Zinn, Howard 1922–

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Zinn, Howard 1922–

PERSONAL: Born August 24, 1922, in New York, NY; son of Edward and Jenny Zinn; married Roslyn Shechter, October 30, 1944; children: Myla, Jeff. Education: New York University, B.A., 1951; Columbia University, M.A., 1952, Ph.D., 1958.

ADDRESSES: Home—Auburndale, MA. Office—Department of Political Science, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215.

CAREER: Upsala College, East Orange, NJ, instructor, 1953–56; Spelman College (now Atlanta University Center, Spelman College), Atlanta, GA, chair of department of history and social science, 1956–63, director of non-Western studies program, 1961–62; Boston University, Boston, MA, associate professor, 1964–66, professor of political science, 1966–88, professor emeritus, 1988–. Brooklyn College, visiting lecturer in history, 1955–56. Visiting professor at University of Paris and University of Bologna. Military service: U.S. Army Air Forces, 1943–45; became second lieutenant; awarded Air Medal, battle stars for Central Europe, France.

MEMBER: American Association of University Professors, Dramatists Guild, Authors League of America.

AWARDS, HONORS: Albert J. Beveridge Prize, American Historical Association, 1958, for LaGuardia in Congress; Harvard University Center for East Asian Studies fellowship, 1960–61; American Book Award nomination, 1981, for A People's History of the United States; New England Book Award for nonfiction, New England Booksellers Association, for A People's History of the United States; Thomas Merton Award; Eugene V. Debs Award; Upton Sinclair Award; Lannan Literary Award.


La Guardia in Congress, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1959.

SNCC: The New Abolitionists, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1964, published with new introduction, 2002.

The Southern Mystique, Knopf (New York, NY), 1964, reprinted with new introduction, South End Press (Cambridge, MA), 2002.

(Editor) New Deal Thought, Bobbs-Merrill (Indianapolis, IN), 1965, reprinted, Hackett Publishing Company, 2003.

Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1967, published with new introduction, South End Press (Cambridge, MA), 2002.

Disobedience and Democracy: Nine Fallacies on Law and Order, Random House (New York, NY), 1968, published with new introduction, South End Press (Cambridge, MA), 2002.

The Politics of History, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1970, published with a new introduction, University of Illinois Press (Champaign, IL), 1990.

Post-War America, Bobbs-Merrill (Indianapolis, IN), 1973, published as Postwar America, 1945–1971, South End Press (Cambridge, MA), 2002.

(Editor) Justice in Everyday Life: The Way It Really Works, Morrow (New York, NY), 1974, published with new introduction, South End Press (Cambridge, MA), 2002.

Emma (musical play), first produced in New York, NY, 1976, produced in London, England, 1987, published as Emma: A Play in Two Acts about Emma Goldman, American Anarchist, South End Press (Cambridge, MA), 2002.

A People's History of the United States, Harper (New York, NY), 1980, revised and abridged edition published as The Twentieth Century: A People's History, 1984, twentieth anniversary edition published as A People's History of the United States: 1492–Present, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

Daughter of Venus (play), first produced in New York, NY, at Theatre for New City, 1985.

(With Maxine Klein and Lydia Sargent) Playbook, South End Press (Cambridge, MA), 1986.

Declarations of Independence: Cross-examining American Ideology, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1990.

Failure to Quit: Reflections of an Optimistic Historian, Common Courage Press (Monroe, ME), 1993, published with new afterword, South End Press (Cambridge, MA), 2002.

You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times (autobiography), Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1994.

The Zinn Reader: Writings on Disobedience and Democracy, Seven Stories Press (New York, NY), 1997.

Marx in Soho: A Play on History, South End Press (Cambridge, MA), 1999.

The Future of History: Interviews with David Barsamian, Common Courage Press (Monroe, ME), 1999.

Howard Zinn on History, Seven Stories Press (New York, NY), 2001.

Howard Zinn on War and Other Means and Ends, Seven Stories Press (New York, NY), 2001.

(With Dana Frank and Robin D.G. Kelley) Three Strikes: Miners, Musicians, Salesgirls, and the Fighting Spirit of Labor's Last Century, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 2001.

Terrorism and War, Seven Stories Press (New York, NY), 2002.

