Howard Zinn would have turned 94 today if his seemingly boundless energy and youthfulness had not been cut short in January 2010.
It’s worth remembering that A People’s History of the United States first came out in 1980 as a tide of reaction was seeking to bury the social movements that inspired Howard’s book and which he saw as the hope for the future.
Howard challenged these ideas in a terrific speech he gave in 1970: “If you don’t think, if you just listen to TV and read scholarly things, you actually begin to think that things are not so bad, or that just little things are wrong. But you have to get a little detached, and then come back and look at the world, and you are horrified. So we have to start from that supposition—that things are really topsy-turvy.”
Howard had that rare ability to step back and help us understand our topsy-turvy world primarily because he approached politics and history from the standpoint of someone who thought it was possible to turn our world right side up — to put people before profit, the environment before the interests of mining companies.
¡Howard Zinn presente!
- Lies the Debunkers Told Me: How Bad History Books Win Us Over (theatlantic.com)
Five decades ago Muhammad Ali made headlines, not for boxing but for refusing to be drafted for the Vietnam War. His view was that African-Americans shouldn’t have to fight because of how they were treated in the United States. RT America’s Ashlee Banks discusses Ali’s legacy with activist and author Ishmael Reed.
Dr. Cornel West joined us at Harvard Divinity School to discuss James Baldwin’s legacy.
Raoul Peck’s “I Am Not Your Negro” is one of the finest documentaries I have ever seen—I would have stayed in the theater in New York to see the film again if the next showing had not been sold out. The newly released film powerfully illustrates, through James Baldwin’s prophetic work, that the insanity now gripping the United States is an inevitable consequence of white Americans’ steadfast failure to confront where they came from, who they are and the lies and myths they use to mask past and present crimes. Baldwin’s only equal as a 20th century essayist is George Orwell. If you have not read Baldwin you probably do not fully understand America. Especially now.
|To see a trailer for “I Am Not Your Negro,” click here. Click here for a longer version.|
History “is not the past,” the film quotes Baldwin as saying. “History is the present. We carry our history with us. To think otherwise is criminal.”
The script is taken from Baldwin’s notes, essays, interviews and letters, with some of the words delivered in Baldwin’s voice from audio recordings and televised footage, some of them in readings by actor Samuel L. Jackson. But it is not, finally, the poetry and lyricism of Baldwin that make the film so moving. It is Peck’s understanding of the core of Baldwin’s message to the white race, a message that is vital to grasp as we struggle with an overt racist as president, mass incarceration, poverty gripping half the country and militarized police murdering unarmed black men and women in the streets of our cities.
Whiteness is a dangerous concept. It is not about skin color. It is not even about race. It is about the willful blindness used to justify white supremacy. It is about using moral rhetoric to defend exploitation, racism, mass murder, reigns of terror and the crimes of empire.