Jacket Copy

Books, authors and all things bookish

« Previous | Jacket Copy Home | Next»

Social historian Howard Zinn has died

A People's History of the United StatesHoward ZinnVoices of a People's History of the United States


Howard Zinn, the author of "A People's History of the United States" and several other books, has died. The Boston Herald reports he suffered a heart attack today in Santa Monica. Zinn was 87.

Zinn, a longtime professor at Boston University, was known for his left-wing politics. Born in New York, Zinn served in the Army Air Forces during World War II, where he became a second lieutenant. He attended New York University on the GI bill after the war, enrolling as a 27-year-old freshman; he did his postgraduate work at Columbia. As a young professor, he became a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War.

He published books on the Vietnam War, as well as other books on history and American society. But it was his 1980 book "A People's History of the United States" and its follow-up, "Voices of a People's History of the United States," that made him required reading. Literally -- "A People's History of the United States" presented American history from alternative perspectives, including native peoples, slaves, disenfranchised workers, farmers and women.

Zinn's works remain in print; a new edition of "Voices of a People's History of the United States" came out in November, and a revised edition of "A People's History of the United States" is set to be published in July.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Howard Zinn with actor Viggo Mortensen during a staged reading of "A People's History of the United States" in 2005. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (13)

The comments to this entry are closed.

This is sad loss. Howard Zinn was a freakin genius. Thanks for EVERYTHING Howard. Thanks for my mind!!!!!!

One of our great "should be" leaders. He asked the right questions at the right times!!! It's a shame enough people couldn't carry the answers or messages to thr right people. One of the good guys has gone. Mr. Zinn: you will be missed :( Thank you for shraing your knowledge with us...and for leading our circle.

"You can't be neutral on a moving train."

Thank you, Howard.

The first history textbook I ever enjoyed, at age 16, was written by Prof. Zinn. In a very real sense he changed the direction of my life toward social change work and collective organizing. I feel lucky to have briefly met him in Boston several years ago. RIP Howard.

Zinn's work is a powerful reminder that ordinary people can be heroic and create peace and justice moreso than governments. Our voices come alive in his writings.

Roast in hell, Stalinist toady. Regardless of what good he may have done for civil rights in the 1950's, his Soviet-style distortions of American History and his apologies for Communist mass murderers were reprehensible. Of course Noam Chumpsky, Khmer Rouge champion, liked him. He deserved a Nuremburg Trial and hanging.

Thanks to Zinn for opening minds! His books should be required reading before graduation by youth in this country. It would create consciences, instead the current education system churns out conscience-free consumers.

I think the best way to remember Zinn is to now take his personal history and completely rewrite it to fit your own narrative. It's what he would have done.

Several years ago a colleague recommended Zinn's history book to me, so to test him out I chose to read a couple chapters on a topic I know very well: WWII. His account of the US military industrial buildup struck me as either a misreading/misunderstanding of human nature or just an out right lie. Because a small group of companies got the majority of arms contracts, in Zinn's mind this meant it had to be because of capitalist corruption. The idea that some few companies might actually be superior and thus deserving of the contracts seemed to elude him. As America saved the world, he just had to find fault with it. What a loser. What a phony. Unfortunately, we live in a society where far too many people were influenced by his fabrications of history.

Good to seem some people understand what a phony he was.

This is a great lost to humanity. His actions and words will live on in our history and enlighten many more people in years to come. Thank you Howard Zinn for everything. For passionately standing up for the rights of all, even those that were not able to understand your tremendous sacrifices and love for humanity. Rest in peace our friend.

He lived a good life, made a lot of money too. Has anyone fact checked his books?

RIP Howard Zinn. You stood for compassion, and your haters are just that. Full of hate and not much else.


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


Explore Bestsellers Lists





Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.