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Thu Dec 6, 2012, 09:57 AM

Howard Zinn Never Stopped Demanding the Impossible

Howard Zinn Never Stopped Demanding the Impossible

Wednesday, 05 December 2012 09:39
By Anthony Arnove, Haymarket Books | Book Excerpt

The following is the foreward, written by Anthony Arnove, to "Howard Zinn Speaks: Collected Speeches 1963-2009."


Introduction by Anthony Arnove

My work with Howard Zinn over the last decade was punctuated with frequent enthusiastic calls and e-mails, his dispatches from the road and the home front. I remember Howard calling the morning after he appeared on stage at a Pearl Jam concert. Eddie Vedder had brought him out on stage in front of tens of thousands of Pearl Jam fans and handed him a microphone. "I gave the best speech of my life last night," he said. "It was three words long: 'End the war.'"

As a speaker, Howard understood the power of brevity, of never making anything simple complicated. He understood the power of the dramatic pause, letting his audiences have a moment to take in his thoughts, the power of humor to convey radical ideas in a compelling and dramatic way—and the power of the simple word "no." "They say war is the only solution," he'd say in one of his many talks delivered against the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "No . . ."


Howard jumped into the civil rights struggle as an active participant, not just as a commentator or observer. He decided that the point of studying history was not to write papers and attend seminars but to make history, to help inform grassroots movements to change the world. He was fired from Spelman College as a result, and risked losing his next job at Boston University for his role in opposing the Vietnam War and in sup- porting workers on the campus. When there was a moment of respite after the end of the Vietnam War, Howard did not turn back to academic studies, or turn inward as so many other 1960s activists had done, but began writing plays, understanding the importance of cultural expression to political understanding and change. He also began writing "A People's History of the United States", which came out in 1980, right as the tide was turning against the radical social movements he had helped to organize.

"A People's History" would provide a countercurrent that developed and grew as teachers, activists, and the next generation of social movements developed new political efforts and new movements. Howard was there to fight alongside them. ..............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/13151-howard-zinn-never-stopped-demanding-the-impossible

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