Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The late, great Professor Zinn

Professor Howard Zinn 1922-2010
I first read A People's History of the United States on the recommendation of brother Calee in the late 90s.  The book, first published in 1980, made quite a stir in scholarly circles due to its alternate perspective on the history of the United States.  It's purpose, according to its author, was to present American history through the eyes of working people. 

The book is a great read.  Far from being a dry recitation of facts and dates, the narrative is compelling and accessible.  And the perspective it offers is most certainly different than those offered by more conventional history books.  (You won't find many classroom text books that recount Andrew Jackson's genocidal betrayal of the Cherokee nation.  And how many people now remember that supposed American hero Douglas MacArthur used bayonets and arsenic gas on American women and children in 1932?)

The author of A People's History was professor and social activist, Howard Zinn.  According to Wikipedia:
Zinn was raised in a working-class family in Brooklyn, and flew bombing missions for the United States in World War II, an experience he now points to in shaping his opposition to war. In 1956, he became a professor at Spelman College in Atlanta, a school for black women, where he soon became involved in the Civil rights movement, which he participated in as an adviser to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and chronicled, in his book SNCC: The New Abolitionists. Zinn collaborated with historian Staughton Lynd and mentored a young student named Alice Walker. When he was fired in 1963 for insubordination related to his protest work, he moved to Boston University, where he became a leading critic of the Vietnam War.
That short biography is, in my mind, an impressive resumé for any idealist.

Well, Professor Zinn passed away last Wednesday, January 27, 2010.  He will be missed.  And, as fate would have it, he died on my 48th birthday.  So, I choose to accept that fact as a challenge to myself to continue to work, in my own small way, for those things that Professor Zinn advocated.

In one of the last interviews of his life, Professor Zinn said he'd like to be remembered as "somebody who gave people a feeling of hope and power that they didn't have before."

I'd like to be remembered that way as well.  Thanks, Professor Zinn, for blazing the trail.

1 comment:

Ridwan said...

Zinn will be sorely missed brother Dade.

He made very important contributions and ignited the minds of many folks around the world.

May he rest in peace.


ps. Happy belated birthday nonetheless.