Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Breaking News: Radical Historian Howard Zinn Dies at 87

From the Boston Globe:
"Howard Zinn, historian who challenged status quo, dies at 87"
January 27, 2010 07:12 PM

By Mark Feeney and Bryan Marquard, Globe Staff

Howard Zinn, the Boston University historian and political activist who was an early opponent of US involvement in Vietnam and whose books, such as "A People's History of the United States," inspired young and old to rethink the way textbooks present the American experience, died today in Santa Monica, Calif, where he was traveling. He was 87.

His daughter, Myla Kabat-Zinn of Lexington, said he suffered a heart attack.

"He's made an amazing contribution to American intellectual and moral culture," Noam Chomsky, the left-wing activist and MIT professor, said tonight. "He's changed the conscience of America in a highly constructive way. I really can't think of anyone I can compare him to in this respect." (read the rest)
As Chomsky's comment indicates, many Americans appreciated Zinn's work for its critical political stance and popular accessibility alike. By contrast, most professional historians, whatever their political persuasions, tended to take a dimmer view of his work, finding it simplistic and monochromatic. Thus, this comment by Sean Wilentz in a recent lengthy review of Lincoln historiography:
At its most straightforward, caustic, and predictable--as in the balefully influential works of Howard Zinn, who has described Lincoln as at best "a kind man" who had to be "pushed by the antislavery movement" into emancipation--this post-1960s populist history writing is just as skewed as the tendentious "great white male" historiography that it has supposedly discredited.
Zinn's influence was undeniable.

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