In case you missed it, Howard Zinn the American historian died yesterday. The New York Times has an obituary here.
For some reason, it took me until December 2009 to finally get around to checking out A People’s History of the United States. I borrowed it on CD from the library and listened, fascinated, while I did mundane things like washing dishes. You know, the good kind of multi-tasking. Even if you live outside of the U.S. this book is of critical importance in understanding how we got where we are today, given American influence abroad. Particularly fascinating are the chapters on the Civil Rights Movement.
Zinn describes his role as a historian:
“America’s future is linked to how we understand our past. For this reason, writing about history, for me, is never a neutral act. By writing, I hope to awaken a great consciousness of racial injustice, sexual bias, class inequality, and national hubris. I also want to bring into the light the unreported resistance of people against the power of the Establishment: the refusal of the indigenous to simply disappear; the rebellion of black people in the antislavery movement and in the more recent movement against racial segregation; the strikes carried out by working people all through American history in attempts to improve their lives.”
Zinn was unrelenting in his expose of the abuse of power- particularly corporate power in the U.S. It is particularly ironic that he died only a week after the Supreme Court expanded corporate power on an unprecedented scale.
From his A Power Governments Cannot Suppress:
“Our political leaders would prefer us to believe we are one family- me and Exxon, you and Microsoft, the children of the CEO’s and the children of the restaurant workers. We must believe our interests are the same. That’s why officials speak of going to war “for the national interest,” as if it were in all our interest.”
Thank you Howard Zinn- you are a true hero. May your writings be read even more widely following your death. May they shed light on our history so that we may be empowered to confront the injustices of our own time.