[OPE] The Loss of a Legend-1922-2010

From: Gerald Levy <jerry_levy@verizon.net>
Date: Wed Jan 27 2010 - 20:29:46 EST

----- Original Message -----
From: "Cyrus Bina" <binac@morris.umn.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 7:50 PM
Subject: The Loss of a Legend-1922-2010

> Dear Friends, Colleagues, and Comrades:
> FYI: This is about the passing of Howard Zinn; the bright star has
> eclipsed today.
> What a loss,
> Cyrus Bina
> http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2010/01/howard_zinn_his.html
> Howard Zinn, historian who challenged status quo, dies at 87
> January 27, 2010 05:40 PM
> By Mark Feeney, Globe Staff
> Howard Zinn, the Boston University historian and political activist who
> was an early opponent of US involvement in Vietnam and a leading faculty
> critic of BU president John Silber, died of a heart attack today in Santa
> Monica, Calif, where he was traveling, his family said. He was 87.
> “His writings have changed the consciousness of a generation, and helped
> open new paths to understanding and its crucial meaning for our lives,”
> Noam Chomsky, the left-wing activist and MIT professor, once wrote of Dr.
> Zinn. “When action has been called for, one could always be confident
> that he would be on the front lines, an example and trustworthy guide.”
> For Dr. Zinn, activism was a natural extension of the revisionist brand
> of history he taught. Dr. Zinn’s best-known book, “A People’s History of
> the United States” (1980), had for its heroes not the Founding Fathers —
> many of them slaveholders and deeply attached to the status quo, as Dr.
> Zinn was quick to point out — but rather the farmers of Shays’ Rebellion
> and the union organizers of the 1930s.
> As he wrote in his autobiography, “You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving
> Train” (1994), “From the start, my teaching was infused with my own
> history. I would try to be fair to other points of view, but I wanted
> more than ‘objectivity’; I wanted students to leave my classes not just
> better informed, but more prepared to relinquish the safety of silence,
> more prepared to speak up, to act against injustice wherever they saw it.
> This, of course, was a recipe for trouble.”
> Certainly, it was a recipe for rancor between Dr. Zinn and Silber. Dr.
> Zinn twice helped lead faculty votes to oust the BU president, who in
> turn once accused Dr. Zinn of arson (a charge he quickly retracted) and
> cited him as a prime example of teachers “who poison the well of
> academe.”
> Dr. Zinn was a cochairman of the strike committee when BU professors
> walked out in 1979. After the strike was settled, he and four colleagues
> were charged with violating their contract when they refused to cross a
> picket line of striking secretaries. The charges against “the BU Five”
> were soon dropped, however.
> Dr. Zinn was born in New York City on Aug. 24, 1922, the son of Jewish
> immigrants, Edward Zinn, a waiter, and Jennie (Rabinowitz) Zinn, a
> housewife. He attended New York public schools and worked in the Brooklyn
> Navy Yard before joining the Army Air Force during World War II. Serving
> as a bombardier in the Eighth Air Force, he won the Air Medal and
> attained the rank of second lieutenant.
> After the war, Dr. Zinn worked at a series of menial jobs until entering
> New York University as a 27-year-old freshman on the GI Bill. Professor
> Zinn, who had married Roslyn Shechter in 1944, worked nights in a
> warehouse loading trucks to support his studies. He received his bachelor’s
> degree from NYU, followed by master’s and doctoral degrees in history
> from Columbia University.
> Dr. Zinn was an instructor at Upsala College and lecturer at Brooklyn
> College before joining the faculty of Spelman College in Atlanta, in
> 1956. He served at the historically black women’s institution as chairman
> of the history department. Among his students were the novelist Alice
> Walker, who called him “the best teacher I ever had,” and Marian Wright
> Edelman, future head of the Children’s Defense Fund.
> During this time, Dr. Zinn became active in the civil rights movement. He
> served on the executive committee of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating
> Committee, the most aggressive civil rights organization of the time, and
> participated in numerous demonstrations.
> Dr. Zinn became an associate professor of political science at BU in 1964
> and was named full professor in 1966.
> The focus of his activism now became the Vietnam War. Dr. Zinn spoke at
> countless rallies and teach-ins and drew national attention when he and
> another leading antiwar activist, Rev. Daniel Berrigan, went to Hanoi in
> 1968 to receive three prisoners released by the North Vietnamese.
> Dr. Zinn’s involvement in the antiwar movement led to his publishing two
> books: “Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal” (1967) and “Disobedience and
> Democracy” (1968). He had previously published “LaGuardia in Congress”
> (1959), which had won the American Historical Association’s Albert J.
> Beveridge Prize; “SNCC: The New Abolitionists” (1964); “The Southern
> Mystique” (1964); and “New Deal Thought” (1966).
> Dr. Zinn was also the author of “The Politics of History” (1970);
> “Postwar America” (1973); “Justice in Everyday Life” (1974); and
> “Declarations of Independence” (1990).
> In 1988, Dr. Zinn took early retirement so as to concentrate on speaking
> and writing. The latter activity included writing for the stage. Dr. Zinn
> had two plays produced: “Emma,” about the anarchist leader Emma Goldman,
> and “Daughter of Venus.”
> Dr. Zinn, or his writing, made a cameo appearance in the 1997 film ‘‘Good
> Will Hunting.’’ The title characters, played by Matt Damon, lauds ‘‘A
> People’s History’’ and urges Robin Williams’s character to read it.
> Damon, who co-wrote the script, was a neighbor of the Zinns growing up.
> Damon was later involved in a television version of the book, ‘‘The
> People Speak,’’ which ran on the History Channel in 2009. Damon was the
> narrator of a 2004 biographical documentary, ‘‘Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be
> Neutral on a Moving Train.’’
> On his last day at BU, Dr. Zinn ended class 30 minutes early so he could
> join a picket line and urged the 500 students attending his lecture to
> come along. A hundred did so.
> Dr. Zinn’s wife died in 2008. He leaves a daughter, Myla Kabat-Zinn of
> Lexington; a son, Jeff of Wellfleet; three granddaugthers; and two
> grandsons.
> Funeral plans were not available.

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Received on Wed Jan 27 20:38:57 2010

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