by Bill Kavanagh: Historian Howard Zinn, who we lost in January at age 87 to a heart attack, worked throughout his lifetime to create a different America, one based on human values and the rights of ordinary people to control their own destinies. Zinn wasn't waiting for an American political leader, espousing hope and change, to make the world a better place; he advocated that the people pressure all our leaders through direct action to create jobs, to fight against corporate domination of our politics, to break down racial barriers, and to insure decent healthcare for everyone. Moreover, Zinn worked to end the dominance of the military industrial complex that has so shaped the post-World War II world.
These were just a few of the goals Zinn illuminated in his academic work, by documenting great movements that have pushed our history forward. He spent his lifetime presenting American history as a series of alternatives between passivity in the face of power and the people's occasional willingness to engage in struggles that have not always succeeded fully or quickly, but have eventually led to greater freedom, more economic power for ordinary working people, the poor and the oppressed. His most popular work, The People's History of the United States, has helped preserve a narrative of American movements for change and struggle that helped shape our history every bit as much as the powerful and well-connected leaders who rode astride the changes they created.