Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Life and Times of Howard Zinn

Part 1: New World Notes #660, 28:38 (October 27)
Broadcast quality MP3 (39 MB)
Decent quality MP3 (13 MB)

Part 2: New World Notes #661, 27:56 (November 3)
Broadcast quality MP3 (38 MB)
Decent quality MP3 (13 MB)

Part 3: New World Notes #662, 27:29 (November 10)
Broadcast quality MP3 (38 MB)
Decent quality MP3 (13 MB)

The celebrated Progressive historian, political activist, and professor Howard Zinn is profiled in this radio adaptation of the documentary film, You Can't Be Neutral On a Moving Train.

Speakers including Alice Walker, Daniel Ellsberg, Marian Wright Edelman, Staughton Lynd, Noam Chomsky, Fr. Daniel Berrigan, Tom Hayden, and Zinn himself offer interesting perspectives on Zinn's times and his work. Narrator Matt Damon reads passages from Zinn's writings.

The film, directed by Deb Ellis and Denis Mueller, was released in 2004.

Howard Zinn (1922-2010) published more than 20 books including the influential A People's History of the United States (1980).

Selma, Alabama, 1963: Zinn (center) and James Baldwin (right)

Part 1 covers Zinn's impoverished early life in NYC; his early disillusionment with the police; and his experiences as a shipyard worker, Air Force bombardier in WWII, graduate student, and left-leaning white professor in a conservative Black college in the South as the Civil Rights movement took hold.

All these events profoundly shaped Zinn's views on politics, democracy, freedom, history, and historiography.

Part 2 covers Zinn's firing by Spelman College, move to Boston University, Vietnam-era antiwar activities, trip to Hanoi to return American POWs, his views on civil disobedience, and his targeting by the police and FBI. 

Of particular interest in Part 2: extensive reflections by antiwar activist Fr. Daniel Berrigan (d. 2016).

Boston Progressive activists Howard Zinn (BU) and Noam Chomsky (MIT), ca. 1970

Part 3 includes the favorable public reaction to Zinn's People's History, especially by school students and teachers; scenes from Zinn's play, Marx in Soho; and Zinn's public opposition, post-9/11, to going to war against Iraq.

First, though, we'll hear President Trump's public denunciation of Zinn for destroying the patriotism of schoolchildren (September 17, 2020)--and then part of a 2009 interview of Zinn, by Amy Goodman, in which Zinn explains what he would like young people to learn about American History. (Thanks to for the audio in this segment.)

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