Peter Dreier’s "The Fifty Most Influential Progressives of the Twentieth Century" [Oct. 4] drew a tremendous response. We received close to 1,000 nominations from readers, naming their favorites who hadn’t made the cut. Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky and Dorothy Day were top picks; other choices may surprise you. Read the full "Nation Readers’ Top Ten List," which Dreier has annotated with profiles highlighting their invaluable contributions, at thenation.com/community. Help us start a new list for the twenty-first century.
As a history teacher, I found Peter Dreier’s list fabulous! So many radical men and women made a more democratic America. They showed "true grit," love of our country and their belief in economic and social justice. All were considered radical or dangerous in their day, and yet we easily accept their views now. A great list.
I scanned your pages for the name of Howard Zinn and was astonished that it was not included. His People’s History brought new insights to countless students and workers; he was a civil rights and antiwar activist; his "war is never justified" message still resonates; he was an ally of the Berrigans, Daniel Ellsberg, workers, organizers and prisoners. I imagined his response: such lists are foolish and, worse, a distraction. The Nation‘s descent to a "top ten" list may be au courant, but it’s discouraging.
Your list was a great learning experience. There were many names I was not aware of and enjoyed finding out about. As an educator, I found it rewarding: there are so many true heroes for students to learn about. One person I think warrants consideration is Howard Zinn, a man who changed how we teach history: hero worship is out; everyday people are in.
KEVIN M. BROWN
Royal Oak, Mich.
You made glancing references to Howard Zinn and Studs Terkel but left them off your list. You may have thought them not influential enough, but the FBI felt otherwise. I propose a rule of thumb here: anybody rated high on the FBI list should probably show up on your list. They’ve more than paid their dues. That having been said, your list is very, very good.
Your list would have neared perfection with the remarkable Fannie Lou Hamer (1917–77) on it. As a female African-American sharecropper in the most brutally Jim Crow state, Mississippi, she faced obstacles arguably greater than all on your list. In addition to her courageous voting rights activism, Hamer served notably in the women’s rights, economic justice and antiwar movements. Her many achievements were accomplished in a short lifetime and despite suffering disabilities from a 1963 beating by Mississippi police.
New York City
Leaving Noam Chomsky off the list is analogous to leaving Michael Jordan off a list of The Fifty Best Basketball Players of the Century. No human being has contributed more to progressive discourse, or fought more for human rights here and around the world, than Chomsky.