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The three sides of Howard Zinn: historian, playwright and social activist. (AP Photo/Dima Gavrysh)

A state lawmaker wants to ban books by a historian who criticized the US


A state lawmaker wants to ban books by a historian who criticized the US

WATCH | 'Democracy is in dissent' those famous words uttered by activist and historian Howard Zinn have inspired Americans across the country to engage in social movements. Now, an Arkansas lawmaker wants to ban books written by Zinn from public schools. 

Book ban bill 

Arkansas state Rep. Kim Hendren introduced a one-page bill that seeks to ban any books written by Zinn after 1959 from being taught in public schools. 

The bill also includes language that prohibits any materials that mention Zinn's books.  

Zinn's controversial, bestselling 1980 book "A People's History of the United States" would be banned if the bill passes. 

Who was Howard Zinn? 

The former Boston University professor was a self-proclaimed anarchist and socialist. He was also an activist and encouraged Americans to protest and use civil disobedience to challenge political leaders. 

In a New York Times interview, Zinn famously said: "If you look at history from the perspective of the slaughtered and mutilated, it’s a different story."

"A People's History of the United States" 

Zinn's book provides an alternative view of American history.  The book analyzes U.S. history from the perspective of marginalized people. 

"Really what we’ve learned is that any changes and advances in this country if you start looking at “A People’s History,” have all be the result of organized social movement," said Deborah Menkart, Co-director of Teaching for Change, one of two groups behind The Zinn Education Project. 

Limiting free thought 

Menkart said if the bill succeeds, it would be a "tremendous danger" because banning the book would limit freedom of thought and "the ability for young people to become informed and critical thinkers." 

She said Zinn's book teaches people that they don't have to wait for a hero like Martin Luther King Jr. to come along because they can create change themselves. 

"If they learn that you passively have to wait for the next hero to come along, then that’s what we get. People who at best will vote, hope they vote for a good person and then sit back for four years," Menkart said. 

Banned before 

The Arkansas bill is not the first to target Zinn's work. in 2013, the Associated Press obtained several emails sent by former Indiana Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels showing that he had tried to remove Zinn's work from classrooms across the state. 

His books were also removed from classrooms in Tucson, Arizona in 2010 when state lawmakers voted to prohibit ethnic studies classes. 

Constituent concerns

Hendren did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Circa. 

In an interview with Reason.com, Hendren, 79, said a number of his constituents had raised concerns about Zinn's approach to history. 

"My basic personal philosophy is I think we ought to be open to hearing both sides of the situation and then try to do what's best for ourselves and our country. That's what will happen with this bill," Hendren said. 

Hendren told Reason that his bill was intended to only apply to elementary and secondary schools, not public colleges. 

The Arkansas House Committee on Education was scheduled to review the bill on Thursday. 

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