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Howard Zinn, You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train (2004) Howard Zinn, You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train (2004)

To be neutral, says the radical historian Howard Zinn (1922–2010), is to collaborate with injustice. This 78-minute documentary captures Zinn's personal story, his warmth and affability that belied his moral outrage, and his life of political activism. Zinn grew up in the tenement slums of Brooklyn. His father was a waiter with a fourth grade education; his mother finished the seventh grade. After high school he worked for three years in the shipyards, then joined the Air Force, and after that started college at age twenty-seven. After earning his doctorate in history at Columbia University, Zinn taught at Spelman College until he was fired; and then from 1964 until 1988 he was a professor of political science at Boston University. The film highlights quotes from Zinn's thirty books, uses archival footage, and incorporates reflections from friends like Alice Walker, Daniel Berrigan, and Noam Chomsky. Zinn dedicated his life to "awakening a greater consciousness of class conflict, racial injustice, sexual inequality, and national arrogance" (APH, 686), especially as those are expressed in the marriage of predatory capitalism, permanent militarism, government power, and unjust laws. It's "extremely important," he says, that citizens thus develop independent, critical judgment and learn a different sort of history, one that will "make them skeptical of what they hear from authority" and that will foster rather than suppress a "permanent adversarial culture."

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