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FBI Releases 'Radical Historian' Howard Zinn's File, Which It Opened In 1949

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hide captionThe FBI released a 423-page file on Howard Zinn, author of 'A People's History of the United States,' who died earlier this year.

Bryan Bedder/Getty Images North America
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The FBI released a 423-page file on Howard Zinn, author of 'A People's History of the United States,' who died earlier this year.

Bryan Bedder/Getty Images North America

Earlier today, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released a 423-page file on Howard Zinn, "radical historian, teacher, playwright, and political activist."

Zinn, the author of A People's History of the United States, which has sold more than 2 million copies, died in January, following a heart attack he suffered while swimming. He was 87 years old.

Gawker has some highlights. On Nov. 5, 1953, for instance, two agents approached Zinn in New York City.

According to their report, "He was advised that the Bureau had received information concerning his associations with the [Communist Party] and was affording him this opportunity to discuss it with agents of the FBI."

ZINN stated that he was not now or was he ever a member of the CP. He acknowledged that perhaps his activities in the past had opened him to charges that he was associated with the CP as a member; however he was not. He also denied that his wife was or had been a CP member. He stated that he was a liberal and perhaps some people would consider him to be a 'leftist.' ZINN said that he had participated in the activities of various organizations which might be considered Communist fronts but that his participation was motivated by his belief that in this country people had the right to believe, think and act according to their own ideals. He stated, however, that the individual right should not be extended to violate the rights of others. He continued that he did not believe in the doctrine of force and violence and further that any individual or organization did not have the right to advocate or teach the overthrow of the Government of the United States by force or violence.

According to the FBI, it began to investigate Zinn in 1949, noting his involvement with left-wing political groups after he served as a bombardier in World War II:

The Bureau noted Zinn's activities in what were called Communist Front Groups and received informant reports that Zinn was an active member of the CPUSA; Zinn denied ever being a member when he was questioned by agents in the 1950s. In the 1960s, the Bureau took another look at Zinn on account of his criticism of the FBI's civil rights investigations. Further investigation was made when Zinn traveled to North Vietnam with Daniel Berrigan as an anti-war activist. The investigation ended in 1974, and no further investigation into Zinn or his activities was made by the FBI.

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