Films for Action's 6 Best Videos Featuring Howard Zinn Online
By Matthew Toplikar / filmsforaction.org

Four years ago today, historian, professor, activist, author, and playwright, Howard Zinn passed away at the age of 87.  For those of us who are familiar with his work, he has been a great source of inspiration.  Zinn's book, A People's History of the United States, is probably what he is most known for.  At the time of its publishing in 1980 it put forth a radical idea for how to view history.  Instead of focusing on the viewpoint of kings, presidents, business owners, and otherwise famous historical figures, A People's History, tells the stories and struggles of the poor, the working class, immigrants, slaves, Native Americans, suffragists, civil rights activists, and many of the other little-known and everyday shapers of American history– what has lately been referred to as "the 99%".  This was important not just because it gave a critical view of "the 1%", but because it showed the courage, character, hard work, and long, step-by-step victories of a different kind of American hero– the underdog.

Possibly Zinn's central lesson when talking about history was that understanding what has happened to people in the past is essential to understanding what is going on in our lives today.  The same arguments that have been used to abuse people's rights, to oppress them economically, and to convince them to fight and pay for wars have been used again and again throughout history– and knowing this history will keep you from being taken in by some of the same deceptions and manipulations that will be used throughout your own lifetime.

Because of our great respect for Howard Zinn, we at Films For Action love sharing his vision with as many people as we can.  Over the years, we have cataloged a range of the online-available films, video clips, speeches, and interviews with and about this great American populist.  The following are some of our favorites.


You Can't Be Neutral On a Moving Train  This 2004 feature documentary (narrated by Matt Damon) is a biography of Zinn's life based on his memoir of the same name.  Starting with his early life as a bombardier during World War II, and highlighting his emergence as a teacher, civil rights, and anti-war activist, the documentary puts forth one of Zinn's most important pieces of wisdom:  To be passive, apathetic, or otherwise neutral in the face of oppressions and atrocities is to be a complicit collaborator to them.

 

 


Empire or Humanity:  What the Classroom Didn't Teach Me About About the American Empire This short film (narrated by Viggo Mortenson) is an illustrated representation of one of Zinn's personal essays.  It highlights his initial formal education of America's "Manifest Destiny" and his later, deeper understanding of it's similarities to history's other empires and their desire for wealth and power.

 

 


Howard Zinn's Speech on Civil Disobedience Probably Zinn's most powerful and popular speech was on civil disobedience– one of his favorite topics. When giving the speech in 1970, he was actually defying an order to appear in court due to a previous arrest from an anti-war protest.  Over the years, many actors have read the speech in theatrical settings and public gatherings.  Our favorite versions are read by the comedic actor Wallace Shawn, and Academy Award winner Matt Damon.

 

 


The Three Holy Wars This filmed lecture given by Howard Zinn at The Progressive's 100th Anniversary Conference asks critical questions about the three wars in American history which historians commonly put on a pedestal beyond moral, ethical, or logical judgement.  Because of this lack of critical analysis, Zinn argues that the American Revolution, the Civil War, and World War II are commonly used to historically justify the wars of today.

 

 


Voices from a People's History of the United States – One of Zinn's more interesting projects was to assemble the most inspiring letters, speeches, and essays from the unlikely heroes that populate his book "A People's History of the United States".  The text from these writings was moving enough to pique the curiosity of the talented actors, activists, and authors who perform them in this public reading and tribute to him.

 

 


A Conversation:  Howard Zinn & Woody Harrelson – From Bob Dylan and Morgan Freeman to Marisa Tomei and Rosario Dawson, many well known celebrities have shown their interest and admiration of Howard Zinn's work through the numerous performance readings of excerpts from his books.  One of his more interesting and humorous interactions with Hollywood was during a filmed, hour-long conversation he had with a very nervous and humbled Woody Harrelson in 2003 for the Manhattan Neighborhood Network.

