Howard Zinn, the 87-year-old leftist historian who had taught at Boston University and Spelman College, died in Santa Monica today reportedly of a heart attack.
For more than half a century Zinn blended activism with university scholarship. Through books, plays, and fiery speeches at political demonstrations he set out to give voice to Americans he argued had been left out of the history books, as summed up in the introduction to his seminal work, "A People's History of the United States."
"My focus is not on the achievements of the heroes of traditional history but on all those people who were the victims of those achievements, who suffered silently or fought back magnificently."
Soon after its publication 30 years go, the 700 page tome became required reading in leftists circles. Actor Matt Damon, a family friend of Zinn’s, recorded the audio version.
A noted excerpt: "The black revolt of the 1950s and 1960s, north and south, came as a surprise, but perhaps it should not have. The memory of oppressed people is one thing that cannot be taken away. And for such people with such memories, revolt is always an inch below the surface."
The Santa Monica Museum of Art issued a statement noting that the institution "was deeply saddened to learn of Howard Zinn's death."
Zinn was due to speak at SMMoA on Thursday, February 4 at 8 p.m. about his new video documentary based on his book, "The People Speak."
Musuem officials said the event will now become a tribute to Zinn and "his remarkable work as a social activist."