Cross-posted at Progressive Blue.
Howard Zinn, Historian and Activist, Dies at 87. The New York Times described Mr. Zinn.
…an author, teacher and political activist whose book “A People’s History of the United States” became a million-selling leftist alternative to mainstream texts, died Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif.
I recently wrote a DKos diary called Will you be watching “The People Speak” tonight? As a “leftist alternative” and as a dedication, I’ve updated the part of that diary about the the December 4th interview between Howard Zinn and Bill Moyers.
It was amazing to see these two great Americans sit down and discuss history from the bottom up, focusing on historic successes of the people. Looking at the Bill Moyers Journal link you can read the transcript and view clips from “The People Speak” or below the fold are the YouTube links and a few small thoughts about a man who dedicated his life to the people.
Howard Zinn probably does not need much introduction around here. His Wiki Link offers a brief overview of a life much fuller than just the publication of “A People’s History of the United States” and the inspiration of many Americans to get involved in the actions of government. He was obviously an inspiration to many people here.
The Howard Zinn interview was about his recent History Channel production “The People Speak.”where television was used as method of reaching a larger audience. From Bill Moyers introduction “Actors and musicians bring to life voices of protest from America’s past. Performing words and music that have given us, as Howard Zinn says, whatever liberty or democracy we have.”
That Bill Moyers page opens with a quote from “the historian of the American everyman and woman.”
“They’re willing to let people think about mild reforms and little changes, and incremental changes, but they don’t want people to think that we could actually transform this country.”
A quote about the people on top that just don’t want people thinking that our nation can be transformed into a peaceful nation. That top down message that we cannot afford proper healthcare or protection for all of our citizens but we can afford military bases all over the world.
In part one of the Howard Zinn interview is a presentation of where Mr. Zinn came from, how “he and his students at Boston University saw a more down to earth way of looking at American history and since no book could provide it Zinn decided to write one.” Also about how going to the polls every four years is not enough and the inspiration of people of the past like Genora Dollinger. How many Americans know who Genora Dollinger was?
In part two the false media presentation of a passive citizenry is explored. Howard Zinn recalls the recent almost forgotten Sitdown Strike in Chicago and compared that to the forgotten union labor movements of the past. You have got to see Bill Moyers and Howard Zinn’s brilliant segway from Sarah Palin to Susan B.Anthony via William Jennings Bryan and the fascism warning within. Howard Zinn points out the actions of Susan B.Anthony, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Vietnam antiwar movement to conclude “You must stick up for your principles even if it means breaking the law.”
In part three there is the very important fact that democracy is not the three branches of government taught in our schools but the people. The power of organizing for the people as presented by Cesar Chavez, how long the people waited for populism to take hold but there were times when progress happens. Bill Moyers decided to end “with a woman who showed us the power of a single voice speaking for democracy, born into slavery, largely uneducated, she spoke out for the rights of all people who didn’t have any.” I don’t know how any American can get through Kerry Washington’s presentation of Sojourner Truth without tears of joy for the history of our real history makers.
There is so much that can be learned form Howard Zinn and so many that need to hear his words. For myself and many others he was them man who presented “people powered politics” as a possibility.
“If democracy were to be given any meaning, if it were to go beyond the limits of capitalism and nationalism, this would not come, if history were any guide, from the top. It would come through citizen’s movements, educating, organizing, agitating, striking, boycotting, demonstrating, threatening those in power with disruption of the stability they needed.”
The New York Times notice about this sad passing pointed out that Mr. Zinn’s wife Roslyn, died in 2008 and that they hey had two children, Myla and Jeff. In addition Mr.Zinn leaves three granddaughters and two grandsons. That story ends with one of Mr. Zinn’s final works.
One of Professor Zinn’s last public writings was a brief essay, published last week in The Nation, about the first year of the Obama administration.
“I’ve been searching hard for a highlight,” he wrote, adding that he wasn’t disappointed because he never expected a lot from President Obama.
“I think people are dazzled by Obama’s rhetoric, and that people ought to begin to understand that Obama is going to be a mediocre president – which means, in our time, a dangerous president – unless there is some national movement to push him in a better direction.”
The President said it himself “Make me do the right thing.” What a great man Howard Zinn was. Hopefully his final advise to the people will be embraced.
If you’ve never read the book, in this A People’s History Of The United States link, you can read the whole book for free.