Howard Zinn, R.I.P.

<a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Howard_Zinn.jpg">Wikimedia Commons</a> photo under CC License

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Historian Howard Zinn has died at age 87. Zinn was best known for A People’s History of the United States, which turned the glossy, textbook version of American history on its head by pointing out that far from being an unbroken chain of political and economic progress, our history was one of conflict along class, racial, and gender lines. Though Zinn’s radical, bottom-up approach cast aside the America-first tone of mainstream texts, it was still guided by a deep sense of commitment to what he saw as often-neglected American ideals. As he wrote in 2004, “History, looked at under the surface, in the streets and on the farms, in GI barracks and trailer camps, in factories and offices, tells a different story. Whenever injustices have been remedied, wars halted, women and blacks and Native Americans given their due, it has been because ‘unimportant’ people spoke up, organized, protested, and brought democracy alive.” Still in print after 30 years, A People’s History has removed the scales from many an undergrad’s eyes, and has won its fair share of famous admirers, from Viggo Mortensen to Matt Damon (who name-dropped it in Good Will Hunting and just opened a stage adapation of it.) For more of Zinn’s recent writing and thinking, see this 2005 interview or his commencement address at Spelman College, where he was fired in 1963 for—amazingly—his civil rights activism.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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