Essays and Speeches

Ella Baker: “One of the most consequential and yet one of the least honored people in America”

Source: American Radio Works
On April 24, 1968, Howard Zinn introduced organizer Ella Baker at a dinner honoring her work. Zinn described Baker as "one of the most consequential and yet one of the least honored people in America."

The Spirit of Rebellion

By Howard Zinn, from The Zinn Reader
Writing a column to appear in the July 4, 1975, issue of the Boston Globe, I wanted to break away from the traditional celebrations of Independence Day, in which the spirit of that document, with its call for rebellion and revolution, was most often missing. The column appeared with the title “The Brooklyn Bridge and the Spirit of the Fourth.”

Labor Day Special: Howard Zinn on Democracy Now!

In 2003, Howard Zinn spoke on Democracy Now! for a program called Labor Day Special: Occupied Iraq, the Role of Resistance Movements, Government Lies, and the Media.

Zinn reviewed the history of the abolitionists and the Vietnam War to encourage a new generation of resistance against the Iraq occupation and the war at home.…

The 2010 Ridenhour Courage Prize Awarded to Howard Zinn

On April 14, 2010, The Ridenhour Courage Prize was awarded posthumously to Howard Zinn “for his determination to showcase the hidden heroes of social movements throughout history, his refusal to accept the history of only the powerful and victorious, his steadfast belief in the potential for a better world, his unflinching moral stance on fighting whatever he perceived was wrong in society, his fight to inspire students to believe that together they could make democracy come alive, and, in the words of his former student Alice Walker, ‘his way with resistance.’"

A Marvelous Victory

Book cover: A Power Goverments Cannot Suppress • City Lights In this world of war and injustice, how does a person manage to stay socially engaged, committed to the struggle, and remain healthy without burning out or becoming resigned or cynical? I am totally confident not that the world will get better, but that we should not give up the game before all the cards have been played. The metaphor is deliberate; life is a gamble. Not to play is to foreclose any chance of winning. To play, to act, is to create at least a possibility of changing the world.

Untold Truths About the American Revolution

Revolutionary War Battle • Artist unknown • Georgia Studies Published in The Progressive • July 20, 2009 There are things that happen in the world that are bad, and you want to do something about them. You have a just cause. But our culture is so war prone that we immediately jump from, “This is a good cause” to “This deserves a war.” You need to be very, very comfortable in making that jump.

Changing Obama’s Mindset

Barack Obama • Photo by Chuck Kennedy • WikiCommons Published in The Progressive • May 13, 2009 We are citizens, and Obama is a politician. You might not like that word. But the fact is he’s a politician. He’s other things, too—he’s a very sensitive and intelligent and thoughtful and promising person. But he’s a politician. If you’re a citizen, you have to know the difference between them and you—the difference between what they have to do and what you have to do. And there are things they don’t have to do, if you make it clear to them they don’t have to do it.

Sacco and Vanzetti

Sacco and Vanzetti • Photographer unknown • WikiCommons Published by ZCommunications • March 11, 2009 On that 50th year after the execution, the New York Times reported that: "Plans by Mayor Beame to proclaim next Tuesday "Sacco and Vanzetti Day’ have been canceled in an effort to avoid controversy, a City Hall spokesman said yesterday." There must be good reason why a case 50-years-old, now over 75-years-old, arouses such emotion. I suggest that it is because to talk about Sacco and Vanzetti inevitably brings up matters that trouble us today: our system of justice, the relationship between war fever and civil liberties, and most troubling of all, the ideas of anarchism: the obliteration of national boundaries and therefore of war, the elimination of poverty, and the creation of a full democracy.

Howard Zinn Defends Studs Terkel from Red-Baiting in the Times

Studs Terkel • Photographer unknown • WikiCommons Published in The Progressive • November 7, 2008 Reading Edward Rothstein’s sour commentary on Studs Terkel in the New York Times on November 2, I was surprised that Rothstein, presumably a sophisticated thinker, seems to believe one can separate one’s political views from a historical narrative, even from oral history. “It is, in fact, impossible to separate Mr. Terkel’s political vision from the contours of his oral history,” he wrote.