When Howard Zinn was 17, he got his first taste of rebellion in Times Square. Invited to a political rally by a few budding communists from his Brooklyn neighborhood, Zinn watched as policemen rode in on horseback and began beating protestors. He was hit and fell unconscious.
“I woke up sometime later in a doorway, with Times Square quiet again, eerie, dreamlike, as if nothing had transpired. I was ferociously indignant,” Zinn said, according to The New York Times.
The incident sparked Zinn, who went on to serve in World War II, to earn a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University, and write his famous leftist book, “A People’s History of the United States.” Zinn passed away yesterday after suffering a heart attack in Santa Monica, Calif., where he’d been traveling, The Boston Globe reports.
His seminal work is perhaps Zinn’s most profound contribution to American students and teachers; regardless of your opinion of Zinn’s work, his voracious questioning of the status quo is admirable. And perhaps there is a way for budding young revolutionaries to emulate Zinn’s tenacity, and to muster enough fire to champion causes they believe in, regardless of how vehement the opposition.
Student inspiration could begin with research, and with uncovering a spark of inspiration, whether a memorable Zinn quote or another contrary viewpoint of history. If you know where to look online, such viewpoints can make for excellent classroom discussion points or research paper topics.
To get an idea of where to begin looking, and how to determine which online sources to take seriously, see findingDulcinea’s On This Day article about Germany’s bombing of the city of Coventry on Nov. 15, 1940. More than 500 people were killed and the city’s cathedral was destroyed in the attack. Notably, some people contend that Prime Minister Winston Churchill knew about the attack, but chose to keep it a secret to preserve an intelligence tool.FindingDulcinea’s article includes an “Opinion & Analysis” section discussing whether Churchill knew about the bombing of Coventry. The section links to a Time magazine review of “The Ultra Secret” but F.W. Winterbotham, the first to present a theory of Churchill’s actions. An article by Peter J. McIver, alleging that “Churchill Let Coventry Burn to Protect His Secret Intelligence,” posted on The Churchill Centre and Museum at the Cabinet War Rooms, London, is also included. The piece compares Winterbotham’s book with similar works by Anthony Cave Brown and William Stevenson.
Magazines that maintain comprehensive archives, such as Time, Harper’s and Life, are also good places to begin historical research. The Sweet Search results for "Winston Churchill" also impressive: Fordham University, Encyclopedia Britannica, the National Archives and PBS all appear on the first page of results.
Get more tips in our article on the best “Web Sites for Researching History,” and keep Zinn’s spirit of curiosity alive.Sarah Amandolare