Earlier this week I had lunch with Alan Jones, Dean Emeritus of Grace Cathedral; as he shared some of his adventures since retiring, he expressed great excitement about an upcoming interview of the influential historian Howard Zinn he was preparing for at City Arts and Lectures. As I left Grace Cathedral that same evening, I walked past a movie set where Zinn's friend and former Cambridge neighbor Matt Damon was filming. Sadly, in the midst of last night's State of the Union Address I learned along with many others that Howard Zinn had passed away.
I first learned of Howard Zinn's work in college, but didn't really read A People's History of the United States until seminary, when I was taking a class at the Church of the Savior's Servant Leadership School in Washington, DC. A few years later Matt and I attended a reading at Busboys and Poets, where we heard Marian Wright Edelman, Julian Bond, and Howard Zinn movingly read the words of some of the voices chronicled in A People's History. In so many ways that gathering was like attending a revival --- it was packed with one of the most diverse crowds I've ever been part of, black, white, hispanic, young, old, gay, and straight and there wasn't a dry eye in the place.
Commondreams.org has a moving tribute to the tremendous life and work of Howard Zinn. May our lives take inspiration from his commitment to sharing the stories of the people. RIP Howard Zinn.