'A People’s History of the United States' author spoke with KPCC a month before his death

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Author Howard Zinn speaks during the People Speak ASCAP Music Cafe performance held during the 2009 Sundance Music Festival on January 22, 2009 in Park City, Utah.

Thirty years ago, “A People’s History of the United States” attempted to offer a bottom-up viewpoint on American history that differed from most books’ focus on powerful individuals.

The author of that volume, Boston University historian Howard Zinn, died Wednesday in Santa Monica. He’d traveled there to present a documentary based on his book at the Santa Monica Museum of Art.

In December, when TV's History Channel presented the film, Zinn told KPCC’s Patt Morrison that other authors left too much out of the history books he used.

“I wanted to present American history from the standpoint of those people who had been left out of the textbooks," he said. "You know, from the standpoint of GI’s rather than generals, of working people, rather than industrialists; of the victims of war, rather than the military heroes. “

Critics claimed that Zinn was unpatriotic. He responded that patriotism also required dissent, activism and a critical eye toward standard takes on history. The World War II Army Air Force veteran - an early and outspoken critic of the U.S. war in Vietnam - was 87 years old when he died.

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