Thursday, January 28, 2010

Howard Zinn RIP

Some time in the mid-1990s, I read both A People's History of the United States and The Howard Zinn Reader. I had graduated a few years before with a degree in history, and I had been reading Chomsky since the beginning of the decade. My degree was not very intensive, and I came out of it with a shallow sense of American history. Via Chomsky and venues such as Z Magazine, I had a somewhat better grasp on the problems of recent decades, but something was missing, a foundation. I don't remember what brought Zinn to my attention, but I ripped through those two books, each in excess of 600 pages, in less than a week. I was hungry for stories, and Zinn had them in abundance. I would later find more detail, and even better historical analysis, in other places. But his narrative in A People's History is a great introduction to radical history—I envy those who have the book assigned in high school, as Aimée did—and it remains undiminished in my memory. He was a great example of the committed scholar. He will be missed.

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