Artists in Times of War, Seven Stories Press (New York, NY), 2003.

Passionate Declarations: Essays on War and Justice, Perennial (New York, NY), 2003.

The Twentieth Century: A People's History, Perennial (New York, NY), 2003.

(Editor) The People Speak: American Voices, Some Famous, Some Little Known: Dramatic Readings Celebrating the Enduring Spirit of Dissent, Perennial (New York, NY), 2004.

(With Anthony Arnove) Voices of a People's History of the United States, Seven Stories Press (New York, NY), 2004.

(With Donaldo Macedo) Howard Zinn on Democratic Education, Paradigm Publishers (Boulder, CO), 2005.

Just War, with foreword by Gino Strada and photographs by Moises Saman, Charta (Milan, Italy), 2005.

History Matters: Conversations on History and Politics, with foreword by Arundhati Roy, HarperPerennial (New York, NY), 2006.

A Power Governments Cannot Suppress, City Lights (San Francisco, CA), 2006.

Author of introduction to The Power of Nonviolence: Writings by Advocates of Peace, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 2002, and author of foreword to Life of an Anarchist: The Alexander Berkman Reader, Seven Stories Press (New York, NY), 2005. Contributor to professional journals and to periodicals, including Harper's, Nation, and Saturday Review.

SIDELIGHTS: Howard Zinn is a professor emeritus of political science at Boston University who has been active in social and political affairs in the United States throughout his life. One of his first memories was of a peaceful Communist gathering in New York City which was violently dispersed by the police. His experience in bombing raids during World War II drove him to his examination of war. During the 1950s and early 1960s, he was involved in the civil rights movement as a participant and observer of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and as an outspoken chair of the history department at Atlanta's Spelman College. Later, he was a member of the Boston resistance movement that protested America's intervention in Vietnam, and he experienced the war firsthand in a 1968 diplomatic visit to that beleaguered country in which he, along with Father Daniel Berrigan, helped free the first American prisoners of war. Zinn uses his experience to discuss civil rights in SNCC: The New Abolitionists and to argue against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war in Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal.

An expert on the history of civil disobedience in America, Zinn is a champion of poor and minority groups in this country and has testified in court trials of activists. His history books, such as The Politics of History and A People's History of the United States, follow the New History school of thought that approaches history from the point of view of the working classes and minority groups. In The Politics of History the author "makes the case for a radical approach to history," according to Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, writing in the New York Times. Traditional historians, Zinn accuses, have adopted an elitist approach to history that favors the point of view of those in power. Zinn, reports Washington Post Book World reviewer Michael Kammen, instead pleads for "a more egalitarian history that would de-emphasize the role of great white men and give adequate attention to workers, women and minorities."

A People's History of the United States puts the theories in Zinn's earlier work into practice. A contributor for the Encyclopedia of World Biography summarized the book: "[Zinn] documented the history of race, sex, class; the history of civil disobedience; how hopes for a more egalitarian society had been frustrated; and how a small, upper-class elite had retained its hold on power and wealth." Critics like New York Times Book Review contributor Eric Foner have praised A People's History as being the first book "to survey all of American history from the perspective of the new scholarship." Although Foner lauds Zinn for enlightening readers on a side of history that has long been neglected, the reviewer believes that the historian still does not provide a well-rounded view of minorities, women, and the working classes. Such people "appear either as rebels or as victims" whose lives and ideologies are not explored in depth. Kammen also objects to the omission of the influence of religious, philosophical, and technological thinkers in America and feels that the author's examination of other social and political figures is incomplete. As to his emphasis on the exploitation of certain people in American society, "Zinn admits his bias candidly," says Saturday Review critic Luther Spoehr, "insisting that 'we need some counter force to avoid being crushed into submission.'" Foner concludes that this approach weakens A People's History somewhat, but adds that "open-minded readers will profit from Professor Zinn's account, and historians may well view it as a step toward a coherent new version of American history." In 1998, A People's History was mentioned in the Academy Award-winning film Good Will Hunting, rejuvenating awareness and sales of the history book nearly twenty years after it was first published.

