Our Favorite Teacher Series

Howard Zinn taught at Spelman College and Boston University where he had an extraordinary influence on his students’ understanding of history and their role in the world. The “Howard Zinn: Our Favorite Teacher” series highlights Zinn’s lasting impact as a professor.


Stuart Shulman’s Reflections

I took classes with Howard at BU in 1987 and 1988. He taught in a very large movie theater. It was always packed. People came from across the ideological spectrum to listen, rapt, to the greatest teacher I have ever known. People stood in the back row and sat in the aisles. Students felt free to take him on; he welcomed it. There was complete freedom of speech.

After class, long lines would wait for a word with him. On several occasions, I had the pleasure of waiting to walk back to his office with him.


I recall one day where the weight of these new facts and ideas was bearing down on me. I asked him if he ever thought of moving to Canada. He told me about why he and Roz decided this was a country worth fighting for and that the victories over the years, slow and hard won, were on the books because we people spoke out, marched, got arrested, and practiced politics.

Howard wrote a letter of recommendation for my law school application that I treasure. I share it because it says so much about what a thoughtful and dedicated professor Howard was.

Typed recommendation letter for Stuart Shulman on BU letterhead from Howard Zinn.
Recommendation letter Howard Zinn wrote for Stuart Shulman, 1988. Click image to read larger version.

His wonderful play about Emma Goldman opened in London the summer of 1987 and I was there on an internship. We saw opening night and sat with Howard, Roz, and the cast after the play. I was beyond delighted to share that moment.

I saw him again in 1992, the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Columbus. Howard came to give a lecture at the University of Oregon. I was a regular volunteer for CISPES in Eugene. I invited him to come to a potluck at the meeting house the afternoon of his talk and when he did you saw 30 activists forget about their food and listen with fascination as he spoke gently and firmly about the real bonds in a solidarity network. Later, the huge room at the university was completely full and a secondary location was set up for the overflow crowd. He was the best public speaker because he always got the public both to listen and to speak as well.

I loved that man. He changed me forever.


Dr. Stuart W. Shulman (@stuartwshulman) is a scholar, inventor, entrepreneur, election warden, retired soccer coach, proud father and son, and a Taoist garlic grower for more than three decades.

 


Submit Your Story – Howard Zinn, Our Favorite Teacher | HowardZinn.org

Howard Zinn taught at Spelman College and Boston University where he had an extraordinary influence on his students’ understanding of history and their role in the world. This series highlights Zinn’s lasting impact as a professor. Read more stories and submit your own.

 

blue scroll button with white arrow