To commemorate the passing of the great Howard Zinn and the major impact he’s had on so many thinkers and activists, The Nation asked friends of the magazine and of Zinn to offer remembrances of the man and his work. “Somehow, Howard Zinn was one of those people I just thought was immortal,” wrote Nation columnist Patricia Williams. Anthony Arnove, Marian Wright Edelman, Tom Hayden, Steve Cobble, Kaveh Afrasiabi, Frances Fox Piven, John Cavanagh and others share their memories of Zinn, and the effect he had on their writing, lives and activism, below. If you, too, would like to contribute a recollection, please send us a web letter here. We’ll publish additional contributions as they arrive.
| Anthony Arnove
Marian Wright Edelman
Kaveh L. Afrasiabi
Co-director with Zinn of The People Speak
When a New York Times obituary writer contacted Howard Zinn a few months ago, explaining that he wanted to interview him for their files, Howard didn’t miss a beat. “What’s your deadline?” he asked. Sharing that story recently, a few of us out for dinner with Howard after a reading of Voices of a People’s History of the United States with Harry Belafonte, who Howard had met that evening for the first time, could all laugh easily at the joke because we all felt that his obituary would not be written for many years to come. He had such a life force, such an energy, it seemed unthinkable we could all lose him when we did. Though Howard could easily have slowed down in recent years, especially after the loss of his remarkable life-partner, Roz, he didn’t. Working with him on our documentary The People Speak, which aired on History in December and is out this month on DVD, I was constantly running to catch up. Having the privilege of working with Howard for much of the last decade of his remarkable life, I was able to observe his artful approach to politics. He made the most radical ideas seem commonsensical and gave people a sense that a life in struggle is the most meaningful and rewarding one imaginable. He gave us an idea of the kind of world we want, and why it’s worth fighting for. Howard has left us a remarkable legacy and example, and through his work has also given us, to borrow a phrase from the socialist Raymond Williams, resources of hope. La lutta continua.