Films for Action's 6 Best Videos Featuring Howard Zinn Online
By Matthew Toplikar / filmsforaction.org
Jan 26, 2014

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
Trending Today
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 11,529 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 3,788 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
PROPAGANDA (2012)
95 min · 2,527 views today · Since it mysteriously appeared on YouTube on July 18, 2012, ‘Propaganda’ has been described as ‘1984 meets The Blair Witch Project’, ‘A mouthful of scary porridge’, and ‘Even...
The Science Behind Connection
9 min · 2,264 views today · Evolutionary Biologist, Bruce Lipton, visits the Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh, India with UPLIFT writer, Jacob Devaney. Making a pilgrimage back to one of the epicenters of...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 1,945 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Life Goes On: A Positive and Uplifting Response to Dark Times
2 min · 1,677 views today · Recent world events have a lot of people feeling fearful and angry. But there is much more good than bad in this world, and I choose to remain hopeful. This video explains why.
Obama's Hidden Role in Worsening Climate Change
Stansfield Smith · 852 views today · It should be a scandal that leftists-liberals paint Trump as a special threat, a war mongerer – not Obama who is the first president to be at war everyday of his eight years...
"Desert Goddess" Remembers Arizona's Glen Canyon
7 min · 600 views today · In this excerpt from the award-winning documentary DamNation, filmmakers Ben Knight and Travis Rummel interview the "desert goddess," Katie Lee. When the Glen Canyon Dam was...
Dinosaur explains Trump policies better than Trump!
8 min · 465 views today · Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90's TV show sitcom, "Dinosaurs". 
How Mindfulness Empowers Us
2 min · 368 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...
18 Empowering Illustrations to Remind Everyone Who's Really in Charge of Women's Bodies
Julianne Ross · 327 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...
Make The Serengeti Great Again | Resource Scarcity, Demagogues and How Creativity Can Trump Hate (2017)
5 min · 308 views today · A Familiar Tale of Resource Scarcity, Demagogues, and How Creativity Can Trump Hate A quick, original, illustrated allegory that pokes at the demagogues we’ve got with an...
Stunning Photos By Alexander Semenov Showcase The Alien Beauty Of Jellyfish
Earth Porm · 290 views today · Jellyfish appear like beautiful aliens in Alexander Semenov’s photography, calling a new attraction to a magical species of marine life. Alexander Semenov is a marine...
This Zen Comic Is Full of Timeless Life Lessons
Gavin Aung Than · 265 views today · Desiderata poem by Max Ehrmann beautifully illustrated by Gavin Aung Than
Defiance in the Face of Oppression - Iranian Artist Atena Farghadani Defends the Right to Draw
Gavin Aung Than · 250 views today · Atena Farghadani is a 28-year-old Iranian artist. She was recently sentenced to 12 years and 9 months in prison for drawing a cartoon.  
Why It's Crucial for Women to Heal the Mother Wound
Bethany Webster · 237 views today · The issue at the core of women’s empowerment is the mother wound
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 220 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...
HUMAN (2015)
382 min · 212 views today · What is it that makes us human? Is it that we love, that we fight? That we laugh? Cry? Our curiosity? The quest for discovery?  Driven by these questions, filmmaker and artist...
Money & Life (2013)
86 min · 207 views today · Money & Life is a passionate and inspirational essay-style documentary that asks a provocative question: can we see the economic crisis not as a disaster, but as a tremendous...
Deconstructing Hierarchies: On Contrived Leadership and Arbitrary Positions of Power
Colin Jenkins · 206 views today · Bosses don't grow on trees. They don't magically appear at your job. They aren't born into their roles. They are created. They are manufactured to fulfill arbitrary positions...
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
Films for Action's 6 Best Videos Featuring Howard Zinn Online