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.