Democracy

HREA Director Interviews Historian Howard Zinn

Interview by Felisa Tibbitts • Human Rights Education Association • January 5, 2005
Historically, how do you think schools have served as a catalyst for social change and furthering the human rights movement?

Zinn: I think it works both ways. Students who learn in school about what is going on in the world are motivated to do something about it, to act on what they have learned. When I say it goes both ways, when you have students become active in human rights and feel that human rights has touched them personally, then they are likely to come back into the classroom and have the curriculum reflect their own consciousness.

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Questions for Howard Zinn: The People’s Historian

Interview by Joshua Glenn • The Boston Globe • Nov. 14, 2004
IDEAS: Don’t presidential elections reflect the will of the people as much as protest movements do?

ZINN: More important, I think, than who sits in the White House is who sits outside it. Whenever social injustices have had to be rectified, they were rectified not at the initiative of the president or Congress or the Supreme Court but because of social movements.…Only after thousands of black Americans demonstrated and were beaten, jailed, and killed was segregation in the South done away with. Despite winning the Nobel Peace Prize for it, it was not only Kissinger alone who ended the Vietnam War, but the antiwar movement.

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‘Marx Is Not Dead’

Interview by M.H. Lagarde • Published at La Habana • May 8, 2004
“I’ll remind people what Marx’s criticism of capitalism was. I would demonstrate that these ideas have much to with the United States today. In other words, that Marxist criticism today is exact and current.”

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American Amnesia Interviews Howard Zinn

Published at American Amnesia • February 8, 2004
aA:Do you see historical amnesia – that is, forgetting both recent and distant history – as an ailment of the younger generation, or as a continuation of the “way we’ve always been”?

hZ: It’s not an ailment of the younger generation but of that part of the older generation that controls the media and the educational system. I find that young people are hungry for information, but their sources are too often the major television channels, which are controlled by a tiny group of wealthy corporations, with ties and interests close to the government.

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Another McCarthy Era

Interview by Steven Rosenfeld • Published at TomPaine.com • Dec. 2, 2003
TP.c: Everybody knows civil liberties take a beating in wartime. But historically, what is the most effective way to balance or challenge the excessive use”or abuse”of state power when those in government use the language of war?

Zinn: The recourse of citizens when civil liberties are attacked is first to expose those attacks as violations of basic freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights; and second to speak and write even more boldly than ever in order to encourage other people to do the same, so that the number of people speaking their minds becomes too great for the government to handle.

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Duty of Expression

Interview by Sarah Burton • Published in Resonance Magazine • November 2003
Howard Zinn and Thom Yorke have never done lunch, waved to each other along a red carpet, or even met face to face. So we arranged the next best thing: a debate between these luminaries moderated via phone and email.… Each had plenty to say about art and politics, but not without also covering everything from Marx and Picasso to Donna Summer and Public Enemy.

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War is the Health of the State

Interview by Paul Glavin and Chuck Morse • Published in Perspectives on Anarchist Theory • Spring 2003
Howard Zinn has been a pivotal figure in the American Left for decades. As an activist and writer, he has influenced generations of leftists and helped encourage a strong commitment to direct democracy, anti-racism, and grassroots action.

We asked Zinn about the current changes in the political environment, his theoretical commitments, and some of the challenges faced by radical intellectuals

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A Few Words with Howard Zinn

Interviewed by Michael Pozo • Published in St. John’s University Humanities Review • March 2003
MP: How is your approach to History conducive for positive social change?

HZ: I hope it gives people the History of previous social movements to show how they can bring about change, to show that it is possible, to give people faith that if they participate, if they do even small actions, that might have an effect, if not today, tomorrow or next year.

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Zinn on Iraq and Other Pressing Matters

Interview by Bill Moyers • Published at PBS’ NOW With Bill Moyers • January 10, 2003
“Oh, sure. We were attacked, but then the question is, who attacked us? If we could locate the people who attacked us and get them, grab them, find them. Okay, that’s self-defense. But if we are attacked and we don’t know who attacked us, and we just select a country from which we think the attackers may have sprung, and then just bomb that country, that is not defense. That is indiscriminate violence.”

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Our Job is a Simple One: Stop Them

Published in The Progressive • December 1, 2002
Democracy flies out the window as soon as war comes along. So when officials in Washington talk about democracy, either here or abroad, as they take this country to war, they don’t mean it. They don’t want democracy; they want to run things themselves. They want to decide whether we go to war. They want to decide the lives and deaths of people in this country, and they certainly want to decide the lives and deaths of people in Iraq and all over the Middle East.

