Saturday, January 30, 2010

Howard Zinn: 1922-2010

We lost two literary giants in the space of a few days, J.D. Salinger and Howard Zinn, both of whom had a powerful influence on my view of the world and my teaching career. In the preface to People's History of the United States, Zinn said that he chose to  focus "not on the achievements of the heroes of traditional history, but on those people who were victims of those achievements, who suffered silently or fought back magnificiently." Patricia Sullivan of the Washington Post wrote an article outlining Zinn's philosophy, quoting Zinn: "There is no such thing as impartial history.  The chief problem in historical honesty isn't outright lying. It is omission or de-emphasis of important data." Rest in peace, Howard Zinn.


  1. Indeed, rest in peace. This is an excellent shot, Kate. All fiction writers slant history by their choices of emphasis and omission, I'm afraid non-fiction writers must do the same, whether they do so consciously or not. It's even more impossible to capture an historical moment than it is to capture this moment now. Each of us will perceive the moment differently and come away with a view we are convinced is accurate...and it is...for that individual. For the person who keeps his or her job through this economic downturn for instance, it's not that bad. For the person who loses job, home, family...entirely different story.

  2. I'm not sure to understand this, history is a science not a fairy tale or a narrative that some people can change forever to meet their interests.
    This could happens for a while, there are bad and servile historians, but we reasonably know what happened in the past, and that it's not a point of view.
    To follow a school of thought is a thing, to say that any point of view is good is hazardous...


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