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Activist and Historian Howard Zinn

Zinn told Big Think he wanted to be remembered for "introducing a different way of thinking about the world," and as "somebody who gave people a feeling of hope and power that they didn’t have before."

Howard Zinn, the legendary activist and historian who died January 27th at the age of 87, is best known as the author of the bestselling book A People’s History of the United States. In his 2008 Big Think interview, Zinn talked about a wide range of subjects, including democracy in America, the legacy of racial politics and the Civil Rights movement, and the limitations of American history books.

Zinn was asked about he wanted to be remembered, and responded that he wanted to be known for “introducing a different way of thinking about the world,” and as “somebody who gave people a feeling of hope and power that they didn’t have before.” 

Princeton University history professor professor Sean Wilentz told the New York Times: “What Zinn did was bring history writing out of the academy, and he undid much of the frankly biased and prejudiced views that came before it. … But he’s a popularizer, and his view of history is topsy-turvy, turning old villains into heroes, and after a while the glow gets unreal.”

MIT professor and left-wing activist Noam Chomsky told the Boston Globe that Zinn had “made an amazing contribution to American intellectual and moral culture. … He opened up approaches to history that were novel and highly significant. Both by his actions, and his writings for 50 years, he played a powerful role in helping and in many ways inspiring the Civil rights movement and the anti-war movement.”

Zinn also spoke to Big Think about his own personal philosophy, saying: “I believe in a world where war is no longer the recourse for the settling of grievances and problems. I believe in the wiping out of national boundaries. I don’t believe in visas and passports and immigration quotas. I think we need to move toward a global society.”

Image courtesy of Flickr user recubejim.


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