Saturday, January 30, 2010

R.I.P. Howard Zinn

1922 - 2010

Another sad passing. Howard Zinn died this week. My friend Sheila was one of his many students, she kept in touch with him, and quotes him a lot. His book, A People's History of the United States, is an HONEST history, illuminating facts that have either been ignored or glossed over, but now finally told. And recently, he wrote a two-volume children's edition, which is really wonderful and oh-so readable. Then again, 87 is nothing to sneeze at. I think he lived every minute to the fullest...apparently he was swimming when he had his fatal heart attack.

My daughter took U. S. History as a senior because she was in a special program that included a lengthy trip to Ecuador during her junior year. Being in a junior-year class as a senior wasn't too much fun, but because she was in that particular class, she got the opportunity to travel to Boston for a weekend and meet Howard Zinn. And since Sheila was the history teacher that planned the trip, I was asked to accompany the class as a chaperone. And oh, what a trip.

The five-hour-each-way bus ride wasn't a joy...but everything else was. We toured Harvard. We saw RENT. We rode the subway all over the city. And we met with Howard Zinn - just this small, intelligent class of high school kids and Mr. Zinn. I can still remember the conversation, the questions, how impressed he was in these knowledgeable young people. And he was charming. And funny. And quick. The kids were prepared. They'd read his book. It was an unforgettable experience - for all of us.

He is included in Robert Shetterly's 2005 book Americans Who Tell the Truth. I remember being terribly pleased about that. I hope that people, when they hear of his passing, go out and read or reread A People's History. They won't regret it.

Some good articles to read about Howard Zinn:

"A Radical Treasure" by New York Time Op Ed Columnist Bob Herbert

"Howard Zinn, America's Most Inspiring Teacher, Dies at 87" in San Francisco's "BeyondChron"

"Howard Zinn, historian who challenged status quo, dies at 87" from the Boston Globe, his hometown newspaper

1 comment:

sheila said...

Thanks Chris! I'm so glad you wrote this. I've been thinking a lot about HZ lately but haven't gotten much past that. What a man, what a life.