EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J.—
Howard Zinn, the great American historian and political activist, has died.
His epochal People's History of the United States remains an important work in my life, not only in profoundly influencing the way I look at American history, politics and politicians, but also providing inspiration simply as a work of tremendous curiosity and bravery. Zinn perceived mainstream U.S. history as, for the most part, "written by the winners," so to speak, and thus proceeded to look into alternate voices—ranging from minorities (Native American, African American, etc.) and women, to laborers and even prisoners—to recount history from the viewpoints of the oppressed and unfairly treated. The result is a genuinely revelatory work of rigorous research and humane empathy, one that asks all of us to always consider our fellow man while cultivating a healthy skepticism toward our government (because, believe it or not, our government officials, democratically elected or not, may not always, and quite possibly rarely do, have our best interests in mind).
There are few books that I have read (and few movies that I have seen, for that matter) that I can say has stirred in me an honest-to-God desire to try to go and bring out some kind of change in the world I live in. Zinn's People's History of the United States is one of them. May his passion for championing the rights of the downtrodden continue to reverberate in all of us even after his death.