Social Critic, Historian and much more, Howard Zinn, dead aged 87

Yesterday, the United States lost one of it’s finest citizens. Howard Zinn was an American Historian and a professor emeritus at Boston University Political Science Department. Author of many books, including the best seller, A People’s History of the United States. While traveling in California, Zinn died of an apparent heart attack.

In A People’s History . . . Zinn’s prose was not flowery, and was not peppered with the heroic nature, common to most books on American history. He painted a picture of the plights of the native Americans when the first settlements by Europeans were formed, early slavery and the desperate lives of many of the people. The heroes of his book were not the Founding Fathers, which again, bucks the trend in more conventional history books.

His opinions on many aspects of early American life drew criticism from many of his contemporaries, but this book has been in print since 1980.

During World War II, he served as a bombardier, was awarded 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 on the GI Bill as a 27-year-old freshman. He 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.

His education, combined with his experience during the war, shaped him into an activist. He was against every war from Korea, to the present day. He campaigned for civil rights for African-Americans and all women, and was deeply critical of every administration he lived under. He saw the United states as an imperial power and saw the tax code as an attack on the working people of America.

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Posted by on January 28, 2010. Filed under Commentary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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20 Responses to Social Critic, Historian and much more, Howard Zinn, dead aged 87

  1. MadMike

    January 28, 2010 at 11:58 am

    He was quite a guy Holte. The world will miss him.

    • Holte Ender

      January 28, 2010 at 12:15 pm

      MIKE – The question is, who will take his place?

  2. Stimpson

    January 28, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Thanks for fleshing out the story, Holte. Zinn’s principles and passion made him one of the United States’ most admirable citizens, IMO.

    • Holte Ender

      January 28, 2010 at 12:16 pm

      STIMPSON – As soon as I posted I saw you had too, still you can’t say enough about about people like Howard Zinn.

  3. Tom Harper

    January 28, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Thanks for this post. I never knew anything about him other than his “People’s History of the United States.” Ironically, I didn’t hear of him until I saw a column by Dennis Prager, ranting and fuming about him.

    I don’t know about anybody “replacing” him, but James W. Loewen has a similar perspective to Zinn. I’ve read “Lies My Teacher Told Me.” He has a few other books which I haven’t read yet.

    “Lies…” covers a lot of world history, plus American history. Very eye-opening, same as Zinn’s “People’s History…”

    • Holte Ender

      January 28, 2010 at 1:06 pm

      TOM – Zinn had a habit of infuriating people, I know Loewen’s work, you’re right he is very similar in attitude, he has probably pissed a few people off too.

  4. Four Dinners

    January 28, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    I am ashamed to say I’ve never heard of him – well I am from England.

    Never the less, I love the guy.

    We need so many more like him. Over there and over here!!!

    • Holte Ender

      January 28, 2010 at 4:02 pm

      MR. DINNERS – I’m from England too, but I am over here. He specialized in American history and American society, but what he said touched all nations.

  5. Stimpson

    January 28, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    “… the best human being I’ve ever known. The best example of what a human can be, and can do with their life.”
    That’s how Daniel Ellsberg described Zinn.

    • Holte Ender

      January 28, 2010 at 4:04 pm

      Quite humbling really when look at what did and said, he probably didn’t even call it courage.

  6. SJ

    January 28, 2010 at 2:27 pm


    He was a giant to be sure.
    We could’ve benefitted from his procedural and intellectual honesty for another 87 years by the way things are going right now.

    Thanks for this well written appreciation. I’m going to print it out at the end of the comments’ run and place it into the inside jacket of my copy of “A People’s His­tory of the United States” where it belongs.


    • Holte Ender

      January 28, 2010 at 4:05 pm

      SJ – He should have been a Founding Father.

  7. SJ

    January 28, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    Damn right friend. Damn right.

  8. SJ

    January 28, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    I’m glad we can edit comments now, I originally responded to you as if you were Stimpson.

  9. SJ

    January 28, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    It’s that Damn Jon Hamm picture.

  10. Hill

    January 28, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    RIP, Dr. Zinn.

  11. Beekeepers Apprentice

    January 28, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Zinn taught us the history that isn’t taught in any school in this country. He taught the history of unionism, of civil rights battles won and lost, and his passing will leave a hole in american intellectual life.

    • Holte Ender

      January 28, 2010 at 8:30 pm

      Bee – You got that right.

  12. Karen

    January 28, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    Holte~ So happy you’re over here even tho you’re not at your other place so I can continue to gain valuable knowledge from your articles. :o)

    • Holte Ender

      January 29, 2010 at 12:19 am

      KAREN – Thank you for those kind words, but actually I posted over there today. So check me out.