‘The exhilaration of standing with other people’ — Remembering Howard Zinn January 26, 2014

Howard and Roz Zinn at a SNCC demonstration in Boston.

Howard and Roz Zinn at a demonstration in support of SNCC in Cambridge. (c) USM Herbert Randall Freedom Summer Collection.

Howard Zinn passed away four years ago on January 27, 2010. We miss himwe miss his wisdom, his humor, his kindness, his capacity to place just about any current event in its historical context. The phrase “speak truth to power” perfectly describes the life’s work of Howard Zinn.

The Zinn Education Project continues to draw inspiration from the words and deeds Zinn left behind.

Here, we include a passage from Howard Zinn’s stirring autobiography, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train. In it he describes what he witnessed during Freedom Day in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, held almost exactly 50 years ago, on January 22, 1964. SNCCthe Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committeeattempted to register to vote hundreds of black Mississippians, in a county without a single registered black voter.

 Freedom Day, January 22, 1964, Hattiesburg, Miss. Participants include: Howard Zinn, third from left; John Lewis, arms crossed, sixth from left; Bob Moses, immediate left of street sign; and James Forman, immediate right of street sign. Photo: Mississippi Dept. of Archives and History.

Freedom Day, January 22, 1964, Hattiesburg, Miss. Participants include: Howard Zinn, third from left; John Lewis, arms crossed, sixth from left; Bob Moses, immediate left of street sign; and James Forman, immediate right of street sign. Photo: MDAH.

 

A few of the unsung heroes featured in a lesson available online. Portraits from Americans Who Tell the Truth.

A few of the unsung heroes featured in a lesson available online. Portraits from Americans Who Tell the Truth.

Howard Zinn’s essay “Unsung Heroes,” posted at the Zinn Education Project site sums up the source of Zinn’s hope for humanity:

To ward off alienation and gloom, it is only necessary to remember the unremembered heroes of the past, and to look around us for the unnoticed heroes of the present.

An accompanying lesson shows one way to bring this insight to students.

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Read remembrances by Annette Jones White and Murray Rosenblith, in our series, “Howard Zinn, Our Favorite Teacher.”

Howard Zinn was a beloved teacherat both Spelman College in Atlanta and Boston University. The Zinn Education Project has been working to collect students’ memories of Zinn as a teacher and mentor.

In 2008, the Zinn Education Project sponsored a talk by Zinn at the National Council for the Social Studies conference in Houston. Here we describe the “fundamental premises” that Zinn argued we needed to rethink in order to radically change our society for the better.

In the passage we link to about the SNCC struggle in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Howard Zinn writes about what it means to participate in a social movementwords that speak to us today:

The reward for participating in a movement for social justice is not the prospect of future victory. It is the exhilaration of standing together with other people, taking risks together, enjoying small triumphs and enduring disheartening setbackstogether.

The Zinn Education Project is honored to help bring the wisdom of Howard Zinn to educators and students across the country.

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