Banned Books Week: Celebrate the Power of Learning People’s History
With Banned Book Week (Sept. 21-28) in full swing, we call attention to the recent —s ometimes successful — attempts to ban Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.
In 2012, the Tucson Unified School District decided to abolish the highly-successful Mexican American Studies Program and called for an immediate removal of all program books, including A People’s History of the United States and other people’s history texts.
In 2013, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels orders to ban the use of any of Zinn’s books in K-12 classrooms gained national attention, especially since Daniels is now the president of Purdue University.
Despite these attempts, you don’t have to search far to find expressions of the impact of A People’s History. In Keith Knight’s comic strip tribute to Howard Zinn, he wrote:
Zinn’s book was my Catcher in the Rye…it profoundly changed my thinking. Up til then, every U.S. history book I read made slavery and Jim Crow sound mildly flawed at worst, warm and fuzzy at best.
Many teachers and students have also commented on what they learned from reading A People’s History. For example, high school history teacher John Mistilis of Oxford, Miss. said:
After reading A People’s History of the United States, my life as a teacher, as an American, and as a human was changed forever.
The empowerment from learning hidden histories is cause to not only celebrate the freedom to read, to critical inquiry, and to open access to information, but also to champion the right for future generations to learn people’s history.