Howard Zinn (1922-2010) was a historian, playwright, and social activist. His many books include A People's History of the United States, which has sold more than two million copies, Voices of a People's History of the United States, The People Speak, The Twentieth Century, A People's History of American Empire, and Passionate Declarations.
He grew up in Brooklyn in a working-class, immigrant household. At the age of eighteen he became a shipyard worker and three years later joined the Air Force. He flew bomber missions during World War II, after which he returned to Brooklyn, got married, and occupied a basement apartment. His experiences in the shipyard and in the Air Force helped shape his opposition to war and passion for history.
He went to college under the G.I. Bill and received his Ph.D. in history from Columbia University. He taught at Spelman College, where he served as an advisor to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and worked with young Civil Rights movement activists, including Alice Walker and Marian Wright Edelman. He was fired from Spelman for his support of the students. (He returned in 2005 to give the commencement address.)
Zinn led anti-war protests, went to Vietnam with Daniel Berrigan, and testified in Daniel Ellsberg's Pentagon Papers trial. His politically engaged life brought him into many arenas: imprisonment for civil disobedience, fights for open debate in universities, and activist work from the Vietnam era to the twenty-first century.