About the Zinn Education Project

The Zinn Education Project promotes and supports the teaching of people’s history in middle and high school classrooms across the country. The website offers free, downloadable lessons and articles organized by theme, time period, and reading level. The Zinn Education Project is coordinated by two non-profit organizations, Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change.

Its goal is to introduce students to a more accurate, complex, and engaging understanding of United States history than is found in traditional textbooks and curricula. The empowering potential of studying U.S. history is often lost in a textbook-driven trivial pursuit of names and dates. People’s history materials and pedagogy emphasize the role of working people, women, people of color, and organized social movements in shaping history. Students learn that history is made not by a few heroic individuals, but instead by people’s choices and actions, thereby also learning that their own choices and actions matter.

We believe that through taking a more engaging and more honest look at the past, we can help equip students with the analytical tools to make sense of — and improve — the world today. For a more complete description, read A People’s History, A People’s Pedagogy.


Project Background

In late 2007, former Boston University journalism student William Holtzman watched You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, the film about the life of historian, professor, and activist Howard Zinn. It brought back memories of attending Professor Zinn’s remarkable lectures at Boston University in the 1970s. He always marveled at how Zinn’s “people’s history” was so much more alive and accurate than the traditional history he received in high school.

After a successful career in technology, Holtzman wanted to bring Zinn’s work to a new generation of students. So he called Howard Zinn. “I contacted Howard and said I that I wanted to honor him and extend the reach of his work,” said Holtzman. “Howard didn’t care about the former, but was very open to the latter.”

Zinn introduced him to two non-profit organizations, Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change. Each group has over 20 years of experience in providing social justice resources and professional development for pre-K-through-12 classroom teachers and teacher educators.

With the support of Holtzman and others, Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change partnered to launch the Zinn Education Project.

Some 30 years after his exposure to Howard Zinn’s “people’s history,” the former Boston University student who initiated this project demonstrates that classroom experience can have a lifelong impact.


The primary support to sustain and build the Zinn Education Project comes from individual donors. Learn more.

Howard Zinn

Howard Zinn grew up in Brooklyn in a working-class, immigrant household. At the age of 18 he became a shipyard worker; three years later, he joined the Air Force. He flew bomber missions during World War II, after which he returned to Brooklyn, got married, and occupied a basement apartment. His experiences in the shipyard and in the Air Force helped shape both his opposition to war and his passion for history. More.

Coordinating Organizations

Rethinking Schools

Launched in 1986, Rethinking Schools is a nonprofit publisherlogo-rs working for equity and justice in public schools and the broader society. Major projects include:

  • Rethinking Schools, an award-winning quarterly magazine, unique among education publications. Edited by practicing and former pre-K-through-12 teachers with almost 200 years of combined classroom experience, it features a wide range of articles portraying some of this country’s finest social justice teaching. Other articles analyze the policies that help or hinder public education.
  • A series of books, providing practical examples of how to integrate social justice education into social studies, history, language arts and mathematics. They are used widely by new as well as veteran teachers and in teacher education programs. Every Rethinking Schools book grows out of diverse schools and classrooms throughout the country.
  • A website, www.rethinkingschools.org, offering a wealth of resources on teaching for equity and justice, and making sense out of national education policy.

Teaching for Change

Since 1989, Teaching for Change has provided teachers and parenttfclogos with the tools to create schools where students learn to read, write and change the world. Awarded Organization of the Year by the National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME) in 2004, Teaching for Change pursues its mission through:

  • Professional development for pre-K-through-12 teachers, based on the publication Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching, and for early childhood educators in anti-bias education.
  • A highly-effective parent-empowerment program called Tellin’ Stories, which builds grassroots multiracial parent power in schools.
  • Publications sold through our webstore and our own publications, which include: Beyond Heroes and Holidays: A Practical Guide to K-12 Anti-Racist, Multicultural Education and Staff Development; the Caribbean Connections series; and Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching.
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