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Howard Zinn (1922-2010)


Here’s a link to Dr. Zinn's New York Times obituary.

“Howard Zinn, historian and shipyard worker, civil rights activist and World War II bombardier, and author of ‘A People’s History of the United States,’ a best seller that inspired a generation of high school and college students to rethink American history, died Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 87 and lived in Auburndale, Mass. …”

He was also an executive producer and narrator of the History Channel documentary, "The People Speak."

NYPL’s catalog lists about 150 items by and including Mr. Zinn.

Some of you might be asking, “What exactly does this have to do with the New York Public Library?”

I would say in response that history lives in libraries. Not just in the sense that you will find books on our shelves that chronicle people and places and things long gone – that sort of history is inert, lifeless. No, libraries are the place where you can try to make sense of the past we all share, to explore the world as it is or to imagine a better world. The way you do so not just by passively looking in books and settling for the facts as given - that's second grade social studies (or at least that's how it was when I was in second grade). Instead, if you want to do it right, you gather as much material on a subject as possible and study it and wrestle with it and come up with an answer, and test it out, and argue about it, and then you go back and try to come up with a better answer.

Agree or not with Zinn’s views of history, you have to admit that in his lifetime he never stopped researching, never stopped asking questions, and he never stopped showing us the human stories behind the history. Stories about the courageous, the cowardly, the cruel, the kind, and everything other thing that is us.

And where did he find these stories? In the library.

Boston radio station WBUR offers a brief online tribute which includes the following quotes:

"I think it is important to at least raise the possibility that you can criticize something which everybody has accepted as uncriticizable. I mean we are supposed to be thinking people — you should be able to question anything.”

“When I got out of school I began to learn things. That’s when you begin to learn. Right? You go to the library. There is nothing like a library.”

Some history. Where are the roots? Chronographical plan of Willard's history of the United States


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