Rethinking America's Past

Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States in the Classroom and Beyond

Title Details

Pages: 344

Illustrations: 14 b&w images

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 11/01/2021

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6033-1

List Price: $120.95


Pub Date: 11/01/2021

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6034-8

List Price: $30.95


Pub Date: 11/01/2021

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6035-5

List Price: $30.95


Pub Date: 11/01/2021

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6893-1

List Price: $30.95

Subsidies and Partnerships

Published with the generous support of Stephen M. Silberstein Foundation

Rethinking America's Past

Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States in the Classroom and Beyond

Assessing the classroom impact of a seminal work of American history

Skip to

  • Description
  • Reviews
  • Awards

No introductory work of American history has had more influence over the past forty years than Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, which since its publication in 1980 has sold more than three million copies. Zinn's iconoclastic critique of American militarism, racism, and capitalism has drawn bitter criticism from the Right, most recently from President Donald Trump, who at his White House Conference on American History in 2020 denounced Zinn as a Left propagandist and accused teachers aligned with Zinn of indoctrinating students to hate America and be ashamed of its history.

Rethinking America's Past is the first work to use archival and classroom evidence to assess the impact that Zinn's classic work has had on historical teaching and learning and on American culture. This evidence refutes Trump's charges, showing that rather than indoctrinating students, Zinn's book has been used by teachers to have students debate and rethink conventional versions of American history. Rethinking America's Past also explores the ways Zinn's work fostered deeper, more critical renderings of the American past in movies and on stage and television and traces the origins and assesses the strengths and weaknesses of A People's History in light of more recent historical scholarship.

It is undeniable that Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States changed history. Reviled and revered?and everything in between?it remains the bestselling U.S. history book in U.S. history. Robert Cohen and Sonia E. Murrow have done the nation and the world an indispensable service by finally placing Zinn's powerful achievement in its full historical context. With careful attention to archival sources and a keen consideration of the book's cultural impact, they have returned Zinn's work to where it belongs? with the people: scholars who engage him, teachers who teach him, artists who adapt him, activists who channel him, students who love him, politicians who hate him, and all the ordinary folks who always inspired him. Rethinking America's Past is a unique and brilliant book that has arrived at just the right time in our history.

—Timothy Patrick McCarthy, Harvard University, editor of The Indispensable Zinn: The Essential Writings of the "People's Historian"

Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States is undoubtedly the most widely read survey of American history of the past forty years. Cohen and Murrow offer a candid, fair-minded assessment of its strengths and weaknesses. Citing the words of both teachers and students, they explain why it has been so influential and how it has affected the teaching of history in schools, across the country, and among the public at large. This is a welcome exception to the politicized polemics that too often frame discussions of Zinn's book.

—Eric Foner, author of The Second Founding

In this important new book, Cohen and Murrow remind us why Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States is too important a book to be forgotten. Through careful analysis of his seminal work, the authors show us how the book can be used in classrooms today to remind students that from the very beginning, America's history has been shaped by oppression and resistance, conflict as well as cooperation among those who have frequently been rendered invisible by the grand narratives that have been constructed in the name of patriotism and allegiance. For educators and students who know that history is much more than a collection of facts and dates, and who seek to understand the social processes that have shaped the formation of this nation, this book will be an invaluable resource.

—Pedro Noguera, author of Excellence Through Equity

An important historical analysis of the genesis, reception, impact, and longevity of Howard Zinn's A People's History and the social justice teaching community it helped foster.

—Jeanne Theoharis, author of The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks

Howard Zinn is a national treasure. His life and work are political and intellectual landmarks. Historian, author, mentor, and relentless activist for democracy, Howard Zinn taught us how to rethink the making of America from a people's point-of-view. This book by Robert Cohen and Sonia E. Murrow is just the volume we need in troubled times like these.

—Ira Shor, author of When Students Have Power


Critics' Choice Book Award, American Educational Studies Association

About the Author/Editor

Robert Cohen (Author)
ROBERT COHEN is a professor of history and social studies at New York University and is the author of Howard Zinn’s Southern Diary: Sit-ins, Civil Rights, and Black Women’s Student Activism. He lives in New York City.

Sonia Murrow (Author)
SONIA E. MURROW is an associate professor of the social foundations of education and adolescence education in the School of Education at Brooklyn College. Her research interests include the history, policy, and practice of urban education and the teaching of history to adolescents. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.