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LUMPENPROLETARIAT—In George Orwell‘s dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, the protagonist Winston Smith lives in constant fear of the Thought Police.  In a terrifying possible future, totalitarianism has vanquished the human spirit and all traces of independent thought.  Too often, this is what it feels like in most American schools.  Indeed, academic freedom has been under attack as educators, such as Dr. Norman Finkelstein and Ward Churchill can testify, among many other educators with little or no press coverage, who have faced punitive measures for attempting to do their work in a free-thinking, critical, and principled way.

In the latest assault on freedom of speech and academic freedom, reported by Democracy Now! (and other news outlets), legislators in Arkansas are considering a bill, Arkansas House Bill 1834, intended to censor one of the most celebrated American historians, Dr. Howard Zinn.  The Arkansas House Committee on Education will consider the absurd and unconstitutional bill.



ARKANSAS TIMES—[2 MAR 2017]   Bill introduced to ban Howard Zinn books from Arkansas public schools

Max Brantley

The deadline for new legislation is fast approaching and it can’t come too soon.  Just in from Sen. Rep. Kim Hendren: Legislation to prohibit any publicly supported schools (you, too, charters)  from including in curriculum or course materials any books or other material authored by Howard Zinn.

(Actually, anything Zinn wrote before 1959 is not covered.)

Zinn, who died in 2010, was a Ph.D. historian, social activist and more who wrote the best-selling “A People’s History of the United States.”  A version for young readers came out in 2007.

His New York Times obituary probably gives you a taste of the danger Kim Hendren sees in Howard Zinn:

Proudly, unabashedly radical, with a mop of white hair and bushy eyebrows and an impish smile, Mr. Zinn, who retired from the history faculty at Boston University two decades ago, delighted in debating ideological foes, not the least his own college president, and in lancing what he considered platitudes, not the least that American history was a heroic march toward democracy.

Almost an oddity at first, with a printing of just 4,000 in 1980, “A People’s History of the United States” has sold nearly two million copies. To describe it as a revisionist account is to risk understatement. A conventional historical account held no allure; he concentrated on what he saw as the genocidal depredations of Christopher Columbus, the blood lust of Theodore Roosevelt and the racial failings of Abraham Lincoln. He also shined an insistent light on the revolutionary struggles of impoverished farmers, feminists, laborers and resisters of slavery and war.

Such stories are more often recounted in textbooks today; they were not at the time.

“Our nation had gone through an awful lot — the Vietnam War, civil rights, Watergate — yet the textbooks offered the same fundamental nationalist glorification of country,” Mr. Zinn recalled in a recent interview with The New York Times. “I got the sense that people were hungry for a different, more honest take.”


Learn more at ARKANSAS TIMES.


ZINN EDUCATION PROJECT—[2 MAR 2017]   Arkansas Bill Attempts to Ban Books by Howard Zinn in Schools

As reported in the Arkansas Timespending legislation would prohibit any publicly supported schools in Arkansas “from including in its curriculum or course materials any books or other material authored by or concerning Howard Zinn.”  The bill, submitted by Representative Kim Hendren (R), can be read in full here.

This is not the first attempt to ban books by Howard Zinn in public schools.  In 2010, Governor Mitch Daniels tried a similar move in Indiana.  In 2011, A People’s History of the United States was removed from schools in Tucson, Arizona, as part of the ban on Mexican American Studies.

The Zinn Education Project defends the right of teachers in Arkansas to use materials by and about Howard Zinn.  To date, there are more than 250 teachers in Arkansas who have signed up to access people’s history lessons from the Zinn Education Project website.  One of those high school teachers and her U.S. history students tweeted their opposition to the HB 1834.



DEMOCRACY NOW!—[3 MAR 2017]  Arkansas Bill Would Ban Howard Zinn Writings from Schools

And a bill before the Arkansas state legislature would prohibit publicly funded schools from teaching the works of late legendary historian Howard Zinn.  In 1980, Howard Zinn published his classic book, A People’s History of the United States, which would go on to sell more than a million copies.  The Arkansas bill is not the first attempt to censor Howard Zinn’s works.  Indiana’s governor attempted a similar measure in 2010; and, in 2011, Arizona lawmakers removed A People’s History from schools in Tucson as part of the ban on Mexican American Studies.

Learn more at DEMOCRACY NOW!.


HUFFINGTON POST—[5 MAR 2017]  Arkansas Lawmaker Introduces Bill Banning Howard Zinn Books

Rebecca Shapiro

A bill introduced in the Arkansas state legislature aims to bar public schools in the state from assigning books by the late author and historian Howard Zinn, the Arkansas Times reported last week.

Republican state Rep. Kim Hendren brought forth HB1834, a one-page bill that would halt the use of any book or other material authored by Zinn between the years of 1959 and 2010 in public schools and open-enrollment public charter schools. With these parameters, Zinn’s bestselling 1980 book, “A People’s History of the United States,” would be banned. The collection is a groundbreaking and controversial work that analyzed American history from the perspective of the poor and marginalized, or as Zinn put it, “the people who have been overlooked in the traditional history books.”

When the work was released, it was considered radical even for liberal historians.

“It’s not an unbiased account; so what?” Zinn told The New York Times. “If you look at history from the perspective of the slaughtered and mutilated, it’s a different story.”

More than 2 million copies of the book have been sold, and historians continue to evaluate the work’s claims, merits and accuracy. Zinn, who was a professor at Boston University, died in 2010.

Three years before Zinn’s death, his publisher released a young people’s version of the 1980 text. It also served as a companion volume to “The People Speak,” the 2009 film adaptation of Zinn’s works.

