Howard Zinn

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Historian Howard Zinn, who died January 27, 2010, was best known for his A People's History of the United States (1980). Zinn directly experienced many of the events he wrote about in his work. A voice for the poor, minorities, and those living in terrible conditions, and for outsiders in America, Zinn was born in 1922 to Jewish immigrants and grew up in Brooklyn's racially mixed slums. A critic of militarism, Zinn was a veteran who served as a bombardier in the Air Force, joining at twenty-one and serving with distinction. A longtime champion and witness to the struggles of the working man, Zinn had worked in shipyards and saw his parents work in factories.

After Zinn hurt his back while loading trucks in a warehouse, he became a teacher. After earning a PhD from Columbia University (1956), Zinn took a position teaching at Spellman College in Georgia. Zinn was a white man teaching at a college for African-American women (including a young Alice Walker), but he became so active in organizing student action for social justice that he was eventually fired in 1963. Throughout the sixties, Zinn was involved in many protests and campaigns to register black voters. Zinn wrote about these activities in The Southern Mystique (1964), SNCC: The New Abolitionists (1964), and You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train (1994). Zinn was eventually involved in these activities on a very high level: he testified at the trial of Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo, who had released the thousands of classified pages related to the war in Vietnam known as the "Pentagon Papers."

As a historian, Zinn was known for the specific focus...

(The entire section is 399 words.)