Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Mumia Speaks:Howard Zinn, Master Historian

Howard Zinn, Master Historian
[col. writ. 1/28/10] (c) '10 Mumia Abu-Jamal

It should surprise no one when a man, nearly 90, dies. It is as natural as moonlight, as regular as a rainbow after a summer shower.

And yet, the passing of Howard Zinn surprises. He was a few months shy of 90, true, but he was still a bright eyed and brilliant lecturer, whose sense of humor gave a wondrous sparkle to his speeches and humanized his writing.

He is perhaps best known for his masterwork, A People's History of the United States; 1492 - Present, (Harper Collins, 1980/2003. which sold millions of copies. Zinn was an adherent of the 'history from below' school of history, and wrote from the perspective of the bottoms of societies, not the top. He wrote about Black slaves fighting for freedom, Native folks fighting for sovereignty, poor white workers fighting for the right to unionize, women fighting for the right to work and vote, soldiers, gay folks, prisoners, and students struggling to learn about the history of their country.

And while Zinn was indeed a brilliant, ground-breaking historian, he didn't write about the poor from a scholars distance; he grew up desperately poor in New York, joined the Air Force during World War II, and became a bombardier. Like many young service members, he read incessantly. When he left the service, he used the G. I. Bill to study at Columbia where he earned his Ph.D.

And while he earned an advanced degree, he learned things he hadn't planned on when he taught at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA, for his teaching took place during the eruption of the Civil Rights movement, and student protests against the U.S. apartheid system of segregation. Spelman, a Black women's college, had its share of activists, who, when they tried to leaflet, were stopped, threatened and prevented from leafleting by the cops.

Zinn, teaching legal history and constitutional law to many of these students, learned that what the law books and cases said meant nothing in the real-life world of Georgian apartheid. In his 1990 book, Declarations of Independence, Zinn wrote:

The law was plain. A series of Supreme Court decisions made
the right to distribute leaflets on a public street absolute. It
would be hard to find something in the Bill of Rights that was
more clear cut than this.
I told my students this. But I knew immediately that I must tell
them something else; that the law didn't much matter. If they
began handing out leaflets on Peachtree street and a white
policeman (all police were white in Atlanta at the time), came
along and said "Move!" what could they do? Cite the
relevant Supreme Court cases to the policeman. {p.198}

This was Atlanta: 1961, and the Movement taught Zinn many realities about America.

Howard Zinn. Historian. Activist. Playwright. Prodigious writer. Father of the People's History movement. Friend.

--(c) '10 maj
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The Power of Truth is Final -- Free Mumia!

URGENT Need for Petition Signatures at: http://www.iacenter.org/mumiapetition/

Audio of most of Mumia's essays are at: http://www.prisonradio.org

Mumia's got a podcast! Mumia Abu-Jamal's Radio Essays - Subscribe at the website or on iTunes and get Mumia's radio commentaries online.

Mumia Abu-Jamal's new book -- JAILHOUSE LAWYERS: PRISONERS DEFENDING PRISONERS V. THE USA, featuring an introduction by Angela Y. Davis -- has been released! It is available from City Lights Books: http://www.citylights.com/book/?GCOI=87286100448090

If you are planning to organize an event or would like to order in bulk, you can also receive a 45% discount on any bulk orders of 20 copies or more. The book retails for $16.95, for orders of 20 copies or more the discounted price would be $9.32 per book, plus shipping and handling. Prepayment would be required and books are nonreturnable. If you or your organization would like to place a bulk order, please contact Stacey Lewis at 415.362.1901 or stacey@citylights.com

Let's use the opportunity of the publication of this brilliant, moving, vintage Mumia book to build the momentum for his case, to raise the money we desperately need in these challenging economic times, to get the word out – to produce literature, flyers, posters, videos, DVD's; to send organizers out to help build new chapters and strengthen old ones, TO GET THE PEOPLE OUT IN THE STREETS … all the work that we must do in order to FREE MUMIA as he faces LIFE IN PRISON WITHOUT PAROLE OR EXECUTION!
Please make a contribution to help free Mumia. Donations to the grassroots work will go to both INTERNATIONAL CONCERNED FAMILY AND FRIENDS OF MUMIA ABU-JAMAL and the FREE MUMIA ABU-JAMAL COALITION (NYC).

Please mail donations/ checks to:
NY 10030
215 476-8812
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