Howard Zinn: A Life on the Left

( 1 )


Howard Zinn was perhaps the best-known and most widely celebrated popular interpreter of American history in the twentieth century, renowned as a bestselling author, a political activist, a lecturer, and one of America’s most recognizable and admired progressive voices.

His rich, complicated, and fascinating life placed Zinn at the heart of the signal events of modern American history—from the battlefields of World War II to the McCarthy era, the civil rights and the antiwar ...

See more details below
$19.91 price
(Save 26%)$26.95 List Price
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (26) from $1.99   
  • New (6) from $5.99   
  • Used (20) from $1.99   
Howard Zinn: A Life on the Left

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.99 price
(Save 42%)$18.95 List Price


Howard Zinn was perhaps the best-known and most widely celebrated popular interpreter of American history in the twentieth century, renowned as a bestselling author, a political activist, a lecturer, and one of America’s most recognizable and admired progressive voices.

His rich, complicated, and fascinating life placed Zinn at the heart of the signal events of modern American history—from the battlefields of World War II to the McCarthy era, the civil rights and the antiwar movements, and beyond. A bombardier who later renounced war, a son of working-class parents who earned a doctorate at Columbia, a white professor who taught at the historically black Spelman College in Atlanta, a committed scholar who will be forever remembered as a devoted “people’s historian”—Howard Zinn blazed a bold, iconoclastic path through the turbulent second half of the twentieth century.

For the millions who were moved by Zinn’s personal example of political engagement and by his inspiring “bottom up” history, here is an authoritative biography of this towering figure—by Martin Duberman, recipient of the American Historical Association’s 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award. Given exclusive access to the previously closed Zinn archives, Duberman’s impeccably researched biography is illustrated with never-before-published photos from the Zinn family collection. Howard Zinn: A Life on the Left is a major publishing event that brings to life one of the most inspiring figures of our time.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Like Zinn, [Duberman] is a strong writer who brings an easy familiarity to his subject, giving ample context for Zinn's activism and ideas, such as nimbly framing debates about historical objectivity and engagement. Nor does he shy away from thorny topics…this intelligent book reminds us of titantic moral struggles in American history and those who engaged in them.
—John Tirman
Publishers Weekly
Howard Zinn (1922–2010) was a radical activist, author of the landmark 1980 bestseller A People’s History of the United States, a bottoms-up chronicle of American injustice, racism, and hypocrisy. Admiring but occasionally critical of Zinn, Duberman (A Saving Remnant), CUNY emeritus professor of history, emphasizes that Zinn’s book made no claim to objectivity and “marked a profound shift away from the tone of triumphalism” that characterized earlier histories. Raised in poverty, Zinn served in WWII, earned a Ph.D. at Columbia, and taught at Spelman, a historically black women’s college in Atlanta, from 1956 to 1963, encouraging nascent civil right protests until he was fired for these activities. He moved to Boston University, writing and campaigning until his death. A purely American radical, Zinn had no sympathy with communism or revolution, but often appears cynical, as when he views the Bill of Rights or universal suffrage as mere concessions by the elite to pacify the masses. Duberman’s sympathetic account may lead readers to sympathize with Zinn’s stance that disparaging American freedom for not being expansive enough is preferable to glorifying it uncritically. 24 b&w illus. (Oct.)
From the Publisher

"Biography at its best, written by a master of the craft and a man who has lived the activist life and combined that with serious scholarship and innovative teaching."
—Michael Kammen, Los Angeles Review of Books

"This intelligent book reminds us of the titanic moral struggles in American history and those who engaged with them."
The Washington Post

"Owing to Duberman’s own passionate commitment to social justice and his exclusive access to Zinn's papers, his authoritative biography brings Zinn's colorful voice back to life."
ForeWord Reviews

"If you’re a fan of Howard Zinn . . . you’ll want to pick up this excellent biography."
The Progressive

"Imagine! The best of Howard Zinn and Martin Duberman between two covers. Everyone interested in A People's History and a future of justice and hope will benefit from Martin Duberman's insightful, vividly written, splendid biography. Howard Zinn: A Life on the Left is profoundly moving and perfectly timed as we regroup and reconsider our world's needs."
—Blanche Wiesen Cook, University Distinguished Professor at John Jay College and The Graduate Center, CUNY, and author of Eleanor Roosevelt

"Martin Duberman has written a fine biography. He brings us the extraordinary life of Howard Zinn, in an account that is well-informed and empathetic, sometimes gently critical, but always aware of the driving passion for direct action in the cause of social justice that was the core of Howard Zinn's being."
—Frances Fox Piven

