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You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times Paperback – September 5, 2002
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It begins with his 1956 acceptance of a teaching post at Atlanta's Spelman College, a school for black women that would soon be caught up in the civil rights movement. Zinn, who had already been radicalized on the streets of Brooklyn as a teenager, got caught up along with his students (who included the future head of the Children's Defense Fund, Marian Wright Edelman, and author Alice Walker), and was kicked out in 1963 for "insubordination." He moved to Boston University, where he became an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War, and would prove a constant thorn in the side of university president John Silber throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
Zinn writes in plain language that brooks no nonsense when it speaks of moral urgency, but he isn't above a sense of humor. Noting that the FBI was watching him constantly during the war era, he wryly observes that, "I have grown to depend on them for accurate reports on my speeches." Individual scenes leap out at the reader: Zinn's horror when he realized, years after WWII, that he had dropped napalm bombs on German troops; a meeting in a college classroom with the sister and parents of one of the victims of the Kent State massacre; Selma, Alabama, police beating blacks attempting to register to vote while federal agents stand by and do nothing. Through it all, Zinn writes, "I see this as the central issue of our time: how to find a substitute for war in human ingenuity, imagination, courage, sacrifice, patience." --Ron Hogan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
More About the Author
Zinn grew up in Brooklyn in a working-class, immigrant household. At 18 he became a shipyard worker and then flew bomber missions during World War II. These experiences helped shape his opposition to war and passion for history. After attending college under the GI Bill and earning a Ph.D. in history from Columbia, he taught at Spelman, where he became active in the civil rights movement. After being fired by Spelman for his support for student protesters, Zinn became a professor of Political Science at Boston University, were he taught until his retirement in 1988.
Zinn was the author of many books, including an autobiography, You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train, the play Marx in Soho, and Passionate Declarations. He received the Lannan Foundation Literary Award for Nonfiction and the Eugene V. Debs award for his writing and political activism.
Photographer Photo Credit Name: Robert Birnbaum.
Top Customer Reviews
It's hard to read this and not ask yourself questions about what you would have done in the same situation, and it seems to me that it's also difficult to avoid questioning what you can do now. Not that you need to agree with everything Zinn says, by any means. It's a push towards living by your own values, and standing up for what you see as right, even in very small ways.
This is not a hard-boiled-hit-you-on-the-head kind of memoir. Zinn has a sense of humor about himself, and doesn't lose a sense of reality. At one point he refuses to pay a fine and spends time in jail. After a night with the cockroaches he changes his mind and pays the fine. He doesn't come off as the perfect saint, only someone consistently willing to say something and someone who consistently tries to do the right thing. I admire him for that. And because of his humanity I can identify with him - and share his hope.
The result is an inspiring read, though one marred by the odd organization of the book. By choosing to focus on the campaigns he waged against the problems he encountered, Zinn provides less a traditional autobiography than an account of his public career. As a result, the reader is left to piece together the narrative of Zinn's life, which can be frustrating when seeking to understand how he became such a fervent activist to begin with. This is the only complaint with what is otherwise a passionate account of how one person can make a difference in the times in which he lives.
Anyone who has read some of Zinn's other writings, anyone who has an interest in progressive politics, anyone who wants to find out more about this amazing man should read this book. It is a must for any Howard Zinn fan!!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An absolutely inspirational book that I read as a result of my teacher recommending it. Totally great if you're looking for any sort of inspiration to act but also a good read... Read morePublished 1 month ago by me
Truly inspirational. Easy to read, accessible vignettes. I have purchased many copies to pass on to family and friends.Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
I had to read this book for a history class, and to put it nicely, I don't tend to enjoy learning about history, partially because it's either distorted to seem pretty or presented... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Gabriela Pereira Leite