HOWARD ZINN QUOTES

American historian & social activist (1922-2010)

Howard Zinn quote

History is instructive. And what it suggests to people is that even if they do little things, if they walk on the picket line, if they join a vigil, if they write a letter to their local newspaper. Anything they do, however small, becomes part of a much, much larger sort of flow of energy. And when enough people do enough things, however small they are, then change takes place.

HOWARD ZINN, interview, Raw Story, Sep. 9, 2005

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Tags: history


If patriotism were defined, not as blind obedience to government, nor as submissive worship to flags and anthems, but rather as love of one's country, one's fellow citizens (all over the world), as loyalty to the principles of justice and democracy, then patriotism would require us to disobey our government, when it violated those principles.

HOWARD ZINN, Declarations of Independence: Cross-Examining American Ideology

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Tags: patriotism


I suppose the most revolutionary act one can engage in is ... to tell the truth.

HOWARD ZINN, Marx in Soho

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Tags: truth


Capitalism has always been a failure for the lower classes. It is now beginning to fail for the middle classes.

HOWARD ZINN, A People's History of the United States

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Tags: capitalism


Democracy depends on citizens being informed, and since our media, especially television (which is the most important source of news for most Americans) reports mostly what the people in power do, and repeats what the people in power say, the public is badly informed, and it means we cannot really say we have a functioning democracy.

HOWARD ZINN, Huffington Post, Jan. 28, 2010

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Tags: democracy


It's not right to respond to terrorism by terrorizing other people. And furthermore, it's not going to help. Then you might say, "Yes, it's terrorizing people, but it's worth doing because it will end terrorism." But how much common sense does it take to know that you cannot end terrorism by indiscriminately dropping bombs?

HOWARD ZINN, Terrorism and War

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Tags: terrorism


It is possible, reading standard histories, to forget half the population of the country. The explorers were men, the landholders and merchants men, the political leaders men, the military figures men. The very invisibility of women, the overlooking of women, is a sign of their submerged status.

HOWARD ZINN, A People's History of the United States

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Tags: women


It had long been true, and prisoners knew this better than anyone, that the poorer you were the more likely you were to end up in jail. This was not just because the poor committed more crimes. In fact, they did. The rich did not have to commit crimes to get what they wanted; the laws were on their side. But when the rich did commit crimes, they often were not prosecuted, and if they were they could get out on bail, hire clever lawyers, get better treatment from judges. Somehow, the jails ended up full of poor black people.

HOWARD ZINN, A People's History of the United States

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Tags: prison


When the Democrats are attacked for [inciting class warfare] they shrink back. They don't say what obviously should be said, "Yes, there is class warfare. There has always been class warfare in this country." The reason the Democrats shrink back is because the Democrats and the Republicans are on the same side of the class war. They have slightly different takes. The Democrats are part of the upper class that is more willing to make concessions to the lower class in order to maintain their power.

HOWARD ZINN, interview, Identity Theory, Jan. 10, 2001

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Tags: democrats


Behind the deceptive words designed to entice people into supporting violence -- words like democracy, freedom, self-defense, national security -- there is the reality of enormous wealth in the hands of a few, while billions of people in the world are hungry, sick, homeless.

HOWARD ZINN, preface, You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train

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Tags: wealth


Human beings are not machines, and however powerful the pressure to conform, they sometimes are so moved by what they see as injustice that they dare to declare their independence. In that historical possibility lies hope.

HOWARD ZINN, You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train

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Tags: hope


We don't have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can quietly become a power no government can suppress, a power than can transform the world.

HOWARD ZINN, A Power Governments Cannot Suppress

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Tags: action


When a nation issues ultimatums, it leaves no room for compromise and ensures that war will continue.

HOWARD ZINN, Howard Zinn on War

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Tags: compromise


I am supposing, or perhaps only hoping, that our future may be found in the past's fugitive moments of compassion rather than in its solid centuries of warfare.

HOWARD ZINN, A People's History of the United States

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Tags: future


Pessimism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; it reproduces itself by crippling our willingness to act.

HOWARD ZINN, You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train

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Tags: pessimism


War is a form of terrorism. I know there are people who don't like to equate-- what was done-- you know on September 11th, 2001, they don't like to equate that with a war that the United States engaged in. Sure, they're different. But they're not different in the-- in the fundamental principal that drives the terrorists and that is, they're saying, we're going to kill a lot of people but it will be worth it. We're trying to do something. We're trying to accomplish something. They-- the terrorists are not killing people just for the sake of killing people, they have some end in mind. To show that the American empire is vulnerable or to make some point about American policy in the Middle East. But they have an end in mind. We are doing the same thing. I mean, as I say, the details are different, but we are willing to kill a lot of people for some political end that we have declared.

HOWARD ZINN, Bill Moyers interview, Jan. 10, 2003

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The supposedly contending groups who run American society, Democrats and Republicans and Whigs and Democrats and Federalists and anti-Federalists, they really are part of the same elite group.

HOWARD ZINN, Howard Zinn Speaks: Collected Speeches, 1963-2009

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The memory of oppressed people is one thing that cannot be taken away, and for such people, with such memories, revolt is always an inch below the surface.

HOWARD ZINN, A People's History of the United States

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Tags: memory


Terrorism has replaced Communism as the rationale for the militarization of the country [America], for military adventures abroad, and for the suppression of civil liberties at home. It serves the same purpose, serving to create hysteria.

HOWARD ZINN, Terrorism and War

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Indeed, it is impossible to be neutral. In a world already moving in certain directions, where wealth and power are already distributed in certain ways, neutrality means accepting the way things are now. It is a world of clashing interests -- war against peace, nationalism against internationalism, equality against greed, and democracy against elitism -- and it seems to me both impossible and undesirable to be neutral in those conflicts.

HOWARD ZINN, Declarations of Independence: Cross-Examining American Ideology

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Tags: neutrality