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.
This is not the time warp we want to do again. Or ever. The conservative-majority SCOTUS wants to take us on a detour back in time when folks who aren’t straight white cis men didn’t have rights. A time when we thought of the planet as nothing more than an ashtray. A time when . . . you get the idea. Overturning Roe v Wade was the lowest of blows. Gutting the Clean Air Act stripped power from the EPA to curb greenhouse gas emissions. What’s next?
By Christian Coleman | Take a breath. The end of May and the start of June have been brutal. Ten Black citizens died in the white supremacist mass shooting in Buffalo, New York. Nineteen children and two teachers died in the Uvalde, Texas, elementary mass shooting. And despite the pandemic that has become a smoldering backdrop, the shootings have not stopped. We are already up to 233 this year. It’s . . . a lot. So much grief.
By Philip C. Winslow | Shortly after a teenage gunman murdered seventeen people and wounded seventeen others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, I thought back over some American history and my own familiarity with guns, and wrote here on Beacon Broadside that “In 1970, historian Richard Hofstadter popularized the term ‘gun culture’ in writing about how Americans’ resolute possession of firearms dated back to colonial days, when farmer-settlers lived on a wild frontier . . .
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.
The townspeople have clutched their pearls and fetched their pitchforks to raise hell against the new boogeyman du jour allegedly stomping the horizon. Do we dare speak its name? That boogeyman is . . . Critical Race Theory. White conservatives don’t want its antiracist agenda infecting children’s minds. The backlash is no different from the time when our former white supremacist in chief called for teaching “patriotic” histories.
By Zach Norris | Like white supremacy, patriarchy is a system of domination, this one claiming the superiority of the father (the straight male) and granting him more of all the influential and desirable stuff: more political leadership and moral authority, and more rights to own resources and property. As a result, women must get less of the power and the resources. The patriarchy also disadvantages or outright harms anyone who does not conform to heterosexuality or gender norms.
By Zach Norris | From among all the things that actually harm us, a mere sliver is addressed by our criminal legal system—a term I prefer over “criminal justice system,” because calling it a “justice system” inaccurately links it to justice, as well as fairness, healing, and safety. Generally speaking, the criminal legal system works great at protecting you and keeping you safe if you are a rich white man. It protects your power, prestige, and property, while debunking, debasing, and diminishing those who would question your right to those privileges. If you’re anyone else, it’s a lot less likely to result in justice, let alone healing.
Beacon Press supports our authors, the Asian and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, and all those fighting against American xenophobia and hatred. This violence is not new. It has a long history in this country. We know that recent acts of violence are rooted in the same white supremacy and hate that take the lives of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other people of color. We remain committed to publishing resources to help dismantle the systems of white supremacy, hate, and toxic masculinity. #StopAsianHate #EndWhiteSupremacy
A Q&A with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz | It was the first time a filmmaker showed interest in the book. I never imagined that any filmmaker, even if they loved reading the book, would be interested in using it in a documentary. But Raoul Peck is not any ordinary filmmaker. I have long admired his work. His first documentary, from 1989, was “Lumumba: Death of a Prophet,” which is about the first president of the former Belgian Congo colony that won its independence in 1960 and was then assassinated with CIA involvement.
It was the breather from 2020 we were waiting for. The election is over, and the Biden/Harris ticket won, no matter how many petty lawsuits the defeated opponent files. But wreckage and repair work await us. As Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said in her acceptance speech, democracy “is only as strong as our willingness to fight for it. To guard it and never take it for granted. And protecting our democracy takes struggle. It takes sacrifice. But there is joy in it. And there is progress. Because we, the people, have the power to build a better future.” Yes, we do.
It’s a kneejerk reaction to imagine what James Baldwin would say about the state of things in the US when the anniversary of his death comes every December 1. Especially now. Much like how the issues that folk legend Odetta sang about are still, sadly, relevant today, so it goes for the issues Baldwin wrote about in “Notes of a Native Son.” Which is why our director, Helene Atwan, says it remains so potent a text to go back to.
By Ryan Lugalia-Hollon | After forty years of mass incarceration and roughly 150 years of police brutality, we are being called to imagine a public safety system without policing. But do our minds even let us go there? Do they let us dream beyond surface-level reforms? Can we envision a wildly new and just infrastructure for peace and protection?
We support our authors, Black communities, and all those fighting against racial injustice and police violence. We can’t stop thinking of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and of too many Black lives before and after them, and as such, we recognize this is an extremely traumatic time for many. This is exacerbated by the fact that the coronavirus pandemic rages on, disproportionately affecting communities of color. We remain committed to publishing resources to help expose and dismantle the systems of white supremacy and the carceral state. With this in mind, we put together this list of racial justice resources.
By Crystal Marie Fleming | While each person’s individual path will differ, here are ten suggestions for steps we can all take, right now, to build a less racist—and racially stupid—society. Most of these recommendations can also be implemented by organizations, communities of faith, businesses, and other groups that are ready to begin the hard work of undoing racism.
By Imani Perry | I turned eight the year Stevie Wonder’s album Hotter Than July was released. My favorite song from that album was “Master Blaster.” Like most people, I imagine, I called it “Jammin,’” from its refrain, “Nobody ever told you that you / would be jammin’ until the break of dawn.” A reggae-influenced jubilant song, it makes you want to dance and laugh. And I was listening to it, nostalgically, the day before I heard that the former and first Zimbabwean prime minister, Robert Mugabe, had died.
A Q&A with M. V. Lee Badgett | The inspiration to write “The Economic Case for LGBT Equality” came from the many LGBT activists I’ve met and worked with who wanted to use the economic case to promote human rights. I have been making that economic case for LGBT equality for a long time and have seen the argument also appeal to policymakers, businesses, development agencies, and other groups. I decided to write this book to reach all of these audiences with the evidence and stories that show how stigma and discrimination against LGBT people hold back economies.
By Rosemarie Day | As Mother’s Day approaches, this year feels different. In a time of coronavirus, we need more than flowers and a day off. We need more than traditional self-care. We need recognition, deep and lasting recognition, that the work we do as caregivers is invaluable. We need recognition from society as a whole, not just our families. The pandemic has shown everyone that we are essential—women make up over half of the workforce deemed “essential,” including 77% of healthcare workers.
By Wen Stephenson | As I write, it is six weeks since everything changed where I live, in eastern Massachusetts, when the schools closed and businesses began sending their employees home. Today the Boston Globe reports 39,643 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, and at least 1,809 deaths, more than 400 of them in my county. The US now has more than three-quarters of a million confirmed cases and at least 37,000 deaths, most likely far more, with 2,000 or more dying per day—and unconscionably disproportionate losses in Black and Brown communities. Globally, at least 166,000 people have died. The old and infirm, the poor, the vulnerable, the racially marginalized, suffer most. As always.
By Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor | Howard Zinn wrote one of the most popular books on American history ever. A People’s History of the United States has sold an astonishing two million copies since its first publication in 1980. The success of the book can also be measured by the way that it spawned a new genre of “people-centered” renditions of history. Zinn’s approach to history essentially inverted the traditional approach that placed the rich and powerful, along with the institutions they governed, as the central motors in the development of society. It was history told from above. Alternatively, Zinn championed an approach to history from the bottom up or from the perspective of “the people.”