Howard Zinn, RIP

 Default Zinn Howard Zinn, radical historian, professor, and author, has died. He was 87.
Boston Globe obituary (Thanks, Gil Kaufman)


  1. “radical”? Whether you agree with him or not, it seems that labeling a peaceful character with well thought opinions a radical simply unjustified scorn.

    1. “Radical” is often used to mean someone who favors dramatic or fundamental changes in a system, or holds opinions that are seen as a significant departure from convention. It is by no means inherently critical.

    2. In a country where spewing lies and half-truths is the norm, I guess telling the truth is sadly “radical” or some shit? I personally agree that it’s a crappy description of the man.

      To me he was a great historian. Not a fucking “radical” historian.

    3. When the kids these days say “radical”, they just mean really awesome. So “radical historian” just means he was a really awesome historian.

  2. What a shame. The one time I saw him speak, he was so inspiring. @Joao, “radical” doesn’t have to be negative, it’s just thinking out of lines with most people. It’s unfortunate that other people aren’t thinking the same way as him…

  3. @Joao radical as in changing from the roots or origins.

    Too bad. And he was due to speak at Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA on Saturday.

  4. Why give radical a negative connotation only? I rather think it a compliment to acting outside the expected norm. You can do so for good, peaceful reasons as well as negative ones. I took this in a positive light.

    He will be missed. :(

  5. Joao: Last I checked radical is not synonomous with extremist, violent or militant, except by those wishing to dismiss the perspectives of folks like Zinn.

    I’ve always used it in the sense of getting at the root of things, and would not feel insulted by having many of my views labeled as such.

  6. Howard Zinn spoke at my school in May 1970 and urged us to think through issues deeply, to avoid superficial reactions. This led me and a few others to go to Boston and sit in at the JFK Federal Building in an attempt to symbolically shut down the operations of our government. Arrested for linking arms in front of a cop, I looked through the bars and saw Zinn sitting peacefully in the opposite cell.

  7. This man was a hero, plain and simple. What a terrible loss for humanity. I will continue on in his spirit as best as I can, we all should. Read, think, and be active.

    *observes a long moment of silence*

  8. i wasn’t really aware of zinn but i happened to pick up a copy of “the people’s history of the united states” recently. i’m about half way through and i must say it’s an amazing book that has really changed my understanding of this country. i think it’s fair to label him as a radical. unfortunately, that just means that he writes the painful truth about the crimes our country was built upon.

  9. I cherished his humane-ness and his personal biography relative to his work in a way I do Noam Chomsky’s.
    Thank you, Howard, for your voice – we’re better for it. Enjoy the ride! Sing with the stars.

  10. Back in high school (85-89) I drive my history teachers crazy by referencing APHotUS… It was awesome.

  11. “Radical” is derived from the Latin “radix,” or “root.” A political radical tries to change a system at its root. Howard Zinn labored all his life to change the prevailing political and historical canons for the better. He was an incredibly intelligent, forthright, and compelling thinker and teacher whose influence will be felt for many years to come. This is a great loss, but the world is a better place because he lived.

    1. ….thank you “anonymous” for pointing out the etymological roots of “radical”.

      It’s often struck me as ironic how plastic the popular interpretation of terms such as “radical” and “fundamentalist” are. Both having basically the same meaning and, simultaneously such utterly different connotations.

  12. Ah, he was a radically great historian. Totally radical, dudes. I’m really sad he’s gone – I loved his books, “A People’s History of the United States” and the graphic novel “A People’s History of the American Empire”.

    1. Yes, and the works of mrparallel will continue to inspire millions long after he’s gone, I’m sure.

      Thanks for opening your mouth and removing all doubt.

    2. Nice way to troll a eulogy. May someone dance on your grave as you have just done his. What have you contributed that has changed anyone’s life as much as he did, to millions? So much for moments of silence. (In other words, STFU!)


      Zinn, you opened a lot of eyes, hearts and minds. I hope we will eventually honor your legacy with real change someday. Be at peace. The torch has been passed.

  13. the front page story on yahoo right now is that the lady with the voice from Poltergeist is dead, what a disgrace. typical mainstream bullpoop.

  14. Maybe it ought to scare me that another Audacious Aging chapter author has died in the less-than-a-year since the book came out – we’ve already lost Dominick Dunne and Gene Cohen, so now it’s 3 out of 38 no longer with us. But given the subject matter and ages of those passing, the losses are perhaps predictable, so perhaps the best thing to do is to learn from their lives to make the most of ours.

  15. We need more radicals like Howard Zinn. I think in his case, we can make ‘radical’ a synonym for ‘uncomfortable truth teller.’

    RIP Howard, you were one of the People, to your eternal credit.

  16. That’s really sad indeed. Finished A People’s History a few months back – even for a non-US citizen living in a country with a relatively well-thought middle- and high-school history program, I learned a LOT from this book.

    He’ll be missed.

  17. A man who defended the teaching of critical thinking to students at all levels. I fear he will be especially missed in the next few years.

  18. Radical
    adj. of or going to the root or origin; fundamental: a radical difference.
    noun a person who advocates fundamental political, economic, and social reforms by direct and often uncompromising methods.

  19. freedom loving warrior. we salute your passing.

    heard him speak once on how he really wasn’t into protests. not a big people person. my first thought was, “well, you can always go home and write a book.” then i remembered that that’s what he did, and got an endorphin rush.

    again, one of our warriors has fallen. we salute you.

  20. I’m reading a history of Ramparts magazine and he was writing for them back in ’67. That’s a long time to keep the faith.

  21. Aw man, this news bummed me out no end. I saw him speak when I was at college at UMass and he was a captivating presence. I think that everyone could benefit from having one of his books on their shelf, and would benefit more when they read it.

  22. I always thought it was courageous that Zinn was able to criticize the Allies handling of the war he participated in (WWII). Thanks for all your great works HZ.

  23. I certainly didn’t agree with everything he said, but “A People’s History” changed my worldview more than any other piece of media I’ve ever stuffed into my brain. It’s ability to rip apart the ridiculous whitewashing and lies you learned in high school history class is absolutely astonishing.

    There aren’t many famous people who I can say actually changed how I think. He was definitely one of the good ones. What a bummer.

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