You Can’t be Neutral on a Moving Train
Is change possible? Where will it come from? Can we actually make a difference? How do we remain hopeful?
Howard Zinn—activist, historian, and author of A People’s History of the United States—was a participant in and chronicler of some of the landmark struggles for racial and economic justice in US history. In his memoir, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, Zinn reflects on more than thirty years of fighting for social change, from his teenage years as a laborer in Brooklyn to teaching at Spelman College, where he emerged in the civil rights movement as a powerful voice for justice. A former bombardier in World War II, he later became an outspoken antiwar activist, spirited protestor, and champion of civil disobedience. Throughout his life, Zinn was unwavering in his belief that “small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”
With a foreword from activist and scholar Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, this revised edition will inspire a new generation of readers to believe that change is possible.
Howard Zinn, professor emeritus at Boston University, was perhaps this country’s premier radical historian. He was born in Brooklyn in 1922. His parents, poor immigrants, were constantly moving to stay, as he once told me, “one step ahead of the landlord.” After high school, he went to work in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. During World War II, he saw combat duty as an air force bombardier. After the war, he went to Columbia University on the GI Bill. He taught at Spelman, the all-black women’s college in Atlanta. He was an active figure in the civil rights movement and served on the board of SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He was fired by Spelman for his activism. He was among the first to oppose U.S. aggression in Indochina. His book Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal was an instant classic. A principled opponent of imperialism and militarism, he was an advocate of non-violent civil disobedience. He spoke and marched against the U.S. wars on Afghanistan and Iraq. His masterwork, A People’s History of the United States, continues to sell in huge numbers. Among his many books are A Power Governments Cannot Suppress and Original Zinn with David Barsamian. Just before his death, he completed his last great project, the documentary The People Speak. Always ready to lend a hand, he believed in and practiced solidarity. Witty, erudite, generous, and loved, Howard Zinn, friend and teacher, passed away on January 27, 2010. His words inspire many the world over, “We don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. To live now, as human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”