I got the chance to interview Howard Zinn three years ago, in a sparse hotel room near the University of Texas campus. It was a cloudy day and with the lights turned off, the room was very blue. Zinn sat on the bed across from me and my co-interviewer in his socks. I wondered if there was a more down-to-earth, wry, and knowledgeable historian in the country. I read his seminal work, “A People’s History of the United States” a few months later.
Zinn spoke a few weeks ago at the 100th Anniversary of the Progressive Magazine. Speaking without notes, he proceeded to lay out a common-sense rebuttal to what passes for common sense in this country – the idea that the Revolutionary War, Civil War, and World War II were all necessary and just wars. Good wars, as many call them. It’s a talk that, like his book, fundamentally challenges the normative identity of America. Watch it here.
He does speak slowly. That might make the talk less accessible to some people, understandably. So if you’re pressed for time, listen to the edited version of the speech below. I shaved about 12 minutes of mostly dead air off the original recording and it moves along more quickly. But in this version you do miss Zinn’s wry humor, which is hilarious at times. Have a listen, and pass it on. Embed code here, mp3 here.