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Grieving and Celebrating Howard Zinn

A memorial tomorrow rallies friends, family, and the public


Howard Zinn, with James Carroll, at the Howard Zinn Lecture Series in October 2009. Photo by Frank Curran

It will be a people’s history of Howard Zinn.

The prominent and not-so-prominent will recall the man and his work at a 2 p.m. memorial service tomorrow at Marsh Chapel. Boston University President Robert A. Brown will join scholar-activists Noam Chomsky and Frances Fox Piven, author James Carroll, and Zinn’s BU colleagues — a dozen scheduled speakers in all. In keeping with Zinn’s egalitarian emphasis, there will be open-mic time as well; the public is invited to attend and participate.

Zinn, a College of Arts & Sciences professor emeritus of political science, died in January at age 87.

The memorial was organized by a seven-person committee whose members hail mostly from the CAS political science department, where Zinn taught from 1964 to 1988.

“All the speakers knew Howard Zinn as a friend and will probably want to share personal memories,” says committee member Edouard Bustin, a CAS professor of political science.

Zinn was best known for his 1980 book, A People’s History of the United States, written using words and perspectives of Americans not usually quoted in history books. A liberal political activist, he was active in civil rights and antiwar advocacy.

Eulogizing Zinn brings Chomsky to campus for the second time this month. The MIT emeritus linguistics professor spoke March 2 at the College of General Studies.

Carroll, a Boston Globe columnist and National Book Award winner, shared a BU stage with Zinn in October, appraising President Obama’s first year for the Howard Zinn Lecture Series.

Piven, a sociologist and political scientist at the City University of New York, has studied and worked in antipoverty efforts since the 1960s. She is a former board member of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Sentences of remembrance will be punctuated by commas of music. The service will culminate with a rendition of “Down by the Riverside”; its repeated verse captures Zinn’s hope: “Ain’t gonna study war no more.”

A tribute to Zinn was read at a CAS faculty meeting last month by his friend and CAS political science colleague David Mayers. The department also may publish a volume of essays by scholars about Zinn and his interests, and Virginia Sapiro, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, has announced the creation of the Howard Zinn Graduate Fund for Studies of Democracy to support Ph.D. students in political science.

A Celebration of the Life of Howard Zinn will be held on Saturday, March 27, at 2 p.m. at Marsh Chapel, 735 Commonwealth Ave. The memorial service is open to the public. Contributions to the Howard Zinn Graduate Fund for Studies of Democracy are welcome. Simply enter "Howard Zinn Graduate Fund" in the box designated for "Comments/Questions". Do not make a selection from the drop-down menu in the section titled "Your Gift Designation." For further information, contact Karen Weiss Jones at 617-358-1214 or karenwj@bu.edu.

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.


4 Comments on Grieving and Celebrating Howard Zinn

  • Anonymous on 03.26.2010 at 10:23 am

    Zinn Memorial

    Will Chancellor Silber be speaking?

  • Anonymous on 03.26.2010 at 10:49 am

    Missing from the article: Francis Fox Piven taught at BU in the 1970s.

  • Bob on 03.26.2010 at 2:43 pm

    RIP and Thank You...

    I took a class from Dr. Zinn and even though it’s been a few decades, I still remember the enthusiasm he share with his students and, in retrospect, how easily he inspired everyone around him to be better people.


  • Robin on 03.26.2010 at 6:17 pm

    Honoring Prof. Zinn

    I took a class with him too. I found hime to be extremely anti-American. Why would BU at this time honor a man who is anti-American?

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