Howard Zinn: 1922-2010

By RAYMOND MUNGO  |  February 3, 2010

He quit BU at age 66 because, he said, "I was still loving teaching and had 400 students in my class, but you know how you get tired of doing something, even if it's really good? You've been doing something for a long time and you really need a break. I needed to be free." He took up writing plays, including Emma, about Emma Goldman, which had a long run in Boston and was produced in New York.

Howard became a big man on campus forever. His name is invoked in popular movies. He perfectly embodied the radical professor who leads the young into idealistic thinking and hopeful values. But he was also a family man with his reliably cheerful wife Roslyn ever by his side, and his kids, and us kids who adopted him. We felt safe under his care. We could count on him.

Roslyn died in 2008 and Howard died in a hotel swimming pool in sunny Santa Monica on January 27, of an apparent heart attack. My e-mail inbox is bulging with letters from other lost children of the Vietnam era, Howard's children now together sitting cyber-shiva.

While administrators railed against him, BU's librarian extraordinaire Howard Gotlieb patiently collected Howard Zinn's papers, which now share a vault in the archives with that other BU legend, alumnus Martin Luther King. Way to go, Howard!

Ray Mungo wrote for the Phoenix in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He now lives in California, and can be reached at

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