Thursday, January 28, 2010

Howard Zinn Died Yesterday of a Heart Attack

He was 87, and still active. He will be sorely missed.

I first read his People's History of the U.S. while visiting friends in New York City. I sat for hours in a cramped apartment, reading that book, when a more sensible tourist would have been out exploring. I have wished for a People's History of the World, and haven't found one.

Owen Thomas, at Open a Vein, pointed me to some fascinating recollections from Harvey Wasserman, How the great Howard Zinn made all our lives better. It's eery to read a eulogy before you know the person has died.

Most of the news reports say that he died in Santa Monica while traveling, and don't mention the purpose of his trip. I had a hunch he was traveling for a reason, so I kept searching, and found a notice of an event he was scheduled to speak at in Santa Monica next week, promoting his new documentary, The People Speak.

As I looked for more detailed reports, I turned to the NY Times, which usually has more in-depth coverage than smaller papers. This is the first time I've seen its nasty habit of slanting the news up close. Compare this respectful account of his life (from a source in Boston, his hometown) to the NY Times account, sprinkled 'liberally' with the word leftist.

I hope Zinn, who is noted for his sense of humor, would chuckle at my Onion-style imaginary headline: In Anti-war Publicity Stunt, Zinn Dies While Obama Gives Sate of the Union Address

Zinn has died, long live activism. Or, as they said in Nicaragua, Presente!


  1. Democracy Now did a lovely segment on him this morning.

    Alice Walker quoted him as having said (in the early 60's, in Atlanta), that he was to the left of Mao. Maybe he'd be tickled about the NY Times calling him a leftist. ;^)

  2. a great american. zinn spoke here in columbus at capital u; i knew the guy escorting him around campus so i was able to get up close and greet him face-to-face. got a big grin out of him too. that's my "personal" story. thanks for leading such an exemplary life, professor zinn!
    OAV owen t.