Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Howard Zinn: Remembering a Peoples Historian

Howard Zinn was born in New York City on August24, 1922, the son of Jewish immigrants-Edward Zinn a waiter and Jennie {Robvilnowitz} Zinn, a housewife. He attended New York public school and was working in the Brooklyn Navy Yard at assistant level when he met Roslyn Shechter-before marrying her in October 1944, he joined the Army Air Corps; she died in 2008 after a long supportive stint.
Passing away of this Boston University historian and political activist is a big blow in academic as well as in intellectual circle; he was aged of eighty-seven year and had made significant contribution to the discipline of historiography.

This peace seeking public moralist had to go through odd jobs like-bombardier during World War II for mere sustenance. Even that conditional job fetched him Air Medal and the rank of Second Lieutenant; post war, he worked at a series of menial jobs until entering New York University on the GI Bill at the age of twenty seven. Even he did night shifts in a warehouse loading trucks to sustain his studies; through such hard maneuverings, he received his bachelor’s degree from New York University, followed by Master’s and Doctoral degrees in history from Columbia University.
After that he joined Spellman College in Atlanta in 1966. He made amazing contribution to American intellectual and moral culture with his great involvement in civil rights movement and the antiwar movement that hugely changed the perspectives and understanding of a large number of masses. His finest work “A Peoples History of the United States {1980]”brought tectonic shift to the temptations of a generation to rethink the nations past.

Vietnam War was his centre focus; he vigorously displayed his intellectual energy to form an alternative views about the U.S.A’s unjust aggression-his two work stood in this direction, “The Logic of Withdrawal {1967}” and “Disobedience and Democracy {1968}”. His works, such as “La Guardia in Congress {1959} which had also won the American Association’s Albert J Beveridge Prize; “SNCC: The New Abolitionist{1964}”; “The Southern Mystique{1964}”; “New Deal Thought{1966}” etc had strengthened the alternative voice in American land.
He wasn’t bonded merely with the state of objectivity which he materialized in his autobiography-”You Can’t be Neutral on a Moving Train {1994}”-in 1997, Dr Zinn’s writing was used in a popular film named “Good WILL Hunting”; probably that was his last compromise in his life. Howard Zinn was a key progenitor of change in orthodox history writing in U.S.A; he remarkably sustained his honest commitment for history from people’s point of view. World at large would miss him while pushing any discourse from peoples front and for the sake of humanity.
Atul Kumar Thakur
February19th2010, New Delhi

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