Frequently Asked Questions

Why is this project named after Howard Zinn?

The Zinn Education Project was inspired by a scene from the documentary You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, in which Howard Zinn is speaking to high school students in Chicago about American history, and by a donor’s own experience of having Zinn as a professor. The donor wanted to honor Howard Zinn’s extraordinary contributions to the field of promoting “a people’s history,” and in particular his book A People’s History of the United States, which has sold more than 2 million copies and has been translated into many languages. Through this project we also seek to highlight the many resources on people’s history – including those published before and after A People’s History of the United States.

How can I get in touch with other educators who are trying to teach from a social justice perspective?

There are a number of national and regional organizations with email lists and conferences that provide opportunities to meet other progressive educators. These include:

Where else can I find progressive classroom lessons and classroom book reviews?

What do you mean by downloadable “teaching activities”?

A people’s history requires a people’s pedagogy to match. The teaching activities feature strategies that illustrate how a people’s history can be brought to life in the classroom. They are comprised of reflections on teaching about a people’s history, lessons, and critical reviews of literature. All of the suggested lessons have been used in classrooms and revised over time.

How can I contribute teaching activities to this site?

We welcome the contribution from teachers and educators of classroom-tested teaching activities. Please send an overview description and sample of your teaching activity to:

How can I support this work?

We can use support in numerous ways. Please see our Support page to find out how.

How do I join your e-mail list?

To receive our occasional e-newsletters, register for the Zinn Education Project website. You will be automatically added to our mailing list. Registration is free.

Why should students study history?

Howard Zinn answers this and other commonly asked questions about teaching a people’s history in this printed interview. The questions include:

  • What do you see as some of the major problems in how US history has been taught in this country?
  • How do you prevent history lessons from becoming a recitation of dates and battles and Congresspersons and presidents?
  • How can teachers foster critical thinking so that students don’t merely memorize a new, albeit more progressive set of facts?
  • Is it possible for history to be objective?

My school district says I can’t use A People’s History of the United States because it it too biased and it is pushing a political agenda. How can I respond?

No doubt, Zinn’s A People’s History has a perspective—and it is one that Zinn invites readers to think about in the very first chapter. That’s one of the reasons why we don’t consider Zinn’s book “biased,” because it is not hidden, unlike conventional textbooks produced by giant corporations, which never ask students to interrogate their perspective.

Zinn’s book offers perspectives not included in student’s textbooks, perspectives from people who have been on the margins. The other thing that is true is that Zinn’s book has a lot more life than traditional textbooks, and so is likely to interest students who are often—rightly—turned off by the dull presentation of history in so many books. Does Zinn have an “agenda”? It depends on what is meant by agenda. As a World War II bombardier, Zinn is passionately antiwar, and that perspective is evident in everything he writes. Having taught first at a college in the deep South during the Civil Rights Movement, Zinn is passionately against racism and in favor of people standing up for their rights. This too comes across in everything he writes. And as someone who came of age intellectually during the 1930s, he is also profoundly concerned about workers’ rights. We don’t think of these as “agendas,” but as commitments to justice and humanity.

At the Zinn Education Project, we simply want to offer teachers alternatives, so they can “teach outside the textbook.”

How do I learn more about Howard Zinn?

In addition to the books and films referenced on this website, you can visit: