A People's History of the United States - A Lecture at Reed College
Reviewed by Plutonium
Saturday, January 30 1999, 7:05 PM
Howard Zinn keeps it real on this double-CD recorded live at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. The disc also happens to bear the same name as Zinn's seminal piece of multicultural historiography, 1980's A People's History of the United States. The CD sounds like a homecoming between a knife and a whetstone, with Zinn sharpening his critical commentary before an amused and loving audience of lefty college students and professors. Having released plenty of CDs by outspoken radicals such as Mumia Abu-Jamal, Judi Bari and Noam Chomsky, Alternative Tentacles and co-publisher AK Press Audio do a great job of indexing the CD set's 103 minutes. This makes it easier to modulate your intake of Zinn's sardonic warnings about living a critically oriented life.
Look out for Zinn's alkaline advice about avoiding things that are "dangerous to your career." He's had plenty of experience, from being a decorated WWII US Air Force pilot to getting his Ph.D. at Columbia and serving with the Alliance for Nuclear Disarmament. Since the early 1960s Zinn has written extensively for both academic and more informal publications about history and government.
But here Zinn is mostly a historian who happens to be selling a popular book with dozens of little social histories about radical subjects. The CD focuses on Mumia Abu-Jamal, HUAC, labor histories, and the Mexican war, as key talking points for a gathering of wild-ass college students. Zinn discusses a great deal of his own personal history too, especially about the economic insecurities of his working class family in New York during the Great Depression. His own tale plays easily into his other stories about economic power and the role of work and war in the economy and society.
Alternative Tentacles Records/AK Press Audio CO/AT, POB 419092 San Francisco CA 94141-9092 www.alternativetentacles.com