The Late, Great, Howard Zinn


By Wade Frazier

January 27, 2010

Less than an hour ago, I read that Howard Zinn died today at age eighty-seven.† The eulogies are already pouring in from across the world.† I first encountered his work about twenty years ago, as I began my alternative history/media education.† Zinnís A Peopleís History of the United States was my first inkling that the Columbus story taught to me as a child might not tell the entire story.† As I discovered Zinnís work, I also discovered the work of his pals Noam Chomsky and Ed Herman.† I learned more at their scholarly knees than any other scholars I can name.†

My Columbus essay was one of the earliest written for my site, with the first draft written in 1998.† In 1999, I hired a professional editor and reedited my entire site, from 2000 to 2002.† My Columbus essay has a lengthy quote of Zinnís work in it.† As I was readying the essay for publication, I sent an email to Zinn (an email address for him was on a site someplace in cyberspace), asking for permission to quote his work.† I sent the email on a Sunday afternoon in October 2001, when the American Left was frantically trying to prevent a military attack on Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11.† I expected that if I ever heard back from Zinn, it would not be for several months.† Imagine my surprise when I not only heard back from Zinn that same evening, but he read my essay, praised it, gave it a historianís approval and gave me permission to quote him.† Noam and Ed gave similar replies when I first contacted them many years ago.† That level of graciousness, given to people coming from out of the blue, I have never seen come from any similar group.† I still try to get Uncle Ed to think about energy and the world economy from time to time.†

Noam and Ed are still active writers.† There was something special about the generation that produced those great scholars of conscience. †I have been dreadfully anticipating these days for many years, and know of nobody from my generation or younger ones who can come close to filling the gigantic shoes that Howard, Noam and Ed will leave behind.†

I have been slowly reediting my site and, in the past few months, I have been thinking of reediting that Columbus essay.† I was planning to remove that Zinn quote, because long quotes are no longer my style.† Now, however, that version of the essay will be preserved someplace on my site.†

Goodbye Howard; we miss you already!†

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