Howard Zinn on History
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Howard Zinn began work on his first book for his friends at Seven Stories Press in 1996, a big volume collecting all his shorter writings organized by subject. The themes he chose reflected his lifelong concerns: war, history, law, class, means and ends, and race. Throughout his life Zinn had returned again and again to these subjects, continually probing and questioning yet rarely reversing his convictions or the vision that informed them. The result was The Zinn Reader. Five years later, starting with Howard Zinn on History, updated editions of sections of that mammoth tome were published in inexpensive stand-alone editions. This second edition of Howard Zinn on History brings together twenty-seven short writings on activism, electoral politics, the Holocaust, Marxism, the Iraq War, and the role of the historian, as well as portraits of Eugene Debs, John Reed, and Jack London, effectively showing how Zinn’s approach to history evolved over nearly half a century, and at the same time sharing his fundamental thinking that social movements—people getting together for peace and social justice—can change the course of history. That core belief never changed. Chosen by Zinn himself as the shorter writings on history he believed to have enduring value—originally appearing in newspapers like the Boston Globe or the New York Times; in magazines like Z, the New Left, the Progressive, or the Nation; or in his book Failure to Quit—these essays appear here as examples of the kind of passionate engagement he believed all historians, and indeed all citizens of whatever profession, need to have, standing in sharp contrast to the notion of "objective" or "neutral" history espoused by some. "It is time that we scholars begin to earn our keep in this world," he writes in "The Uses of Scholarship." And in "Freedom Schools," about his experiences teaching in Mississippi during the remarkable "Freedom Summer" of 1964, he adds: "Education can, and should, be dangerous."
ensures the functioning in the academy of the system’s dictum: divide and rule. Another kind of scholarly segregation serves to keep those in the university from dealing with urgent social problems: that which divorces fact from theory. We learn the ideas of the great philosophers and poets in one part of our educational experience. In the other part, we prepare to take our place in the real occupational world. In political science, for instance, a political theorist discusses transcendental
visions of the good society; someone else presents factual descriptions of present governments. But no one deals with both the is and the ought; if they did, they would have to deal with how to get from here to there, from the present reality to the poetic vision. Note how little work is done in political science on the tactics of social change. Both student and teacher deal with theory and reality in separate courses; the compartmentalization safely neutralizes them. It is time to recall
violate civil liberties. My article was printed in the alternative newspaper, the Boston Phoenix, in early April, 1972, entitled “Silber, the University, and the Marines,” and then was reprinted as a special supplement to the student newspaper, the B.U. News, as well as in several other publications. What happened at Boston University on Monday, March 27, in front of the Placement Office, was a classic incident of what our textbooks call, without humor, “civilization.” There were the young people
Haiti to put down a rebellion against the brutal military dictatorship of Vilbrun Sam, and incidentally to do a favor for the National City Bank of New York and other banking interests. The Haitians resisted, and the Marines killed 2,000 of them as part of a “pacification” program, after which Haiti came under American military and economic control. The following year, Marines invaded the Dominican Republic to help put down an insurrection there, and remained as an occupying force. By 1924, the
papers of John Adams than for recording the experiences of soldiers on the battlefront in Vietnam. Where are the interviews of Seymour Hersh with those involved in the My Lai Massacre, or Fred Gardner’s interviews with those involved in the Presidio Mutiny Trial in California, or Wallace Terry’s interviews with black GIs in Vietnam? Where are the recorded experiences of the young Americans in Southeast Asia who quit the International Volunteer Service in protest against American policy there, or