Thursday, January 28


"There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people for a purpose which is unattainable." Howard Zinn, 1922 - 2010


American human rights hero, Boston University historian, political activist, early opponent of US involvement in Vietnam and leading faculty and critic of BU president John Silber, Dr. Howard Zinn died of a heart attack today in Santa Monica, California.

Dr. Zinn was a human rights defender active in the civil rights, civil liberties and anti-war movements in the United States, and wrote extensively on all three subjects.

Mark Feeney of the Boston Globe Staff wrote, "For Dr. Zinn, activism was a natural extension of the revisionist brand of history he taught. Dr. Zinn's best-known book, A People's History of the United States (1980), had for its heroes not the Founding Fathers -- many of them slaveholders and deeply attached to the status quo, as Dr. Zinn was quick to point out -- but rather the farmers of Shays' Rebellion and the union organizers of the 1930s."

Dr Zinn wrote in his autobiography, 'You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train' (1994):

From the start, my teaching was infused with my own history. I would try to be fair to other points of view, but I wanted more than 'objectivity'; I wanted students to leave my classes not just better informed, but more prepared to relinquish the safety of silence, more prepared to speak up, to act against injustice wherever they saw it. This, of course, was a recipe for trouble."

Dr. Zinn opposed the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, and wrote several books about it. He asserted that the U.S. will end its war with, and occupation of, Iraq when resistance within the military increases, the same way resistance within the military contributed to ending the U.S. war in Vietnam.

Dr. Zinn compared demand by a growing number of contemporary U.S. military families to end the war in Iraq to "the Confederacy in the Civil War, when the wives of soldiers rioted because their husbands were dying and the plantation owners were profiting from the sale of cotton, refusing to grow grains for civilians to eat."

Dr. Zinn argued that "There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people for a purpose which is unattainable."

Jean-Christophe Agnew, Professor of History and American Studies at Yale University, told the Yale Daily News in May 2007 that Zinn’s historical work is "highly influential and widely used". He observed that it is not unusual for prominent professors such as Zinn to weigh in on current events, citing a resolution opposing the war in Iraq that was recently ratified by the American Historical Association. Agnew added, “In these moments of crisis, when the country is split — so historians are split.

In April 2007, during a conference on the Cuban Five at Northeastern University in Boston, Howard Zinn opened his talk addressing the audience mostly of students and said,

Tonight you are so lucky, you will learn about something that most people in the United yStates are not aware of and that is the case of the Cuban Five". Later in his talk he referred to the imprisonment of the Five for defending their country against terrorism as "an unforgivable act of cruelt".

The Cuban Five Committee stated today, "While we mourn his passing, his legacy will continue in historians and writers who search for the truth instead of taking the line coming from Washington and the corporate media."

Dr. Zinn authored more than 20 books. He died January 27, 2010 of a heart attack at age 87, traveling in Santa Monica, California. He is survived by his daughter Myla Kabat-Zinn.


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