 

 

4.0 ·
1
What's Next
Trending Today
The Myth of Positivity: Why Your Pain Holds a Mighty Purpose
umair haque · 10,913 views today · Of all the great myths of contemporary life, one of the most toxic is positivity. It says: there are negative and positive emotions, and only the positive ones are worth...
Stunning Summary of US Imperialism and Native Resistance... on MSNBC!
4 min · 10,373 views today · On The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC, Lawrence explains why a protest by Native Americans in North Dakota reminds us of the history American always tries to forget.
Veterans at Standing Rock Ask Forgiveness for War Crimes Against Tribal Nations
Jen Hayden · 9,131 views today · Jon Eagle Sr., Tribal Historic Preservation Officer at Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has reported something wholly unexpected happened at the Standing Rock Reservation today. The...
Standing Rock Wisdom: How Sacred, Nonviolent Activism Has the Power to Succeed
Charles Eisenstein · 8,335 views today · I am told by Native American friends active at Standing Rock that the elders are counseling the Water Protectors to undertake each action prayerfully and to stay off the...
Why People Cling to Old Beliefs
1 min · 7,711 views today · Cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist at McGill University, Daniel Levitin, explains why people can be so stubborn when it comes to false beliefs. This behavior is...
Solar is Already Producing More Energy Than Oil, Says Major Scientific Review
Nafeez Ahmed · 5,328 views today · And is twice as powerful than previously thought
13 Crises That We All Must Face
George Monbiot · 4,190 views today · We face (at least) 13 major crises, some of which are immediate. It’s time for some hard thinking about how we confront them.
The Other Way of Knowing
Lilian Na’ia Alessa · 2,741 views today · Western science and Indigenous worldviews are often seen as incompatible, with the Indigenous view usually being far less valued by society at large. But an inside look at...
Seven Must-Have Skills for the 21st Century
Tommy Lehe · 2,409 views today · We live in a world that moves faster than we do. Trying to keep up can be an overwhelming task that at times feels hopeless, like we are falling further and further behind—but...
Sky Roosevelt-Morris: The Secret of Indigenous Resiliency
2 min · 2,214 views today · Activist Sky Roosevelt-Morris is of the Shawnee and White Mountain Apache Nations. She is a member of the Leadership Council of the American Indian Movement of Colorado. In...
DREAM: A Spoken Word Meditation For When Life Is Kicking Your Ass
4 min · 2,176 views today · If life is kicking your ass and the general un-coolness of everybody on planet erf is making you want to off yourself, TALK to someone: 800-273-8255 (national suicide...
Andy Goes In - Working Undercover in a Factory Farm
10 min · 1,831 views today · He's a $10/hr farmhand, and his name isn't Andy. Andy Goes In is a compelling 10-minute documentary short about a Mercy For Animals undercover investigator. The vast majority...
Dear Activists, Maybe It's Time to Admit That We've Got It All Wrong
Mickey Z. · 1,801 views today · “The first step in the revolution is eye contact.” - Alicen Grey
15 Films Inspiring and Illuminating the 'New Story' Revolution
Tim Hjersted · 1,767 views today · Charles Eisenstein is one of the first people I heard talk about the "new story," synthesizing a diverse movement that has been emerging for the last several decades. When I go...
How a White Supremacist Became a Civil Rights Activist
Araz Hachadourian · 1,517 views today · The story of a KKK leader’s transformation shows us that we need not live forever with the kind of violence we saw in Charleston this month.
Australian Government Promotes Crap with Adani Carmichael Coal Mine
2 min · 1,375 views today · The Australian Government just released this advert about the proposed Carmichael Coal Mine and it's surprisingly honest and informative. 6 WAYS YOU CAN HELP STOP CCRAP: 1...
Incredible Stories From 5 Inspirational Farms
12 min · 1,353 views today · In this series of 5 short films we visit five farms where incredible things sprout. From growing massive, 100-pound vegetables to giving injured animals another chance, these...
How Mindfulness Empowers Us
2 min · 1,275 views today · Many traditions speak of the opposing forces within us, vying for our attention. Native American stories speak of two wolves, the angry wolf and the loving wolf, who both live...
Mary Lyons Describes 'The We'
29 min · 1,116 views today · Beautiful. Listen to this. 
The Invention of Capitalism: How a Self-Sufficient Peasantry was Whipped Into Industrial Wage Slaves
Yasha Levine · 1,086 views today · “…everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious.” —Arthur Young; 1771 Our popular economic wisdom says that...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Films for Action's 6 Best Videos Featuring Howard Zinn Online