Who’s your favorite people’s historian, and why is it Howard Zinn? He’s ours, too, and today, August 24, he would have turned one hundred. He wore many hats: social activist, professor, author, and playwright. He meant so much to us here at Beacon Press. Going through the books we published of his, including his memoir, “You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train,” we get a little misty eyed. To celebrate his hundredth birthday, we pulled some beloved quotes that showcase his life’s worth of wisdom and insights on hope, the politics of writing history, the power of social movements, nonviolence, class, race, education, and much more.
Nobody wanted long COVID on our collective pandemic Bingo card, but there it is. In her “The Daily Show” interview, OG disability rights badass Judy Heumann told Trevor Noah that the likelihood of his acquiring a disability, temporary or permanent, was statistically high. He took her statement as a threat in jest, but there’s truth in that for us.
It’s flying graduation caps season! We’re not post-pandemic, but graduates are embarking on a world stage that looks different from what it was two or three years ago. Some of those differences are alarming.
By Tourmaline | I was a preteen when the first edition of “Transgender Warriors”—the foundational text by the late, great Leslie Feinberg—was published in 1996. It came into the world at a pivotal time for me, providing the life-changing context that would help me to understand who I was and who came before me. Context that, before this book, could only be found scattered in disparate places, passed down in whispers and folklore, or translated and excavated from bigoted depictions of historical trans figures deemed deviant by the status quo.
A Q&A with Jonathan Rosenblum | That’s a really good question, Matt. To the examples you gave, I would also add the fight to eliminate student debt. The Joe Biden administration is resuming mandatory debt payments for millions of workers in this country, which is going to be economically devastating. The Biden administration has also ended the eviction moratorium protecting people from eviction, millions and millions of working class people are now in jeopardy of losing their homes.
A Q&A with Jonathan Rosenblum | I’m really excited to be in this discussion with Canadian comrades about what’s going on here in the States and the prospects for organizing in the period ahead. I actually started out many decades ago as a rank-and-file union member in the newspaper industry, as a member of the International Typographical Union, which now I think is part of the Teamsters.
By Keisha N. Blain | In 1957, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a speech on the power of voting. King argued that access to the ballot would allow Black Americans to remake society without having to wait for federal support. He argued that voting was a solution for the many challenges Black Americans faced. King’s speech also addressed the 1954 Brown Decision. In the aftermath of Brown, local school districts and politicians continued to resist the attempts to desegregate schools nationwide.
By Solomon Jones | The pain of that night was still fresh in Tracy’s mind when I interviewed him in 2015, three years after George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon. Tracy also remembered the good times he’d shared with his son, and he freely shared all he could recall. Tracy, a truck driver who grew up in the impoverished city of East St. Louis before moving to Miami in his early twenties, lit up when he talked about Trayvon.
By Jonathan Rosenblum | It’s time for an all-labor national day of action to defend Starbucks workers. The Starbucks baristas, REI retail workers, Amazon warehouse workers, striking Warrior Met mineworkers and concrete truck drivers, along with other workers bravely organizing and fighting back, are at the forefront of resisting unbridled corporate greed in this new Gilded Age. But they won’t succeed if the fights are limited by region or industry.
What a difference a year makes. Book banning is back—and it’s on steroids. Is it a coincidence that it’s all the rave—more like rage—during Black History Month? The pearl-clutchers have assembled and are targeting not only books dealing with sex and gender but also books featuring Black themes and US history. It’s a predictable flex. A tired flex.
A Q&A with Jeanne Theoharis | I think people assume that they know her. Even many people who know Rosa Parks wasn’t just a simple seamstress who accidentally walked into history don’t realize how much of her history—the militancy of her early activism in Montgomery, her activism in Detroit, her work in the Black Power movement—is still largely unrecognized.
A Q&A with Solomon Jones | One of the things I realized in working against racism in policing is that Frederick Douglass was right when he said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” You simply can’t have an effective movement without very specific demands. If you don’t know exactly what you want and you can’t articulate it clearly, the power structure decides for itself what it is willing to give, and that often turns out to be nothing.
By Jonathan Rosenblum | Once again, Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant and her Socialist Alternative organization have beaten the political odds. Last month, she defeated a million-dollar recall campaign by real estate developers and landlords, Democratic Party leaders, big Trump donors, and newspaper editorialists, who all teamed up to evict the eight-year councilor from City Hall.
President Biden sure is making up for lost time. At this year’s tribal nations summit, skipped over the previous four years by you know who, he signed an executive order for the US to take steps to protect tribal lands and address the epidemic of missing and murdered Native Americans. He proposed a ban on federal oil and gas leases on the sacred tribal site of Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico. And in his official White House proclamation for Native American Heritage Month, he listed more commitments the country will make to Indian Country.
By Dina Gilio-Whitaker | The Red Power movement was just one aspect of the social revolution that swept across the American social landscape in the 1960s and ’70s, paralleling other ethnic nationalisms, women’s liberation, the antiwar movement, and the emergence of a new, rebellious, and predominantly white middle-class counterculture. Disenchanted with the conservative values of their parents’ generation and witnessing the increasing degradation of the environment, countercultural youth looked to other cultures for answers to existential questions they perceived as unavailable in mainstream American society.
By Christian Coleman | Break out the confetti and the champagne! We’re having a double celebration for civil rights activist Desmond Meade! First, he has been named a 2021 MacArthur Fellow! Secondly, it’s the first-year anniversary of his book, “Let My People Vote: My Battle to Restore the Rights of Returning Citizens.” The MacArthur Foundation selected him to join this year’s class of Fellows because of his work to restore voting rights to 1.4 million formerly incarcerated citizens in Florida and to remove barriers to their full participation in civic life.
By Robert P. Moses and Charles E. Cobb, Jr. | The Algebra Project is first and foremost an organizing project—a community organizing project—rather than a traditional program of school reform. It draws its inspiration and its methods from the organizing tradition of the civil rights movement. Like the civil rights movement, the Algebra Project is a process, not an event. Two key aspects of the Mississippi organizing tradition underlie the Algebra Project: the centrality of families to the work of organizing, and organizing in the context of the community in which one lives and works.
The Civil Rights Movement has lost another great one. Radical educator, global-minded activist, MacArthur genius fellow. On July 25 at age 86, Bob Moses joined the ancestors. While we’re heartbroken about his passing, we remain honored to have published Radical Equations, which he wrote with Charles E. Cobb to tell his story of founding the Algebra Project. He provided a model for anyone looking for a community-based solution to the problems of our disadvantaged schools and improving education for poor children of color.
A Q&A with Leigh Patel | As someone who has a deep love of learning and teaching, places of formal education have often brought me some amount of heartbreak. We have absolutely stunning teachers because they are also learners, and students who teach as they continue to learn. However, much of education, and glaringly so in higher education, has been shaped by mythologies of who is smart, intelligent, deserving, and more recently in higher education, what to do to bring in money. I often say to my students that they have been told lies about society in their K-12 education and that they’ve come to love those lies.
By Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove | As I’ve traveled to share North Carolina’s story, I’ve seen how a reconstruction framework can help America see our struggles in a new light. Everywhere we’ve gone—from deep in the heart of Dixie to Wisconsin, where I saw water frozen in waves for the first time—I heard a longing for a moral movement that plows deep into our souls and recognizes that the attacks we face today are not a sign of our weakness, but rather the manifestation of a worrisome fear among the governing elites that their days are numbered and the hour is late.