It’s banned book week – a week in the US where we celebrate the beauty and truth in the books that others found controversial. There are few American authors, in recent years, who has been questioned and banned more often in our schools than Howard Zinn.
Howard Zinn’s Southern Diary is a compilation of entries from Zinn’s journal that he wrote while he was teaching at Spelman College in Georgia during the winter/spring of 1963-64. This is, of course, during the rising strength of the Civil Rights Movement with Georgia being at the hub of the student activism. Being an activist himself, his years at the college allowed him a closeness to the student activists across Georgia and, ultimately, the south. While Zinn wrote about his time at Spelman in a previous publication, it was only after his death when his papers were opened and released that his journal was discovered. Through his writings, one can see how Zinn was instrumental in bringing about legal social change that he had hoped would lead to a different mindset regarding racial interaction and racism as a whole.
In truth, Howard Zinn is one of my favorite authors. There are few of his works that I haven’t read. His book, A People’s History of US, was and still is a mainstay in our home and was used to teach US history in our homeschool. It is often banned in schools when parents discover that it is a truthful account of this nation’s very sordid history rather than simply perpetuating the myths with which Americans have been indoctrinated by the white elite. His writings always are an unvarnished, well documented commentary on our nation and its people and this diary certainly is no different. It is a tough, truthful look at the deep south and the struggle for African Americans to gain the freedoms that all Americans should enjoy without question. It is a personal account of the protests, marches and sit-ins that were occurring during this time. Having lived through this period and later as a protestor who has campaigned for equal rights for all, it was especially interesting to see our experiences retold. However, the message throughout his book is this: the struggle has not ended, racism in America still is rampant and, sadly, it is growing in fervor once again.
If there is one point that I want to convey in this review it is this: this is not your average non-fiction book, none of Zinn’s books are that. They are written with the average person in mind, they are readable and always they are eye opening and enlightening.
I highly encourage you to read Howard Zinn’s Southern Diary and afterward to pick up a copy of A People’s History of the US. I guarantee you that you will be shocked and will understand why educators are fighting to have it taught in their schools and, conversely, whey the anti-intellectuals do not want it there at all. It is a great read for Banned Book Week 2018.
Huge appreciation to the University of Georgia Press, #RobertCohen and #Edelweiss for my review copy of this amazing book!