Second Thoughts on the First Amendment
“Congress shall make no law…abridging freedom of speech.” There it is. Plain and simple. The First Amendment to the Constitution. But since 9/11 that amendment has been under sustained attack. Whistleblowers John Kiriakou, Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and others are hounded, threatened and imprisoned by the U.S. government. A fascinating and compelling account of past and present efforts to secure and expand political and social rights for workers, women and African-Americans. A classic Zinn from our archives.
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.”