Republican state Rep. Kim Hendren brought forth HB1834, a one-page bill that would halt the use of any book or other material authored by Zinn between the years of 1959 and 2010 in public schools and open-enrollment public charter schools. With these parameters, Zinn’s bestselling 1980 book, “A People’s History of the United States,” would be banned. The collection is a groundbreaking and controversial work that analyzed American history from the perspective of the poor and marginalized, or as Zinn put it, “the people who have been overlooked in the traditional history books.”
When the work was released, it was considered radical even for liberal historians.
“It’s not an unbiased account; so what?” Zinn told The New York Times. “If you look at history from the perspective of the slaughtered and mutilated, it’s a different story.”
More than 2 million copies of the book have been sold, and historians continue to evaluate the work’s claims, merits and accuracy. Zinn, who was a professor at Boston University, died in 2010.
Three years before Zinn’s death, his publisher released a young people’s version of the 1980 text. It also served as a companion volume to “The People Speak,” the 2009 film adaptation of Zinn’s works.
A 2009 college tour promoting the film featured performances by A-listers reading archival letters that the historian had included in his books.
The bill targeting Zinn’s work is not unprecedented. In 2013, the Associated Press obtained a series of emails sent by former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), in which he attempted to remove the historian’s work from classrooms across the state. Daniels, who was in office from 2005 to 2013, is now the president of Purdue University.
According to local CBS news station KTHV, the Arkansas state bill will go before the House committee on education this week. In response, the Zinn Education Project, an organization that promotes the teaching of Zinn’s work in middle and high school classrooms, will offer free copies of the tome to Arkansas teachers.
“Democracy is in dissent,” Zinn said in 2009. “Democracy is in resistance. Democracy doesn’t come from the top, it comes from the bottom.”