A 2009 college tour promoting the film featured performances by A-listers reading archival letters that the historian had included in his books.

The People Speak (2009, trailer)

The bill targeting Zinn’s work is not unprecedented. In 2013, the Associated Press obtained a series of emails sent by former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), in which he attempted to remove the historian’s work from classrooms across the state. Daniels, who was in office from 2005 to 2013, is now the president of Purdue University.

According to local CBS news station KTHV, the Arkansas state bill will go before the House committee on education this week. In response, the Zinn Education Project, an organization that promotes the teaching of Zinn’s work in middle and high school classrooms, will offer free copies of the tome to Arkansas teachers.

“Democracy is in dissent,” Zinn said in 2009. “Democracy is in resistance. Democracy doesn’t come from the top, it comes from the bottom.”

Learn more at HUFFINGTON POST.


Governments Lie: Howard Zinn On Class Warfare, Immigration, Justice, Film and History” published on YouTube (18 NOV 2013) [1] by Film Archives

[Transcript (of segments) of televised broadcast by Messina for Zinn Education Project and Lumpenproletariat]

[Dr. Howard Zinn lecture (~30 minutes)]

[Audience Question & Answer session (~30 minutes)]

[snip]  (c. 41:21)

UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER:  “My question has to do with your—tonight you brought up civil disobedience and the lack, I guess, of it now.  And, um, what makes me curious is: Why is that?  And I just wanted—there’s people, like, um, Aaron Russo, who’s a filmmaker, who’s got a movie out, America: Freedom to Fascism.  And they’re calling for, big people like that, are calling for civil disobedience.  But I think there’s a lack of civil disobedience because of things, like the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act.  People are scared to, you know, do that stuff as they weren’t back in the ’60s.  (c. 42:09)

“So, is there a connection between, you know, that and the lack of people doing that kind of stuff today?

“And, also, uh, the Truth Movement for 9/11: Is there a Project for the New American Century—I’m sure you’re familiar with that—and, uh, I’m wondering if they had a plan?  And do you think there was this plan before 9/11 happened, and a connection?  You have any feelings on the 9/11 Truth Movement?”  (c. 42:49)

DR. HOWARD ZINN:  “You all know about the 9/11 Truth Movement?”

AUDIENCE[collective silence]

DR. HOWARD ZINN:  “No.  [clears throat]

“It’s, it’s thought that people—tell me, if I’m misrepresenting—which I do—but our people very often repeat the questions, that they want to hear, not the questions, that were actually asked.

“So, but the 9/11 Truth Movement, I think, is a movement, which is very suspicious of what happened on 9/11, suspicious of the official story.  And they think that maybe there’s another story, and maybe the administration is hiding something serious.  Well, I don’t—frankly, I don’t know.  I’m—no, I don’t know those secrets.  I swear I don’t. [smiling innocently]


DR. HOWARD ZINN:  “You see?  And, uh, I’ll just say this about 9/11.  The administration has used 9/11, has used it to scare people and to do what it wanted.  What it wanted was to move troops into the Middle East, where the oil is.  He wanted to set up military bases in the Middle East.  And it’s used 9/11 as a wonderful opportunity.  It wasn’t going to do anything about terrorism.  It’s very obvious now. (c. 44:21)

[snip]  (c. 45:03)

UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER:  “The last speaker mentioned the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act.”


UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER:  “In the past couple weeks the Bush administration has fired ten or more top attorneys in the Justice Department.  And, under a secret provision of the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act, has been replacing them without congressional approval and with, basically, no oversight.

“So, my question about that is:  You mentioned that we should bring people to account, bring people to justice through impeachments and such things.  What happens, if, or when, the legal system is no longer responsive or refuses to take action or is filled with figure heads, that will not act?  What can we do, then, if the actual institutions no longer deliver that justice, that is necessary and needed?”  (c. 45:44)

DR. HOWARD ZINN:  “That’s—that’s a really important question because it represents reality.  That is the reality is that the system of justice, there’s no longer—if it ever was really—something you can turn to to be sure that the justice system would protect you and protect your rights.  Now, this has only rarely been true in America.  The, uh, justice system has been like other parts of the government and, generally, beholden to powerful interests—now, worse than ever.  Now, the Bush administration has taken a total hold of the system of justice.  And it’s using all the federal court appointees on the district court level and the appeals court level—it has the Supreme Court in its hands, partly with the collaboration of the Democratic Party, which caves in, instead of fighting the Republican nominees.

“And, so, yes, what do you do when you can’t depend on a system of justice to redress your grievances?  That’s where civil disobedience comes in. [smiling delightedly]  That’s where popular action comes in.  That’s where you go over the heads of the courts and do an appeal to your elected representatives, since the people in the Justice Department are not elected, are not beholden to anybody.  They often have lifetime jobs.  Your representatives have, at least, some commitment to representing their constituencies.  And that’s why putting pressure on your representatives to begin holding impeachment hearings and to demand cutting off funding for the war and bringing the troops back as fast as possible, I think, that’s a way of bypassing a recalcitrant and reactionary justice system.”  (c. 47:35)


[1]  “Governments Lie: Howard Zinn On Class Warfare, Immigration, Justice, Film and History” by Film Archives is a video recording of a Book TV (C-SPAN 2) broadcast dated 18 JAN 2007, which consists of a lecture given by Dr. Howard Zinn at Brandeis University (Waltham, Massachussetts) to promote his book, A Power Governments Cannot Suppress (DEC 2016).


[3 MAR 2017]

[Last modified at 22:12 PST on 8 MAR 2017]