Cover image for Failure to quit : reflections of an optimistic historian
Failure to quit : reflections of an optimistic historian
Zinn, Howard, 1922-2010.
Personal Author:
[South End Press edition].
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : South End Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
164 pages ; 22 cm.
General Note:
Originally published: Monroe, Me. : Common Courage Press, 1993.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E175.5.Z56 A25 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
E175.5.Z56 A25 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



A selection of Howard Zinn's most popular and accessible essays on history and politics. In this lively collection of essays, now with a new afterword, Zinn discusses a wide range of historical and political topics, from the role of the Supreme Court in U.S. history to the nature of higher education today.

Author Notes

A committed radical historian and activist, Howard Zinn approaches the study of the past from the point of view of those whom he feels have been exploited by the powerful.

Zinn was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1922. After working in local shipyards during his teens, he joined the U.S. Army Air Force, where he saw combat as a bombardier in World War II. He received a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University in 1958 and was a postdoctoral fellow in East Asian studies at Harvard University.

While teaching at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, Zinn joined the civil rights movement and wrote The Southern Mystique (1964) and SNCC: The New Abolitionists (1964). He also became an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War, writing Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal (1967) and visiting Hanoi to receive the first American prisoners released by the North Vietnamese.

Zinn's best-known and most-praised work, as well as his most controversial, is A People's History of the United States (1980). It explores American history under the thesis that most historians have favored those in power, leaving another story untold. Zinn discusses such topics as Native American views of Columbus and the socialist and anarchist opposition to World War I in examining his theory that historical change is most often due to "mass movements of ordinary people."

Zinn's other books include You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times (1995) and Artists in Times of War (2004). He has also written the plays Emma (1976), Daughter of Venus (1985), and Marx in Soho (1999).

(Bowker Author Biography) Howard Zinn grew up in the immigrant slums of Brooklyn, where he worked in shipyards in his late teens. He saw combat duty as an air force bombardier in World War II, and afterward received his doctorate in history from Columbia University. His first book, "La Guardia in Congress", was an Albert Beveridge Prize winner. In 1956, he moved with his wife and children to Atlanta to become chairman of the history department of Spelman College. He has since written and edited many more books, including A People's History of the United States, SNCC: The New Abolitionist; Disobedience and Democracy; The Politics of History; The Pentagon Papers: Critical Essays; You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times; and The Zinn Reader (Seven Stories Press, 1997).

Zinn is also the author of three plays, Emma, Daughter of Venus, and Marx in Soho. Among the many honors Zinn has received is the 1998 Lannan Literary Award for nonfiction. A professor emeritus of political science at Boston University, he lives with his wife, Roslyn, in the Boston area, near their children and grandchildren.

(Publisher Provided)

Table of Contents

Preface to the South End Press Editionp. ix
Introductionp. 1
"Who Controls the Past Controls the Future": Interview with David Barsamianp. 3
The Optimism of Uncertaintyp. 23
Objections to Objectivityp. 29
The Problem is Civil Obediencep. 43
The Supreme Court is Not Supremep. 53
The Bill of Rightsp. 59
Second Thoughts on the First Amendmentp. 69
How Free is Higher Education?p. 89
Just and Unjust Warsp. 99
Terrorism Over Tripolip. 117
Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress: 1492-1992p. 121
"Je Ne Suis Pas un Marxiste"p. 145
The Perils of Platop. 151
Failure to Quitp. 157