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Historian Howard Zinn would have turned 100 in 2022. His monumental work, A People’s History of the United States, published in 1980, continues to have an impact today. For Zinn’s’ centennial we explore what made his model of history different with three guests who were influenced by his bottom-up approach: Anthony Arnove worked with Zinn throughout the latter part of his life, and wrote the introduction for the 35th-anniversary edition of Zinn’s classic work; Jamaican poet, performer and writer Staceyann Chin performed in The People Speak, a documentary film based on A People’s History; and Imani Perry, professor of African American Studies at Princeton University who just won the National Book Award for Nonfiction for her own bottom-up history: South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation. What lessons can we take from Howard Zinn’s model of history for this time?
“. . . was extremely clear on the importance of anti-racist education, so he would be absolutely in solidarity with people associated with critical race theory . . . who are just trying to do basic education about the history of racism . . .” – Anthony Arnove
“This book is only beginning to uncover what really happened throughout history . . . a hundred years from now, new truths will come forward and be recorded in new ways. New enlightenments will come to us, and new truths will land on us in different ways.” – Staceyann Chin
“Even as there are devastating events and all of this injustice, you actually can feel hopeful. That’s incredibly important . . . that you give people a sense of possibility and a desire to invest in freedom.” – Imani Perry
- Anthony Arnove: Editor, Voices of a People’s History of the United States; Director, The People Speak; Editor, Director & Producer, Voices
- Staceyann Chin: Poet, Performer, & Activist, The People Speak
- Imani Perry: National Book Award Nonfiction, South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation; Professor, African American Studies, Princeton University
Portions of this interview are featured in our episode “Howard Zinn at 100: A People’s History, Urgent Lessons for the Present.”