By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Howard Zinn, 1922-2010

Howard Zinn

Historian, social critic and war hero Howard Zinn has died at 87. The Boston Globe weighs in with a well-wrought obituary. Wikipedia’s thorough profile of Zinn is worth reading as well.

Zinn was a dedicated man of the left, and his take on President Obama, written just a few weeks ago for the Nation, is characteristic. It begins:

I’ve been searching hard for a highlight. The only thing that comes close is some of Obama’s rhetoric; I don’t see any kind of a highlight in his actions and policies.

As far as disappointments, I wasn’t terribly disappointed because I didn’t expect that much.

Zinn was best known for his book “A People’s History of the United States.” I came to it rather late — less than 10 years ago. Frankly, a lot of it struck me as the sort of cant that I got over in my teens – although I was also struck by how deeply Zinn loved his country.

“A People’s History” is well-written and meticulously well-documented, and I recommend it to anyone who’s interested in an alternative perspective on American history.

Photo via WikiMedia Commons.

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  1. I had Prof. Zinn as a poli sci prof. when I attended BU in the early ’70s. He was a soft-spoken, witty lecturer, and his political convictions were genuine.

  2. Patricia

    One of your Guardian colleagues has posted a very nice tribute to Prof. Zinn:

    Sadly, I never got around to taking one of his classes at BU, mainly because I took a different 100-level poli-sci class and I didn’t like that professor much so I didn’t want to take another one. But a lot of my friends at the Daily Free Press looked up to him and have been posting their tributes.

    According to The Nation (, Prof. Zinn was swimming laps when he died. Keeping active to the end. R.I.P.

  3. Al

    a great man… I went to BU in the late 70s/early 80s and one of my great regrets is I never took a course with him. At the time, I didn’t know much about him except that he was one of the “BU Five.” After the professors’ strike ended and the clerical workers were on strike, I had a pair of professors (Sam Bass Warner and Joe Boskin) who wouldn’t cross the picket line and we had class outside. John Silber walked by when we were having the class and if looks could kill… well, fill in the rest. RIP Prof. Zinn.

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