Photo: Greg Federman

Photo: Greg Federman

By ZAZIL DAVIS-VAZQUEZ

Howard Zinn, an anti-war activist, historian, playwright and author of over 20 books, including A People’s History of the United States, died on January 27, 2010, of a heart attack. Zinn was famous for writing about ordinary people who fought against injustice.

Zinn was born in 1922 and raised in Brooklyn, New York. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Europe.

As a young man in the 1940s, he joined the military. During World War II, he dropped bombs in Germany, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. After the war, he went to two universities in New York City, studying history and political science.

When he finished college, he got a job as a professor at a historically Black women’s college in Atlanta, Georgia, called Spelman College. After he took this job, he became active in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. He also protested the Vietnam and Iraq wars, partly because he regretted killing innocent civilians in Europe as a soldier.

Unlike typical history books that illustrate historical events from the perspective of powerful people, A People’s History of the United States celebrated everyday, working people with less power who chose to speak their minds and tried to improve their lives. Over a million copies of this book have sold, and it was nominated for the National Book Award for the year 1980.

In an interview with IndyKids in the January/February 2009 issue, Zinn said, “I want young people to know that they do not need to be passive observers of history made by important people—that they can make history themselves, by becoming part of a social movement.”

Zazil Davis-Vazquez, age 15, is from Queens, NY

Visit the “Zinn Education Project”