Trump Calls Howard Zinn’s Work “Propaganda.”

By Democracy Now

HAVANA TIMES – This week President Trump described the work of the legendary historian Howard Zinn, who died in 2010, as “propaganda” meant to “make students ashamed of their own history.” But Zinn believed the opposite, that teaching the unvarnished truth about history was the best way to combat propaganda and unexamined received wisdom.

We air excerpts from a 2009 interview with Zinn in which he explained his approach to education. “We should be honest with young people; we should not deceive them. We should be honest about the history of our country,” Zinn said.


AMY GOODMAN: We end today’s show with the words of the late historian Howard Zinn. On Thursday, President Trump lashed out at educators who teach about the U.S. history of slavery and racism. He announced a so-called patriotic education plan to combat “toxic propaganda” in schools. Trump called the teaching of critical race theory a “form of child abuse,” lashed out at the 1619 Project, the Pulitzer Prize-winning series by The New York Times which reexamines the legacy of slavery. Trump also directly criticized Howard Zinn during his speech at the National Archives Museum in Washington, D.C.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The left-wing rioting and mayhem are the direct result of decades of left-wing indoctrination in our schools. It’s gone on far too long. Our children are instructed from propaganda tracts, like those of Howard Zinn, that try to make students ashamed of their own history.

AMY GOODMAN: So, we’re turning back now to 2009, Howard Zinn appearing on Democracy Now! less than a year before he died. He just published A Young People’s History of the United States. I asked him to respond to a question he had frequently been asked about his work: Is it right to be so critical of the government’s policies, of the traditional heroes of the country?

HOWARD ZINN: It’s true that people have asked that question again and again. You know, should we tell kids that Columbus, whom they have been told was a great hero, that Columbus mutilated Indians and kidnapped them and killed them in pursuit of gold? Should we tell people that Theodore Roosevelt, who is held up as one of our great presidents, was really a warmonger who loved military exploits and who congratulated an American general who committed a massacre in the Philippines? Should we tell young people that?

And I think the answer is: We should be honest with young people; we should not deceive them. We should be honest about the history of our country. And we should be not only taking down the traditional heroes like Andrew Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt, but we should be giving young people an alternate set of heroes.

Instead of Theodore Roosevelt, tell them about Mark Twain. Mark Twain — well, Mark Twain, everybody learns about as the author of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, but when we go to school, we don’t learn about Mark Twain as the vice president of the Anti-Imperialist League. We aren’t told that Mark Twain denounced Theodore Roosevelt for approving this massacre in the Philippines. No.

We want to give young people ideal figures like Helen Keller. And I remember learning about Helen Keller. Everybody learns about Helen Keller, you know, a disabled person who overcame her handicaps and became famous. But people don’t learn in school and young people don’t learn in school what we want them to learn when we do books like A Young People’s History of the United States, that Helen Keller was a socialist. She was a labor organizer. She refused to cross a picket line that was picketing a theater showing a play about her.

And so, there are these alternate heroes in American history. There’s Fannie Lou Hamer and Bob Moses. There are the heroes of the civil rights movement. There are a lot of people who are obscure, who are not known. We have it in this Young People’s History. We have a young hero who was sitting on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama, refused to leave the front of the bus. And that was before Rosa Parks. I mean, Rosa Parks is justifiably famous for refusing to leave her seat, and she got arrested, and that was the beginning of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and really the beginning of a great movement in the South. But this 15-year-old girl did it first. And so, we have a lot of — we are trying to bring a lot of these obscure people back into the forefront of our attention and inspire young people to say, “This is the way to live.”

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Howard Zinn appearing on Democracy Now! in 2009. Howard Zinn was attacked by President Trump on Thursday. The Zinn Education Project criticized Trump’s call for “patriotic education.” The project tweeted, “So what explains the rebellions in 1676, 1680, 1786, 1831, 1859, & more by Native Americans, enslaved Africans, coal miners, & more? #HowardZinn wasn’t alive then,” unquote.

To see our full interview with Howard Zinn, you can go to, as well as all of our interviews with Howard Zinn over the years.

And that does it for our broadcast. Democracy Now! is produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Libby Rainey, Nermeen Shaikh, María Taracena, Carla Wills, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo, John Hamilton, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud and Adriano Contreras. Our general manager is Julie Crosby. Special thanks to Becca Staley, Miriam Barnard, Paul Powell, Mike DiFilippo, Miguel Nogueira, Hugh Gran, Denis Moynihan, David Prude. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.

Read more news reports on Havana Times.

9 thoughts on “Trump Calls Howard Zinn’s Work “Propaganda.”

  • Mr MacD , I will look into the particular chapter of mid 20th century U.S. paranoia which you recommend. Thank You.
    As I say, I have no problem with Paul Robeson. In my eyes he was/is a legend. I know many Communist supporters who are likewise, wonderful people.
    I even know some Conservatives who are half-decent !!
    Where Robeson slipped up, in my humble opinion, was in his repeated refusal to distance himself from Stalin.
    I stated that we live in a paradoxical world. You prove my point by singing the praises of an unrepentant Stalinist (who, as we both agree, happened to be a wonderful fella).
    I don’t have a problem with this paradox. You may wish to say that you don’t either?
    But then again maybe not???