In 1994, Zinn released his autobiography titled You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times. In an interview for the Progressive in 1997 he related what the title means: "You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train means that the world is already moving in certain directions. Things are already happening. Wars are taking place. Children are going hungry. In a world like this—already moving in certain, often terrible directions—to be neutral or to stand by is to collaborate with what is happening. I didn't want to be a collaborator." The book is divided into three parts: one describing Zinn's experiences in the South, the second his activism against the Vietnam war, and the third reflects on his upbringing and the various other events of his life. Matthew Rothschild reviewing the autobiography for Progressive related that the book "provides an eloquent, personal account of the struggles for civil rights and against the Vietnam war, and a universal paean to protest and resistance." A critic for Kirkus Reviews, calling Zinn "the eminent radical historian," noted that "Zinn's radical activism will not appeal to every reader, but he does argue persuasively."

The 1997 work The Zinn Reader: Writings on Disobedience and Democracy is a collection of "more than sixty articles, essays, and book excerpts" expressed Booklist reviewer Mary Carroll. Carroll describes Zinn as "a model of the academic as activist." The writings are categorized under six themes: race, class, war, law, history, and means and ends. Harvey Wasserman of the Progressive found the work autobiographical and "a healing read." Gary MacEoin for the National Catholic Reporter concluded: "The result constitutes a powerful defense of the author's unorthodox evaluation of our society." And "for the uninitiated, this collection offers a useful introduction to Zinn's idealistic, Marxist-anarchist view of the world," related a writer for Kirkus Reviews.

In 1999, Zinn wrote another play, Marx in Soho: A Play on History. The play reincarnates Karl Marx in the modern-day Soho of New York City. In a monologue, Marx reflects on the evolution of his theories. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly described the play as "a lucid primer for readers desiring a succinct, dramatized review of Marxism."

In Three Strikes: Miners, Musicians, Salesgirls, and the Fighting Spirit of Labor's Last Century, a 2001 work, Zinn and coauthors Dana Frank and Robin D.G. Kelley examine the history of unionization. In his section, Zinn describes the infamous Colorado coal strike of 1913–14 that pitted immigrant mine workers against troops from the Colorado National Guard and ended in the Ludlow Massacre in which sixteen people, including women and children, were killed. Evicted from their mining towns after going on strike for better pay and safer working conditions, workers from the Colorado Fuel & Iron Corporation, which was owned by John D. Rockefeller, set up tent colonies in the surrounding hills. On April 20, 1914, two National Guard companies attacked the largest colony with machine guns and set fire to the tents; according to Briarpatch contributor Keith Jeworski, "an illustration emerges of how far a company, assisted by the state, was prepared to go to suppress their workers' resistance to exploitation." Reviewers noted that in Three Strikes, Zinn does more than simply recount historical details. In the words of Booklist critic Mary Carroll, he "offers new insights into the intense class conflict the strike revealed," and Cowie Jefferson, writing in the American Prospect, stated, "Zinn reminds us how power relationships have been constructed in the United States as well as how a critical view of the past must also include the wreckages of alternative futures and directions not taken."

Based on a series of interviews with Anthony Arnove, Zinn's 2002 book Terrorism and War examines U.S. foreign policy and its relationship to global terrorism. In the words of Harry C. Kiely, writing in the Other Side, "Zinn argues that foreign interventions, usually presented to the U.S. public as wars of self-defense or police actions needed to rein in dictators, are really for the purpose of protecting or expanding U.S. economic interests." Such actions, Zinn asserts, exacerbate rather than alleviate the terrorist threat. Ron Smith, a critic in the New Zealand International Review, felt Terrorism and War had limited appeal, stating that the work has "little to offer to the reader in the way of positive policy specifics."

Zinn and Arnove also collaborated on the 2004 title Voices of a People's History of the United States, "a rich source of material often unavailable to the student of American history," observed Patricia Moore in Kliatt. Like his earlier A People's History of the United States, noted Andrea S. Libresco in Social Education, Zinn's new work was written "to give voice to those left out of mainstream history books, the nonwhite, the non-powerful, the non-wealthy, the non-male. Thus, instead of one history, there are multiple stories told—stories told from different perspectives than we are accustomed to hearing." to that end, Zinn presents excerpts from a host of documents, including essays, speeches, poems, and autobiographies, written by individuals as diverse as Mexican War veteran Ethan Allen Hitchcock and civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. According to Libresco, Zinn and Arnove "Arnove intend these stories of historical activists and their social action movements to be instructive for our civic behavior today."

