Howard Zinn’s 100th Birthday

Howard Zinn. Photo Credit

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Howard Zinn’s birth, Aug. 24, 2022, several organizations collaborated to offer a series of events to celebrate his legacy. Running from Aug. 23-25, most of them will be available online.

“Howard Zinn was an American historian, playwright, philosopher, socialist thinker and World War II veteran. He was chair of the history and social sciences department at Spelman College, and a political science professor at Boston University,” according to Wikipedia. He was more than that.

In his 1970 book, The Politics of History, Zinn argued for a radical approach to history, one that would extend human sensibilities by examining the continuing conflict over how people shall live. He provided a revisionist interpretation of the role of the historian, using his own experience as a bombardier in one of the last raids on France in World War II to interpret the decision to use the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The book was well-read by many of us in college that year.

If one heard of Howard Zinn, it likely in association with his book A People’s History of the United States: 1492- Present, which became a movie in 2015. The book was one of the few, if not the only volume at the time to tell America’s story from the point of view — and in the words of — America’s women, factory workers, African Americans, Native Americans, working poor, and immigrant laborers. After reading Zinn, the writing of Harvard’s so-called “immigration historian” Oscar Handlin made me gag.

In his memoir Zinn has a message for our present times:

“You can’t be neutral on a moving train,” I would tell them. Some were baffled by the metaphor, especially if they took it literally and tried to dissect its meaning. Others immediately saw what I meant: that events are already moving in certain deadly directions, and to be neutral means to accept that.

You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times by Howard Zinn., Zinn Education Project, Tamiment Library, Busboys and Poets, and Voices of a People’s History present a week of events to celebrate Howard Zinn’s 100th birthday. They include, among others, a teachers workshop, historian and artist panel, and an archivist panel.

To learn more and register to participate, follow this link: Howard Zinn at 100.

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