Howard Zinn Investigated for Criticism of FBI

Even after death, Howard Zinn is keeping the FBI on its toes. RawStory has been researching the FBI’s investigation of Zinn:

FBI files show bureau may have tried to get Zinn fired from Boston University for his political opinions.

Those who knew of the dissident historian Howard Zinn would not be surprised that J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI kept tabs on him for decades during the Cold War.

But in a release of documents pertaining to Zinn, the bureau admitted that one of its investigations into the left-wing academic was prompted not by suspicion of criminal activity, but by Zinn’s criticism of the FBI’s record on civil rights investigations.

“In 1949, the FBI opened a domestic security investigation on Zinn,” the bureau states. “The Bureau noted Zinn’s activities in what were called Communist Front Groups and received informant reports that Zinn was an active member of the CPUSA; Zinn denied ever being a member when he was questioned by agents in the 1950s.

“In the 1960s, the Bureau took another look at Zinn on account of his criticism of the FBI’s civil rights investigations.”

On Friday, the FBI released a 243-pages file on Zinn, who died in January at age 87. The release describes the historian as “radical.” The documents show the bureau taking an active interest in Zinn since the late 1940s, when he was a student at New York University. The interest continued through the 1950s, as Zinn worked on his PhD at Columbia University.

When the FBI again took an interest in Zinn in the 1960s, documents show the bureau evidently tried to have the historian fired from his job as professor at Boston University.

In a document from the Boston FBI office (see PDF file here), an FBI “source,” whose name was redacted from the publicly released documents, was quoted as being outraged over Zinn’s comment at a protest that the US had become a “police state” and that prosecutions of Black Panther Party members were creating “political prisoners.”

The bureau’s Boston office then indicated it wanted to help the source in his or her campaign to unseat Zinn. “[The] Boston [office] proposes under captioned program with Bureau permission to furnish [name redacted] with public source data regarding Zinn’s numerous anti-war activities … in an effort to back [redacted] efforts for his removal.”

The FBI notes that its investigations of Zinn — three in total, over 25 years — “ended in 1974, and no further investigation into Zinn or his activities was made by the FBI.”

Zinn had harsh words for the FBI during his academic career. In a paper published not long before his death, Zinn said the best thing the public could do to curb the FBI’s powers was to “continue exposing them.”

Of the FBI, he said, “They don’t like social movements. They work for the establishment and the corporations and the politicos to keep things as they are. And they want to frighten and chill the people who are trying to change things. So the best defense against them and resistance against them is simply to keep on fighting back, to keep on exposing them.”

For links to more FBI files on Zinn, visit RawStory

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  • Your Mom

    More accurate headline:

    “Howard Zinn, Communist stooge, investigated for membership in group whose political platform demanded the violent, armed overthrow of the United States government.”

    • E.B. Wolf

      How about:
      “Howard Zinn, working class historian, investigated by the FBI for exercising his First Amendment rights.”

    • Hadrian999

      sounds a lot like some of the signs I've seen at teaparty rallies,
      an organization who's name implies advocacy for criminal activity,
      would you also support fbi investigation of it's members?

    • Andrew

      You say that like the government is a good thing.

      • nevilleross

        Ah, but like many, you most likely voted for the current administration in government, so maybe instead of feeling sorry for yourself by blasting the Obama administration when you all should have voted for Ralph Nader, you should hush up and deal.

    • Haystack

      Howard Zinn was a pacifist.

  • krbbagel

    Don't worry my mom is always wrong about stuff like this…

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  • Anonymous

    Regrettably, this story is not even remotely surprising.

  • 5by5

    Regrettably, this story is not even remotely surprising.

  • Anonymous

    Ah, but like many, you most likely voted for the current administration in government, so maybe instead of feeling sorry for yourself by blasting the Obama administration when you all should have voted for Ralph Nader, you should hush up and deal.

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