Zinn summarized his leftist political view for the Progressive interviewer: "When I think of left values I think of socialism—not in the Soviet sense, not in the bureaucratic sense, not in the Bolshevik sense, but socialism in the sense of Eugene Debs and Mother Jones and Emma Goldman and anarchist socialists. Left values are fundamentally egalitarian values. If I had to say what is at the center of left values, it's the idea that everyone has a fundamental right to the good things in life, to the necessary things in life, that there should be no disproportions in the world."



Encyclopedia of World Biography, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.


American Historical Review, July, 1965.

American Political Science Review, December, 1970.

American Prospect, January 1, 1002, Cowie Jefferson, review of Three Strikes: Miners, Musicians, Salesgirls, and the Fighting Spirit of Labor's Last Century, p. 41.

Australian Journal of Political Science, July, 2003, Daniel Flitton, review of Terrorism and War, p. 352.

Booklist, October 15, 1997, p. 385; March 1, 1999, p. 1150; September 1, 2001, Mary Carroll, review of Three Strikes, p. 24.

Briarpatch, October, 2002, Keith Jeworski, "Three Strikes & The IWA in Canada," review of Three Strikes, p. 34.

Christian Science Monitor, May 25, 1967.

Contemporary Review, July, 2004, review of A People's History of the United States: 1492–Present, p. 59.

Dissent, spring, 1965; summer, 1975.

Entertainment Weekly, March 20, 1998, p. 14.

Harvard Educational Review, May, 1971.

Interview, March, 1999, p. 48.

Journal of American History, September, 1973.

Journal of Politics, February, 1971.

Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 1994; October 1, 1997; May 1, 2006, review of History Matters: Conversations on History and Politics, p. 452.

Kliatt, January, 2005, Patricia Moore, review of Voices of a People's History of the United States, p. 34.

Labor History, November, 2002, Lawrence B. Glickman, review of Three Strikes, p. 565.

Library Journal, October 15, 1997, p. 76; March 15, 1999, p. 80.

Nation, July 3, 1967.

National Catholic Reporter, March 27, 1998, Gary MacEoin, review of The Zinn Reader: Writings on Disobedience and Democracy, p. 27.

NEA Today, February, 2006, "American History, Up Close and Personal," review of Voices of a People's History of the United States, p. 62.

Negro Digest, February, 1965.

New Republic, July 28, 1973.

New Statesman, June 28, 2004, John Pilger, "When Even Gavin Esler Eulogises Ronald Reagan, We're in Trouble," review of A People's History of the United States, p. 11.

New Yorker, September 9, 1967.

New York Review of Books, February 11, 1965.

New York Times, February 1, 1968; February 11, 1968; February 16, 1968; May 4, 1970; February 17, 1986.

New York Times Book Review, June 4, 1967; February 16, 1969; September 20, 1970; March 2, 1980, Eric Foner, review of A People's History of the United States; July 22, 1984.

New Zealand International Review, March-April, 2003, Ron Smith, review of Terrorism and War, p. 25.

Other Side, March-April 2003, Harry C. Kiely, review of Terrorism and War, p. 41.

Partisan Review, winter, 1965.

Progressive, September, 1970; January, 1995, p. 37; July, 1997, p. 37; March, 1998, Harvey Wasserman, review of The Zinn Reader, p. 43; July, 1999, p. 37.

Publishers Weekly, February 8, 1999, review of Marx in Soho: A Play on History, p. 197; July 16, 2001, review of Three Strikes, p. 173.

Review for Religions, July, 1969.

Saturday Review, January 9, 1965; February 25, 1967; February 2, 1980, Luther Spoehr, review of A People's History of the United States.

Social Education, February, 1965; September, 2005, Andrea S. Libresco, review of Voices of a People's History of the United States, p. 287.

Times (London, England), July 22, 1987.

Times Literary Supplement, May 25, 1967.

Virginia Quarterly Review, spring, 1965.

Washington Post Book World, April 15, 1972; March 23, 1980.


ABCnews.com: The Life of Howard Zinn, http://www.abcnews.go.com/ (May 19, 2000).

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