One Step Ahead of the Landlord
Join Howard Zinn as he talks about his background, formative experiences and the path he took. He says, “I grew up in the slums of Brooklyn, a working class family. My parents were immigrants. My father came from Austria, my mother from Asiatic Russia, Siberia. I remember moving all the time. We were always one step ahead of the landlord. And changing schools all the time. My father struggled, went from job to job. I wanted to get out of the house all the time. Where we lived was never a nice place. I was in the streets a lot. I understand what it’s like for kids to live in and prefer the streets. That’s how I grew up.”
Interviewed by David Barsamian.
Recorded at KGNU.
HOWARD ZINN CENTENARY 1922-2022
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 masterpiece, A People’s History of the United States, continues to sell in huge numbers. Among his many other books are You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, Failure to Quit: Reflections of an Optimistic Historian and Original Zinn with David Barsamian. Shortly 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 by many the world over, Howard Zinn, friend and teacher, passed away on January 27, 2010. He would say, Don’t mourn. Get active. The struggle for peace and justice continues.