Monday, Feb. 15, 2010

The People Speak

A Howard Zinn Film

By David Luhrssen
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Asked again and again by students for a book that was critical of American history, rather than repeating the same old platitudes, Howard Zinn despaired and wrote his own. A People’s History of the United States (1980) became one of the best selling books ever on America’s past. Not long before his death earlier this year, Zinn co-directed The People Speak, which presents aspects of A People’s History before live audiences with actors and musicians. It’s out Feb. 23 on DVD.

The People Speak features readings by actors such as Matt Damon, Danny Glover and Morgan Freeman and musicians Eddie Vedder, Van Dyke Parks and others of the source documents for A People’s History—the letters and statements of dissenters an the songs of protest. Zinn’s core idea is that the ideals of the Declaration of Independence have always been in conflict with the reality of the U.S. Constitution, and that dissent and resistance by the American people pushed the nation toward greater democracy in an arc of history that began with the passage of the Bill of Rights and continued through recent struggles for civil rights. Zinn appears throughout the documentary, a benign but fervent figure whose work has broadened our understanding of America’s journey.

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