Thursday, 28 January 2010


American historian, playwright and social activist
Howard Zinn died yesterday, aged 87

The Guardian

The author of the million-plus bestseller A People's
History of the United States, which gave a leftist view of
American history, died of a heart attack in Santa Monica,
California, his daughter Myla Kabat-Zinn told the
Associated Press today.

Zinn wrote more than 20 books and his plays have been
produced around the world, but it is for A People's
History, first published in 1980 with a print run of just
5,000 copies, which the historian is best known. Told from
the perspective of America's women, Native Americans and
workers, the book provides a revisionist view of American
history from the arrival of Christopher Columbus – who Zinn
charges with genocide – to president Bill Clinton's first

"My point is not that we must, in telling history, accuse,
judge, condemn Columbus in absentia. It is too late for
that; it would be a useless scholarly exercise in
morality," wrote the author in the bestselling book. "But
the easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but
necessary price to pay for progress (Hiroshima and Vietnam,
to save western civilization; Kronstadt and Hungary, to
save socialism; nuclear proliferation, to save us all) –
that is still with us. One reason these atrocities are
still with us is that we have learned to bury them in a
mass of other facts, as radioactive wastes are buried in
containers in the earth."

Growing up in an immigrant, working-class family in
Brooklyn, Zinn became a shipyard worker at 18, later
joining the air force and flying a bomber during the second
world war. His experiences shaped his opposition to war,
and on his return he took a PhD in history at Columbia
University, later working with civil rights movement
activists including Alice Walker and Marian Wright Edelman,
and leading antiwar protests. Professor emeritus at Boston
University, Zinn received a host of honours, most recently
the 2010 Martin Luther King, Jr Humanitarian award from New
York University for embodying "a vision of peace,
persistence in purpose, and inspirational action".

In December, a documentary narrated by Zinn and based on A
People's History aired on the History Channel. Intended to
give a voice to those who spoke up for social change
throughout US history, producers on the film included Matt
Damon and Zinn himself, with performances from Morgan
Freeman, Bob Dylan, Viggo Mortensen, Bruce Springsteen and

The Zinn Education Project, which promotes the teaching of
A People's History in schools throughout America, said it
was "deeply saddened" to learn of Zinn's death. "His
incredible energy, wit, knowledge, political analysis,
vision, and dedication had us convinced that he would
outlive us all," the project posted on its website. "At 87,
he continued to inform and inspire in his presentations
across the country, radio interviews, essays, and

No comments: