Happy 90th, Howard Zinn

Howard Zinn
August 24, 1922 – January 27, 2010

More than two years after his passing and on what would have been his 90th birthday, Howard Zinn’s work continues to inspire people worldwide. A hero in word and deed, Zinn’s views on freedom, fairness, history, democracy, and our own human potential are educational and transformative. In few places is the genius of his voice more crystallized and accessible than in the dozens of articles he penned for The Progressive magazine from 1980 to 2009, collected in the book The Historic, Unfulfilled Promise. Today we’re honoring his work with some choice quotes from the book below. Share your favorite Howard Zinn quotes or books in the comments section.

Quotes from Howard Zinn’s The Historic Unfulfilled Promise:

“Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens.”

We have a responsibility not only to resist, but to build on the heritage of those movements, and to move toward the ideals of egalitarianism, community, and self-determination—whether at work, in the family, or in schools—which have been the historic, unfulfilled promise of the word democracy.”

“Whenever I become discouraged (which is on alternate Tuesdays, between three and four) I lift my spirits by remembering: The artists are on our side! I mean those poets and painters, singers and musicians, novelists and playwrights who speak to the world in a way that is impervious to assault because they wage the battle for justice in a sphere which is unreachable by the dullness of ordinary political discourse.”

We who protest the war are not politicians. We are citizens. Whatever politicians may do, let them first feel the force of citizens who speak for what is right, not for what is winnable, in a shamefully timorous Congress.”

“There is a basic weakness in governments—however massive their armies, however wealthy their treasuries, however they control the information given to the public—because their power depends on the obedience of citizens, of soldiers, of civil servants, of journalists and writers and teachers and artists. When these people begin to suspect they have been deceived, and when they withdraw their support, the government loses its legitimacy, and its power.”

“There is no act too small, no act too bold. The history of social change is the history of millions of actions, small and large, coming together at critical points to create a power that governments cannot suppress.”

“The challenge remains. On the other side rare formidable forces: money, political power, the major media. On our side are the people of the world. On our side also is a greater power than money or weapons: truth.”

“We do not need another war president. We need another peace president.”

“People who have no respect for human life or for freedom or justice have taken over this beautiful country of ours. It will be up to the American people to take it back.”

Read the introduction and first essay from the book here.

To learn more about the life of Howard Zinn, visit his official commemorative page Howard Zinn, and to support the legacy  of his work, visit the Zinn Education Project.


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