  • Nick, may I suggest that you watch the video of Paul Robeson being questioned at the House Committee on Un-American Activities on June 12, 1956. It is interesting to observe his distinction between support for communism and freedom for his people.

  • Totally agree with the comments from Dani and Curt.

    Regarding Paul Robeson – he lived well into the 1970s.
    Stalin’s ‘Uncle Joe’ tag had long worn off by then. By that time most Communist supporters had come to terms with the fact that they had been wrong to defend Stalin. But Robeson could never make the transition.
    In my previous comment I described Robeson as a great man which he most definitely was.
    But on the topic of Stalin I would entirely disagree with Paul Robeson’s point of view.

  • In addition to Zinn, every American should read William Blum.

  • How can Trump make judgements on Howard Zinn, when he never read anything he wrote. Trump probably never read a whole book in his life. He barely knows how to read. Why do you think he is so vocabulary challenged? He is the most illiterate president in US history.

  • Nick, You obviously fail to comprehend that I give recognition where it is due. I also take into account the reasons that lie behind actions. Example? I have consistently recognized that the revolution in Cuba led by Fidel Castro, was both inevitable and necessary. I quote from the introduction of ‘Cuba Lifting the Veil’:

    “The author believes that an – other Cuban revolution was almost inevitable and necessary during the 1950’s in Cuba which was then controlled by the Batista dictatorship which had achieved power in a coup and which operated in cahoots with the US Mafia under the leadership in Havana of Meyer Lansky. It is his view that had Fidel Castro remained true to his supposedly original views – in 1952 he was a candidate for the Orthodox party until the election was cancelled by Batista, if he had in 1959 following a period of military rule necessary to establish stable administration, law and order, held open free elections, the Cuba of today would be very different and Fidel Castro like Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela would have earned a similarly honoured place in world history for freeing his people and introducing real democracy. But Fidel Castro in his craving for control and personal power, chose otherwise, he chose communism and dictatorship.”

    Note Nick that I looked at motivation, I act similarly in examining Robeson and his history. Robeson sought as a black man in the US living under segregation, to free his people and enable them to access the same advantages that whites possessed. He had little political activity during his pre-war sojourn of some nine years in the UK, where he had a romantic liason with a white woman, Peggy Ashcroft. But upon returning to the US, found having experienced being treated as equal, the conditions there totally unacceptable.

    During the Second world War, the Allied propaganda made “Uncle Joe” and Russia into an amenable ally seeking to defeat the Nazis. All of us thought at that time, of Russia as a friend – the communist system and its objectives were not discussed. Reality came later. To Robeson, Russia – which had no black people, appeared to offer equality to all. When visiting Moscow, he was treated as more than equal and encouraged to speak publicly about the evils of US segregation, it well suited the purposes of Russian communist propaganda.

    You may have noticed that my praise of Robeson, is for the cause he pursued, and the risks he took upon behalf of his people – just as I recognized the justification for the 1959 Cuban revolution.

  • Mr MacD, I would agree wholeheartedly regarding Paul Robeson. You have referred to him previously and when you sing his praises I find it somewhat paradoxical.
    Paul Robeson was a huge supporter of Communism. Many Communist supporters of that era came to a realisation that Stalin was bad news. Robeson never ever managed to reach that point. He could never bring himself to say a single bad word about Stalin’s record.
    Mr MacD, I don’t disagree with you about the great Paul Robeson at all.
    But I do find your praise of him to be somewhat paradoxical given your strong dislike of the very same political system that he was such a big supporter of.
    But then, we live in a paradoxical world don’t we?

  • For me, it is astonishing that the US and in particular the black citizens, fail to recognize the endeavours of the great Paul Robeson. His actions ought to have a firm and prominent place in US history, for he was active prior to the birth of Martin Luther King. It was he, who sought a law against lynching from President Truman, it was he who in an address to the United Nations, said “I accuse my country, the United States of America of genocide.” and it was his passport that was taken away by the US State Department upon the grounds that they could not permit a black American to criticize the US government in other countries.
    Whitewashed histories are worthless.
    One minor correction! People are human beings and ought to be treated as such – not like human beings.

  • Howard Zinn was a great U.S historian. He shone a light on various chapters of U.S. history that most definitely occurred. He didn’t make them up.
    The problem is that the powers that be wish to exclude these chapters from the official version of U.S. history. This does a great disservice to the past and the present.
    There are chapters of history that would be consigned to the garbage if it were not for Mr Zinn and other like minded folks.
    If the governing bodies in the USA imply that everyone is a piece of sh*t and therefore they are gonna act like a piece of sh*t then the upshot will be what?
    Howard Zinn said that everyone is a valid human being and that everyone deserves to be treated like a human being.

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