The voice of author and activist Howard Zinn is stilled now but his words will live on in his books and videos of interviews and discussions and documentaries. Born to Jewish immigrants who came to the states just before WWI. Both parents were factory workers with little education and possessed no books as they raised their children. Twenty-five cents plus a coupon to the New York Post for each of the 20 volumes of Charles Dickens' collected works was his first introduction to literature.
Zinn joined the Army Air Force during WWII and participated in one of the first military uses of napalm, which took place in Royan France. Bombings which killed not only German soldiers but French civilians as well which he learned nine years later when he visited Royan to examine documents and interview residents. He described how the bombing was ordered at the war's end by decision-makers most probably motivated by the desire for career advancement rather than for legitimate military objectives, in his books The Politics of History and the Zinn Reader.
After the war he went to college on the GI Bill getting a BA and New York University then earning his Masters and Ph.D at Columbia University in history with a minor in political science. He taught at numerous universities, including Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, and Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts.
He is survived by his daughter Myla Kabat-Zinn who said of her father that he lived a very full and exciting life and that there were many social issues that were very important to him. Above all, she said, her father believed that there is no just war.
He was active in the Civil Rights movement and in anti-war efforts and wrote one of his earliest books, Vietnam, calling for U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam. Zinn's diplomatic visit to Hanoi with Rev.Daniel Berrigan, during the Tet Offensive in January 1968, resulted in the return of three American airmen, the first American POWs released by the North Vietnamese since the U.S. bombing of that nation had begun.
He has written several books opposing the Iraq war arguing that "There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people for a purpose which is unattainable."
Believing that the point of view expressed in traditional history books was limited, he wrote a history textbook, A People's History of the United States, providing the perspectives of Native Americans against European and U.S. conquest and expansion, slaves against slavery, unionists and other workers against capitalists, women against patriarchy, and African-Americans for civil rights.
This month, January of 2010, a documentary movie, The People Speak, will be released on DVD inspired by ordinary people who fought back against oppressive conditions over the course of the history of the United States.
Howard Zinn's works are numerous and tell our history from a view not often heard from. His is a voice that will be missed.