Thursday, January 28, 2010

RIP Howard Zinn

Howard Zinn died yesterday of a heart attack. He was an amazing man with the brains and courage to take on any injustice.

The son of Eastern European factory workers, he became a bomber in World War II. Disturbed by the mismatch between the Hollywood image of the nobility of war and the internal politics and pettiness of the real thing in which actual human lives were treated without a thought, it would lead him on a path that would reshape how we think of great events. He used the GI Bill to go to college, NYU and Columbia, where he eventually earned his Ph.D. in history. His first job was teaching at Spelman College, a traditionally black women's college, in Atlanta in the 50s. The horrors of racism in the South and being so close to smart, outraged, oppressed students led him to document and participate in their struggles, marching and protesting with them. He became an adviser to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was eventually released as a tenured professor for his radical activities in the name of justice.

He went to Boston University where he remained a vocal advocate for causes he found including the anti-war movement. While there, he wrote his most famous book, A People's History of the United States where he worked systematically through the history of the nation, debunking self-aggrandizing myths and showing how wealth, privilege, and power shaped this nations in ways that ought to make us worry and bring us to change the way things are for the betterment of all Americans.

We lost part of our national conscience yesterday. Howard Zinn lived a life of ideas and action. He will be missed.