The Zinn Education Project promotes and supports the teaching of people’s history in middle and high school classrooms across the country. Based on the lens of history highlighted in Howard Zinn’s best-selling book A People’s History of the United States, 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.
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 hundreds of individual donors each year. Visit our Donor page to learn why people have donated, making it possible for the Zinn Education Project to promote the teaching of people’s history.
Learn the various ways you can donate to the Zinn Education Project on our Donate page.
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.
After attending college under the G.I. Bill, he worked as a warehouse loader while earning a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University. From 1956 to 1963, he taught at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA, where he became active in the Civil Rights Movement. After being fired by Spelman for his support for student protesters, Zinn became a professor of political science at Boston University, where he taught until his retirement in 1988. Read more.
Launched in 1986, Rethinking Schools is a nonprofit publisher working for equity and justice in public schools and the broader society. Major projects include:
Since 1989, Teaching for Change has provided teachers and parents 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: