EXPIRED: 01/27/10 – Howard Zinn, 87, was an historian and activist who wrote “People’s History of the United States,” a book that brought attention to a forgotten segment of America’s past. Published in 1980 with a run of just 5,000, it sold more than 2 million copies.
Traditional American history hadn’t bothered to focus on workers, women, minorities and those who are not considered society’s winners in power or wealth. So Zinn took up their cause and told their stories. He wrote “not on the achievements of the heroes of traditional history, but on all those people who were the victims of those achievements, who suffered silently or fought back magnificently,” as he said in the preface to one edition.
Zinn opened the eyes of many. For example, he showed that Christopher Columbus committed genocide against the Arawak Indians; World War I brought repression and prison to American dissidents; and President Franklin Roosevelt was not the unalloyed hero of the working man for which history credited him.
In 1956 he began teaching history at Spelman University, a traditionally African-American women’s college. He was fired 7 years later for advocating for desegregation and voter registration, encouraging civil rights activities. He returned to give the commencement address in 2005, which has become a cult classic.
On a speaking tour denouncing the Iraq War, Zinn took a break while in Southern California. He took a dip in his hotel swimming pool and died of an apparent heart attack.
That’s one for the history books.