 2004
On civil disobedience – 2002
Howard Zinn was magical as a teacher. Witty, irreverent, and wise, he loved what he was teaching and clearly wanted his students to love it also. We did.
IOA Editor: As did this former Zinn student, and probably everyone else. A friend who knew Howard well and worked closely with him said: “Howard had that je ne sais quoi that is rare beyond expression. Allowed him to say the most amazingly radical thing and seem like common sense. And make you laugh while doing it.” Exactly.
Mr. Zinn was chagrined by the present state of affairs, but undaunted. “If there is going to be change, real change,” he said, “it will have to work its way from the bottom up, from the people themselves. That’s how change happens.”
Spelman College girls are still “nice” but not enough to keep them from walking up and down, carrying picket signs, in front of two supermarkets in the heart of Atlanta. They are well-mannered, but this is somewhat tempered by a recent declaration that they will use every method short of violence to end segregation.
IOA Editor: In these days of Apartheid Walls and resistance to military occupation, it is both interesting and inspiring to read Howard Zinn’s account of protesting segregation in the South.
It has been a wonderful privilege to have been able to join Howard on his “moving train” on many occasions over these years of challenge, inspiration, torment, and persistent concern over impending catastrophe. Like everyone who knows him, I too have been struck by his enduring optimism… Howard’s life and work are a persistent reminder that our own subjective judgments of the likelihood of success in engaging human problems are of little interest, to ourselves or others. What matters is to take part, as best we can, in the small actions of unknown people that can stave off disaster and bring about a better world, to honor them for their achievements, to do what we can to ensure that these achievements are understood and carried forward. In brief, to follow the model provided for us by the subject of this welcome biography.
“He’s made an amazing contribution to American intellectual and moral culture,” Noam Chomsky, the left-wing activist and MIT professor, said tonight. “He’s changed the conscience of America in a highly constructive way. I really can’t think of anyone I can compare him to in this respect.”
IOA Editor: Howard Zinn, our friend, teacher, a life-long activist so many of us followed with great interest and admiration, and an IOA Advisory Board member, passed away today. Words cannot express how much he will be missed.
The power and influence of the United States has declined rapidly since the war in Iraq because American power, as it has been exercised in the world historically, has been exposed more to the rest of the world in this situation and in other situations.
So the US influence is declining, its power is declining.
However strong a military machine it is, power does not ultimately depend on a military machine. So power is declining.
Ultimately power rests on the moral legitimacy of a system and the United States has been losing moral legitimacy.
My hope is that the American people will rouse themselves and change this situation, for the benefit of themselves and for the benefit of the rest of the world.