“Zinn writes with an enthusiasm rarely encountered in the leaden prose of academic history. . .” – New York Times Book Review
A Power Governments Cannot Suppress is Howard Zinn’s major new collection of essays on American history, class, immigration, justice, and ordinary citizens who have made a difference.
Howard Zinn unlocks America’s current political/ ethical crisis and challenges us to confront power for the common good. Bringing a profoundly human perspective to the diverse subjects he writes about – the Founding Fathers, government dishonesty, winning the war on terrorism, respecting the holocaust, defending the rights of immigrants – Zinn approaches history from an active, engaged point of view. He writes, “America’s future is linked to how we understand our past. For this reason, writing about history, for me, is never a neutral act.”
Zinn opens the book with an essay titled “If History is to be Creative,” a reflection on the role and responsibility of the engaged historian. “To think that history-writing must aim simply to recapitulate the failures that dominate the past,” writes Zinn, “is to make historians collaborators in an endless cycle of defeat.” “If history is to be creative, to anticipate a possible future without denying the past, it should, I believe, emphasize new possibilities by disclosing those hidden episodes of the past when, even if in brief flashes, people showed their ability to resist, to join together, and occasionally win. I am supposing, or perhaps only hoping, that our future may be found in the past’s fugitive moments of compassion rather than in its solid centuries of warfare.”
Buzzing with ideas, stories, and anecdotes spanning from the Revolutionary War and the War with Mexico through to World War II, Vietnam, 9/11, and the U.S. occupation of Iraq, Zinn’s view of American history is not a praise of famous leaders, but those who rebelled against them in the name of social justice. While writing extensively on current events and the consequences of U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Iraq, Zinn also dedicates entire chapters to troublemakers like Henry David Thoreau, Eugene Debs, Philip Berrigan, Italian immigrants Sacco & Vanzetti, and heralds not the soldiers who fought for George Washington, but those who deserted the Revolutionary Army because of intolerable mistreatment from elitist commanding officers. For Zinn, the voices and stories of ordinary working Americans, immigrants, working people, and soldiers comprise the real storyline of our history.
Featuring essays penned over an eight-year period, A Power Governments Cannot Suppress is Howard Zinn’s first writerly work in several years, an invaluable post-9/11-era addition to the themes that run through his bestselling classic, A People’s History Of the United States.
"Thank you, Howard Zinn. Thank you for telling us what none of our leaders are willing to: The truth. And you tell it with such brilliance, such humanity. It is a personal honor to be able to say I am a better citizen because of you."
“This brilliant new book – like Howard Zinn’s presence, and his whole life, is the best possible antidote to political despair. Read it, and rejoin the struggle for a human world and a foreign policy that’s good for children.”
– Daniel Ellsberg