Friday, January 29, 2010

A Tribute to the Extraordinary Life of Howard Zinn

On January 28th, Howard Zinn died suddenly at the age of 87 in Santa Monica, California. Although he will probably be best known for his seminal book A People's History of the United States, Zinn was much more than a historian.

His early teaching career took him to Spellman College in Atlanta, a leading African-American institution, where he taught history and was fired for supporting a student rebellion at the school in the early days of the modern racial desegregation movement. He later went on to teach at Boston University

Howard Zinn was a respected a leader in both the movement for civil rights in the United States, and was one of the few white Americans to rise to a leadership position in the predominantly black Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which organized voting rights and anti-oppression campaigns throughout the South.

In his opposition to the U.S. war in Indochina, Zinn, along with the late Daniel Berrigan, made a highly visible-and controversial-visit to North Vietnam to bring home three U.S. prisoners of war. His book, Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal, was a major analysis of the U.S. intervention in Vietnam and a call for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the war-a war which finally ended with the defeat of the U.S.-backed regime in South Vietnam in 1975.

For those of us who are old enough to remember the early desegregation and anti-war movements of the 1960's, the intellectual works and radical historical analysis of Howard Zinn were central in the formation of an alternative view of American history and politics. Central to Zinn's writing and teaching is the understanding that popular, and radical, social movements were ( and are) fundamental to the advancements of society in general.

And as Muslims engaged in our own struggle for equality and fairness in this nation, we owe a tremendous debt to the late Howard Zinn for reminding us that, in his own famous words, we cannot be neutral on the moving train of history.

An excellent retrospective on the life and works of the late Howard Zinn can be found on the home page of Amy Goodman's syndicated radio program Democracy Now, which aired on the morning of January 28th. You can hear the program by visiting the link at :

Ibrahim Ramey

No comments: