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
Rap News Special Edition: Hillary Clinton Vs Donald Trump
7 min · 13,370 views today · Hello world. RAP NEWS is back for a special episode on the 2016 USA Election mayhem, feat. Hillary Clinton vs Donald Trump + a touch of Jill Stein & Gary Johnson. This one's...
Ten Ways We Misunderstand Children
Jan Hunt · 12,985 views today · 1. We expect children to be able to do things before they are ready. We ask an infant to keep quiet. We ask a 2-year-old to sit still. We ask a 3-year-old to clean his room...
The Little Engine That Couldn't: How We're Preparing Ourselves and Our Children for Extinction
Daniel Quinn · 10,669 views today · In a recent semi-documentary film called Garbage, a toxic waste disposal engineer was asked how we can stop engulfing the world in our poisons. His answer was, "We'd have to...
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
Liam O'Ceallaigh · 4,972 views today · Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is? Most people haven’t heard of him. But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in...
Debt, Inequality and the Logic of Financial Violence
David Graeber · 4,142 views today · Five years after Occupy, organizer and anthropologist David Graeber speaks to ROAR about the power of finance, the history of inequality and the legacy of the movement.
Prince Ea Just Put The School System on Trial and Found it Guilty of Killing Free Thought
6 min · 3,453 views today · Albert Einstien once said "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid". Today Prince...
The Culture of Maximum Harm
Daniel Quinn · 2,056 views today · People have lived many different ways on this planet, but about ten thousand years ago there appeared one people who believed everyone in the world should live a single...
Incredible Photographs and Witness Statements from Charlotte and Baton Rouge Protests
Mankaprr Conteh · 1,823 views today · On September 20, a black father named Keith Lamont Scott was fatally shot by an officer of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. It is not clear if he was armed...
How You Can Support Standing Rock
Thane Maxwell · 1,568 views today · This is your pipeline battle too. Whatever you have to offer, we need it. Wherever you are, take one step deeper. Find your voice. Find your own front lines.
Yemen's Forgotten War and Famine Fuelled by Weapons from The West
3 min · 1,497 views today · The world has forgotten the war in Yemen but you'll remember these shocking images of its starving children.
The Left Deserves Better Than Jill Stein
Kate Aronoff · 1,449 views today · Stein’s Green Party run doesn’t offer a plan to win, or to build power. The Left is capable of so much more.
18 Empowering Illustrations to Remind Everyone Who's Really in Charge of Women's Bodies
Julianne Ross · 1,197 views today · When Brazilian graphic designer Carol Rossetti began posting colorful illustrations of women and their stories to Facebook, she had no idea how popular they would...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 945 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Kids Killed by Guns: America's Daily Nightmare
3 min · 937 views today · On an average day in America, seven children and teenagers will be shot dead.Gary Younge tells the stories of the lives lost on one random day - 23 November 2013. Ten children...
Olympian John Carlos on the Power of Protest
3 min · 904 views today · 1968 Olympic athlete John Carlos protested racial inequality by raising his fist in a Black Power salute on the medal stand. He has some advice for athletes like Colin...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 867 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 847 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Gabor Maté: Why Our Culture Makes So Many Of Us Unhappy
3 min · 713 views today · Dr. Gabor Maté explains why it is that our culture makes so many of us unhappy, unkind to one another, miserable, alienated from ourselves, etc. Watch the full interview in Part 2.
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 649 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
This Satirical Trump Vs. Bernie Debate Is Both Hilarious and Highly Disturbing
44 min · 615 views today · Comedians James Adomian (Bernie Sanders) and Anthony Atamanuik (Donald Trump) bring two of the most controversial candidates in history, head-to-head, or rather bald-to-toupee...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Films for Action's 6 Best Videos Featuring Howard Zinn Online