[Howard Zinn raw #38]

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Howard Zinn is interviewed on the radio. In another location, he gives remarks and takes questions at an after-dinner event. Also included are a few minutes of footage from a Q&A session at Kansas State University.

0:02 Footage of Howard Zinn in the airport

0:39 A radio host and Howard Zinn share their opinions on the state of news broadcasting and journalism (audio is choppy throughout). They mention Hannity & Colmes, Charlie Rose, the filmĀ Bulworth.

5:53 The actual radio interview starts. The radio host asks Zinn about his metaphor of history as a moving train. Zinn says that it started as something he told his students to let them know “this is not going to be a neutral class.” “The world is already moving in certain directions… wars are going on, children are going hungry, some terrible things are happenings… and to be neutral, to be passive, in a situation like that, is to collaborate with whatever’s going on and I, as a teacher, do not want to be a collaborator.”

7:47 Zinn presents his idea of the citizen and the responsibility of students as citizens to question the government and express their opinions. He discusses Rousseau and Nazi Germany. “Students going to college and university these days, they’re learning to be professionals, they’re learning to go into a field, they’re going to become engineers or they’re going to become teachers or social workers or lawyers or whatever. And the tendency will be, the temptation will be, the pressure on them will be to just concentrate on their field and let the politicians decide the policies of the country.”

12:44 Zinn speaks further on the responsibility of being an active citizen. He explains how the abolition of slavery came about through active citizens voicing their opinions, shifting public perception of the issue and putting pressure on the press and politicians. He talks about the working conditions faced by ordinary people during the post-Civil War “economic miracle” and the development of the American labor movement and the victories it achieved.

18:58 The radio host asks Zinn how somebody finds the courage to stand up and take on that responsibility. Zinn answers by recounting the ordinary Black Southerners who led the Civil Rights movement.

21:18 Zinn says that the visibility of student activism has declined since the 1960s and since Vietnam, there has been no central issue around which people can gather. “Today, in the United States, the issues are so complicated. Most of them have to do with economics, with money, with taxation, with complicated issues which people have a hard time understanding, even the economists don’t understand it.” He discusses voter apathy. “Fifty percent of the voting population stays away from the polls when you have a national election. That must mean that there’s a great deal of alienation from the national political process and a loss of faith in the political establishment.”

26:05 The radio host says that there seems to be a “national selfishness” among Americans, demonstrated through a lack of concern for the hunger and poverty faced by others. Zinn says that he doesn’t think that people are naturally selfish, but that they’re made selfish. He uses the example of welfare reform, describing how politicians and the media advanced the notion that welfare programs were bad and needed to be reduced or eliminated. “There’s something wrong with the kind of information that people are getting from the national networks and the important people who get on the national networks, and we have a desperate need to get information to people that they don’t have.” He talks about the economic interests behind media misinformation.

31:28 Howard Zinn says he does see changes taking place that break down the dominant narratives of history. He observes a shift over the past 10-15 years in how people talk about and teach about Christopher Columbus.

32:40 End of radio interview footage.

32:52 Zinn takes the podium to give some remarks at a dinner (audio is boomy, shot from far away). He jokes about telling the audience he’s in favor of war because he’s giving a talk later and doesn’t want people to hear the same thing twice. He gives a brief overview of his life: serving in the air force, becoming a historian, teaching at Spelman College and getting involved with the civil rights movement, teaching at Boston University and getting involved in the anti-war movement during the Vietnam War.

40:31 Howard Zinn opens up for questions. An audience member asks him if he’s changed the world. Zinn says that we all change the world in small ways. He talks about teaching as an act of faith and says that compared to high school teachers, university teachers have a much easier job.

44:19 Zinn explains how he was fired from Spelman College. “Women’s colleges always tend to be more conservative than men’s colleges, Southern colleges more conservative than Northern Colleges, and black colleges more conservative than white colleges.” He describes the atmosphere as repressive and paternal. He says that the arrival of the civil rights movement changed everything and students stood up against the College administration, as well as racism in Atlanta. He was fired for supporting the students who were mobilizing for change at the College itself.

49:15 Zinn responds to a question about justice by asserting the need to distinguish between justice as it should be and justice as it operates in the judicial system.

50:53 Zinn says that he feels that there has been a change in how he’s been received over the years. He says that people today have a greater desire for alternative information and a readiness to hear the other side of the story, which he attributes to the successes of the anti-war movement and the changes it brought to public life. He talks aboutĀ A People’s History of the United States. “I’m encouraged by the reactions I get.”

58:30 Zinn concludes his remarks and the audience applauds.

59:05 Footage of a Question and Answer session at Kansas State University. An audience member asks Zinn about aggrieved veterans. Zinn talks about soldiers being glorified for enlisting, and subsequently neglected. He talks about WWII as an exception, because it included the passage of the GI Bill. He mentions the Bonus Army after WWI and the Vietnam veterans.

 

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