"Howard Zinn was one of the truly great figures of twentieth-century American radicalism—an academic who shocked much of the academy by giving us a ‘people's history’ of our own country. We are fortunate that the author of this biography is Martin Duberman, himself an activist as well as an academic, who brings his passion to these pages."
—David McReynolds

"When Howard Zinn died I hoped that someone would document the extraordinary life of this extremely kind and brave man—but I never dreamed that it would be done by someone with the craft and vision of Martin Duberman. This book is destined to be a classic of twentieth-century history."
—Mark Kurlansky, author of Nonviolence and 1968

"Martin Duberman's masterful biography promises to bring the story of Howard’s life and work to new generations of readers."
—Paul Buhle, editor of A People’s History of American Empire

"A masterful biography. . . . With his typically meticulous research, Martin Duberman has ferreted out the facts and given us a complete picture, warts and all."
—Doug Ireland

Library Journal
Duberman (History, emeritus, CUNY Grad. Sch.; A Saving Remnant), acclaimed social and cultural historian, writes here about pioneering historian Zinn (A People's History of the United States), who fused an academic concern about nonelites with six decades of public action in civil rights and antiwar movements. Duberman recounts Zinn's impoverished childhood, distinguished World War II service, education at Columbia University, first professorship at Spellman College (where he rankled its president), and his later position at Boston University, where president John Silber detested him, as Duberman deliciously details. New Zinn admirers may be pleasantly surprised to learn of his early, high-profile commitment to Atlanta's antisegregation efforts and his role in founding the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Those already familiar with Zinn may find patronizing Duberman's editorializing on Vietnam, on differing approaches to sexual fidelity, and on the history of U.S. capitalism. Serious history students may wish Duberman had devoted more analysis to Zinn's methodology and professional legacy, although what brief attention he pays to those subjects is as deeply nuanced and sophisticated as one would expect from such a world-class historian. VERDICT An illuminating but incomplete intellectual biography, this will interest but frustrate historians and continue to charm the already charmed.—Scott H. Silverman, Richmond, IN
Kirkus Reviews
A star-struck biography of the prominent historian and activist. Howard Zinn (1992–2010) is best known as the author of the controversial A People's History of the United States (1979), written to counteract a perceived bias toward the wealthy and privileged in standard history textbooks by highlighting the contributions of those conventionally omitted. Though as unbalanced in one direction as Zinn felt the standard texts were in another, it has been widely influential in affecting the content of a whole generation of textbooks and course syllabi. Zinn presents a challenge for a biographer. During the 1960s, he worked courageously in the civil rights movement and against the Vietnam War; he was closely associated with such prominent figures as Stokely Carmichael, Tom Hayden and Daniel Ellsberg. His emotional life, however, is inaccessible; Zinn disliked discussing emotions and ruthlessly purged his archives of anything touching on feelings or relationships. Apart from an increasing attraction to anarchism, Zinn's political philosophy never evolved much beyond the conventional socialism he adopted in adolescence. Nor did he move on from the issues of the '60s to newer causes like women's and gay rights or globalization. Throughout a long academic career, he confined himself to discussing racial and labor issues and opposing various American military interventions. Consequently, little remains to a biographer but a succession of demonstrations attended, books and articles written, and feuds with two college presidents. By way of context, prize-winning author Duberman (History Emeritus/CUNY Graduate School; A Saving Remnant: The Radical Lives of Barbara Deming and David McReynolds, 2011, etc.) includes summaries of contemporaneous American history presented from a tendentious leftist viewpoint. While Duberman may criticize some of Zinn's writing as simplistic, one-sided or impractical, he clearly has no interest in challenging its fundamental political underpinnings. Recommended for readers already smitten with Zinn.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595586780
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 10/2/2012
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 1,496,396
  • Product dimensions: 6.76 (w) x 9.28 (h) x 1.26 (d)

Meet the Author

Martin Duberman

Martin Duberman is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at the CUNY Graduate School, where he founded and for a decade directed the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies. The author of more than twenty books, Duberman has won a Bancroft Prize and been a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. He lives in New York City.
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Author's Note xi

1 The Early Years 1

2 Spelman 29

3 The Black Struggle I 71

4 The Black Struggle II 95

5 The War in Vietnam 129

6 Writing History 155

7 Silber Versus Zinn 181

8 A People's History 215

9 The Eighties 239

10 The Nineties 263

11 Final Years 285

Notes on Sources/Acknowledgments 319

Notes 321

Index 345

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 1 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 28, 2012

    Highly recommended

    Especially for those of us who missed much of Zinn's work in the 60's and 70's, this is a very insightful walk through his life and his work. I appreciate the care taken in presenting his deep thinking and the criticisms of his work as well. This book has been my favorite winter reading!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)