Faced with this attitude, our job is just a simple one: to stop them.

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Arundhati Roy in Conversation with Howard Zinn

Recorded at the Lensic Theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico on September 18, 2002 This video is from the event awarding the Prize for Cultural Freedom to Arundhati Roy. Zinn interviews Roy about growing up, her writing, class,… Read More

The Toll of War

Published in The Progressive • August 8, 2002
Democracy flies out the window as soon as war comes along. So when officials in Washington talk about democracy, either here or abroad, as they take this country to war, they don’t mean it. They don’t want democracy; they want to run things themselves. They want to decide whether we go to war. They want to decide the lives and deaths of people in this country, and they certainly want to decide the lives and deaths of people in Iraq and all over the Middle East.

Faced with this attitude, our job is just a simple one: to stop them.

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Dissent In Pursuit Of Equality, Life, Liberty And Happiness

Interview by Sharon Basco • Published at Tompaine.com • July 3, 2002
“When you say the country was founded by people who believed in dissent, well, they believed in their own right to dissent in the relationship with England. But it happens very often that people who believe in their own right to dissent, when they gain power they don’t really accept the idea that other people have the right to dissent. And so, for instance, when the Founding Fathers, who very powerfully defended their right to dissent against the British when they expelled the British, and then they were faced with dissenters, like the former rebels of Shay’s Rebellion in 1786, they sent an army to put them down.”

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Robert Birnbaum Talks with the Author of A People’s History of the United States

Interview by Robert Birnbau • Published at IdentityTheory.com • January 10, 2001
“I talk to audiences in Oklahoma and Texas and here and there and mostly to audiences of people who don’t really know my work. I certainly don’t expect them to be sympathetic to my ideas. When I express my ideas — and they are radical ideas — except that I don’t start off by saying, ‘I’m now going to tell you radical ideas.’ Or, ‘I’m now going to expound ideas of socialism or attack capitalism. Or, ‘This is going to be a hate imperialism talk.’ None of that. People respond to common sense ideas about foreign policy and domestic policy. It encourages me about the potential in this country, despite who is running it.”

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A Fourth of July Commentary

Published by ZCommunications • July 4, 2000
In this year 2000, I cannot comment more meaningfully on the Fourth of July than Frederick Douglass did when he was invited in 1852 to give an Independence Day address. He could not help thinking about the irony of the promise of the Declaration of Independence, of equality, life, liberty made by slaveowners, and how slavery was made legitimate in the writing of the Constitution after a victory for “freedom” over England. And his invitation to speak came just two years after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, committing the national government to return fugitives to slavery with all the force of the law.

So it is fitting, at a time when police are exonerated in the killing of unarmed black men, when the electric chair and the gas chamber are used most often against people of color, that we refrain from celebration and instead listen to Douglass’ sobering words…

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Notes for a Gathering

Published by ZCommunications • December 16, 2000
I have been asked to imagine this situation: “The progressive third party movement has captured the White House, 60% of Congress and 30 Governorships. What do we do now?”

First, we have a party, maybe three, with the third party being special. Then, we have Congress pass, and the President sign, the following legislation…

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‘History as a Political Act’

Interview by Raymond Lotta • Published in Revolutionary Worker • December 20, 1998
“Beneath the surface of youthful ‘ambition’—’need to graduate,” ‘need to make a career’—beneath that surface, I believe there’s always among young people a hunger to do something worthwhile and important. And if you present young people something that is happening, that touches themhellip; I find that they respond.”

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Freedom Day in Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Chapter 6 in Zinn’s biography You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train • Beacon Press • Sept. 1994; Sept. 2002
Mrs. [Fannie Lou] Hamer told me that a few months earlier she and five other movement people had been returning to Greenwood from a meeting in South Carolina. The bus stopped briefly in Winona, Mississippi, and some of them went into the “white” waiting room. They were all arrested, taken to jail, separated from one another. Annelle Ponder, a graduate of Clark College in Atlanta (her younger sister was a student of mine at Spelman), was beaten to the point where her face was so swollen she could barely speak. Mrs. Hamer was beaten with blackjacks all over her body.

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Howard Zinn’s Testimony in the Cruise Missile and Missile X Factory Trial

In 1985, Dr. Howard Zinn testified for the defense in the criminal trial of seven citizens who hammered equipment and poured blood on blueprints for the Cruise Missile and Missile X factory in Wilmington, MA. The video shows… Read More