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Thread: Howard Zinn, historian who challenged status quo, dies at 87

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    Howard Zinn, historian who challenged status quo, dies at 87

    Howard Zinn, historian who challenged status quo, dies at 87



    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 today in Santa Monica, Calif, where he was traveling, his family said. 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."

    Certainly, it was a recipe for rancor between Dr. Zinn and Silber. Dr. Zinn twice helped lead faculty votes to oust the BU president, who in turn once accused Dr. Zinn of arson (a charge he quickly retracted) and cited him as a prime example of teachers "who poison the well of academe."

    Dr. Zinn was a cochairman of the strike committee when BU professors walked out in 1979. After the strike was settled, he and four colleagues were charged with violating their contract when they refused to cross a picket line of striking secretaries. The charges against "the BU Five" were soon dropped, however.

    Dr. Zinn was born in New York City on Aug. 24, 1922, the son of Jewish immigrants, Edward Zinn, a waiter, and Jennie (Rabinowitz) Zinn, a housewife. He attended New York public schools and worked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard before joining the Army Air Force during World War II. Serving as a bombardier in the Eighth Air Force, he won the Air Medal and attained the rank of second lieutenant.

    After the war, Dr. Zinn worked at a series of menial jobs until entering New York University as a 27-year-old freshman on the GI Bill. Professor Zinn, who had married Roslyn Shechter in 1944, worked nights in a warehouse loading trucks to support his studies. He received his bachelor's degree from NYU, followed by master's and doctoral degrees in history from Columbia University.

    Dr. Zinn was an instructor at Upsala College and lecturer at Brooklyn College before joining the faculty of Spelman College in Atlanta, in 1956. He served at the historically black women's institution as chairman of the history department. Among his students were the novelist Alice Walker, who called him "the best teacher I ever had," and Marian Wright Edelman, future head of the Children's Defense Fund.

    During this time, Dr. Zinn became active in the civil rights movement. He served on the executive committee of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the most aggressive civil rights organization of the time, and participated in numerous demonstrations.

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    RIP
    "I do not claim that every incident in the history of empire can be explained in directly economic terms. Economic interests are filtered through a political process, policies are implemented by a complex state apparatus, and the whole system generates its own momentum."

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    Re: Howard Zinn, historian who challenged status quo, dies at 87

    Howard Zinn was a fairly insightful anarchist and socialist commentator. While there's some definite friction with my own perspective there, he was a libertarian-at-heart who challenged imperialistic empire first and foremost. May he rest in peace.

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    Re: Howard Zinn, historian who challenged status quo, dies at 87

    I never agreed with his approach or his conclusions, but as a lover of historical research and the spread of historical knowledge, the man deserves respect.
    Michael J Petrilli-"Is School Choice Enough?"-A response to the recent timidity of American conservatives toward education reform. https://nationalaffairs.com/publicat...-choice-enough

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    Re: Howard Zinn, historian who challenged status quo, dies at 87

    Professor Zinn was a formidable friend to radical workers worldwide and a formidable enemy to scabs, fascists and greedheads everywhere. The working people of the United States are forever indebted to him for awakening (some of) them to their own history. Farewell Professor, brother, comrade Zinn.
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    Re: Howard Zinn, historian who challenged status quo, dies at 87

    Good riddance.
    "Muslims are OBLIGATED to raid the lands of the infidels, occupy them, and exchange their systems of governance for an Islamic system. . .They say that our sharia does not impose our particular beliefs upon others; this is a false assertion. For it is, in fact, part of our religion to IMPOSE our particular beliefs upon others." -bin Laden

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    Re: Howard Zinn, historian who challenged status quo, dies at 87

    Quote Originally Posted by ScummyD View Post
    Good riddance.
    You speak for a million scabs, fascists and greedheads, friend. Thank you for your candor.
    "We may have destroyed this country, but we got rich doing it!" --The GOP
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    Re: Howard Zinn, historian who challenged status quo, dies at 87

    Quote Originally Posted by faminedynasty View Post
    You speak for a million scabs, fascists and greedheads, friend. Thank you for your candor.
    Pot meet Kettle
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    Re: Howard Zinn, historian who challenged status quo, dies at 87

    Moderator's Warning:
    Howard Zinn, historian who challenged status quo, dies at 87 This is an RIP thread, so let's cut out the bickering.
    People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.

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    Re: Howard Zinn, historian who challenged status quo, dies at 87

    Quote Originally Posted by RightinNYC View Post
    Moderator's Warning:
    Howard Zinn, historian who challenged status quo, dies at 87 This is an RIP thread, so let's cut out the bickering.
    Could we also cut back on celebrating the death of a good man just a little bit? Sorry, guess that's a partisan stance.
    "We may have destroyed this country, but we got rich doing it!" --The GOP
    There is a special place in hell for those who care only about themselves.

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    Re: Howard Zinn, historian who challenged status quo, dies at 87

    As a student at Boston University it was sad to learn that we lost some one like Zinn. I had heard him speak before and while I did not agree with some of what he said it was a joy listening and talking to him.

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