The People’s History of the United States, written by Howard Zinn, came out in 1980 and has sold over a million copies. Partially because it is filled with primary source material from underdog activists, writers, and other overlooked people, its words are still relevant today.
Last night, Mission High School’s auditorium was filled to capacity and beyond for a reading of this primary source material by actors like Kerry Washington, Benjamin Bratt, Josh Brolin, and Diane Lane. Among the material read was Sojourner Truth’s speech “Ain’t I a Woman” given in 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention, Susan B. Anthony’s address to the judge in the case in which she was convicted of casting a ballot, and both Martin Luther King’s and Muhammed Ali’s speeches against the Vietnam War.
The works read were both incredibly poignant and still relevant to our world today. As Frederick Douglass said in 1857, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” Zinn, his source materials, and the actors who superbly brought the works to life, have reminded us that it is the underdog who has always changed history, not the powerful.
A film with even more material and even more actors will be coming out shortly, and the website is here.