Episode #48: Debunking Howard Zinn with Mary Grabar

Episode #48

Peter Wood

A People’s History of the United States is easily one of the most common and popular history books in America, why? What makes this revisionist history so appealing?

In this episode, Mary Grabar sits joins Peter W. Wood to discuss her recent book, Debunking Howard Zinn. Throughout Mary points out the revisionist and factually inaccurate telling of American history that Howard Zinn puts forward. They also discuss his many personal motivations for pushing revisionist history.

Show Notes

0:24 Peter Wood introduces Mary Grabar and her new book, Debunking Howard Zinn.

2:42 Mary’s op-eds caused her trouble with early teaching positions, but her writing helped introduce her to Mark Bauerlein and Bob Paquette.

7:40 Is Howard Zinn’s book, A People’s History, one of the most influential books in America? Mary argues that it absolutely is: Zinn has a rather large grassroots organization, the Zinn Educational Project, that disseminates his book, writings, and sets up events around the nation.

10:24 Who was Howard Zinn and how did he develop the personality-cult associated with him today?

19:42 Mary explains that Zinn was able to take advantage of the changing field of scholarship during the 1960’s to combine scholarship and activism. This allowed Zinn to advance a revisionist history of the United States. His work was heavily drafted (Mary says “plagiarized”) from Gary B. Nash’s earlier book, Red, White, and Black.

26:06 What should students be learning about Christopher Columbus and how does Zinn present them in A People’s History?

34:28 Peter wonder aloud: Zinn’s history of the United States, and the feelings it incites, sounds like another more recent work, the New York Times’ 1619 Project, is it Zinn inspired?

35:37 Zinn presents the Civil War as a struggle for empire, not emancipation.

38:15 Democracy = Equal distribution of wealth according to Zinn.

41:17 Vietnam is a story of democracy vs. imperialism according to Zinn. Mary explains that he conveniently avoids discussing the humanitarian crisis following the conclusion of the Vietnam war, with no mention of the “boat people” or other refugees fleeing Ho Chi Minh’s rule, not to mention the mass exodus of Vietnamese to the south in the months after partition.

48:14 Some of Peter’s extended family discover Howard Zinn in their teens and came to the conclusion that their teachers had been lying to them all along. What makes Zinn so appealing?

51:29 Mary asserts that Zinn plagiarized. Whose words did he steal and why?

56:05 Mitch Daniels, former Governor of Indiana, inquired whether A People’s History was being taught in any Indiana schools, is this censorship?


Grabar, Mary. Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation against America. Washington, DC: Regnery History, 2019.

Wood, Peter. “America is Hopelessly Racist.” Minding the Campus, September 9, 2019.

Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States. New York, NY: Harper Perennial Modern Classics; Reissue edition, 2015.

Image: By Jared and Corin - Howard Zinn, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4277318

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