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You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times
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You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

4.29  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,030 Ratings  ·  118 Reviews
Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States, tells his personal stories about more than thirty years of fighting for social change, from teaching at Spelman College to recent protests against war.

A former bombardier in WWII, Zinn emerged in the civil rights movement as a powerful voice for justice. Although he's a fierce critic, he gives us reason to hop
Paperback, 214 pages
Published September 5th 2002 by Beacon Press (first published January 1st 2002)
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Dec 23, 2007 Nomy rated it it was amazing
this was the book that politicized my mom when she was in her forties. i had been a rebellious, critical kid for many years, and she had been a busy, tired middle school teacher and mom. she read this book and got all excited, she made my brother, who was in high school, read it too and discuss it with her. she went on to start teaching from "a people's history," started going to anti-racist activist gatherings and workshops, organizing diversity trainings for her school, housing books-to-prison ...more
Oct 29, 2007 shaw rated it it was amazing
Before I really knew anything about Zinn other than that he wrote A People's History, he and Noam Chomsky always blurred in my ignorant mind -- anti-war, activists, teachers, white men from the Northeast. It was easy for me to forget how Zinn worked alongside the likes of Ella Baker, James Baldwin, MLK, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Stokley Carmichael and was a teacher to Alice Walker, Marian Wright Edelman, and countless others. A humble man. . . it's amazing to see how much he has done, shared, and co ...more
John Gonzalez
Jul 03, 2012 John Gonzalez rated it it was amazing
It's been years since I had read this book and it is shameful that one forgets any of it. This is the book that probably captures the essence of Howard Zinn as my intellectual hero.

More than an academic, Howard Zinn was the type of person that never forgot the struggle of growing up poor. He never forgot the challenges, the strife, and never lost the compassion for others even as his fortunes improved. A former bombardier, Zinn arrived at the notion that war was just a way to brutalize all thos
Moira McPartlin
I have a new hero! I read Howard Zinn's Just War a short time ago and was looking forward to reading this memoir. It tells of his time teaching black kids during the civil rights movement in the States and his part in furthering that cause. He then moves to teach in Boston and the timescale reaches the Vietnam War and again he describes his participation in the anti war movement. But he also explains his humble beginnings and why he fights for justice and human rights. His belief in human compas ...more
Feb 26, 2012 Adam rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone.
Undoubtedly one of the most powerful books I've read.

My first introduction to Zinn came at the great expense, and weight, of A People's History. While I didn't have the tenacity to make my way all the way through, the idea of an alternative history book really peaked my interest in its author.

Upon my brother's return from a semester at Morehouse College, where he spent most of his time in classes at Spelman College, he eagerly dropped Zinn's memoir into my lap, insisting I take it with me to sch
Jul 14, 2012 Vaishak rated it it was amazing
Howard Zinn’s inspirational memoir is one of a kind. It traces a few anecdotes from his life’s events, but its principal thrust comes from telling the stories of extraordinary people doing extraordinary things, Howard Zinn among them. The people are extraordinary in the sense that they are ordinary people challenging the status quo, challenging oppression, putting themselves up for sacrifice for our common good.

Howard Zinn has been called many things: from being a radical to be a troublemaker, b
Feb 10, 2012 Jenn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
This is very much a "preaching to the choir" kind of book so I don't expect my right wing family to read or enjoy this book. However, Howard Zinn's amazing life and support of civil disobedience gives me hope for America at large. Not everyone agrees with the mainstream and some choose to stand up for what they think is right, even when it puts them in danger. God bless you, Dr. Zinn. The world missed you terribly.
Sep 12, 2010 Noah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Howard Zinn is one of my heroes and this book just confirms that he led a life that is truly worth emulating. I'd read the last paragraph of this book years ago and quote the last line in every talk I give about why I run a socially conscious design firm. Read this short memoir and have your belief that our world can improve reaffirmed.
Jul 23, 2014 Benjamin rated it it was amazing
A very insightful, humorous, and moving memoir from someone intimately involved in American history from World War II until now. Zinn's voice comes through clearly in his writing, and he pulls no punches in discussing the various movements (especially the Civil Rights movements of the 50's and 60's) he participated in and the constant antagonism those movements faced from those who viewed them as a threat to stability and the status quo.

His discussion of the strife he and his fellow professors f
Jan 24, 2009 Raquel rated it did not like it
If my mind were malleable and uncritical, I would have come away with a dangerous set of situational ethics and relative morals. But it's not, so I learned the author is a fool.
Jan 06, 2011 ben rated it really liked it
I am still a huge fan of Zinn. His writing is humble but so smart. He inspires me to do more, be more, and live bigger.
Lee Hertzler
Mar 13, 2013 Lee Hertzler rated it it was amazing
A disturbing but important book. We need to be educated!
Sep 23, 2015 Deana rated it it was amazing

I had never heard of Howard Zinn before reading this book, but now that I've read this I feel like I was missing out! I have also added his A People's History of the United States to my TBR and hope to get to it in early 2016 (2015 is pretty full for me with challenge books and new-mom reading).

I had no idea what to expect when I got this. I chose this book because I needed a memoir written by a "Z" author, and it turns out those are few and far between. My library didn't have it, so I purc
Timothy Riley
This is an autobiography of Howard Zinn of his time during the civil rights movement. He tells interesting stories of teaching in the south and pushing students to reject the jim crow laws of the time. He tells about his internal struggles of dealing with his war service in the second world war. He was a bombadier and ran many runs over Germany towards the end of the war. He tells of one trip where they used new napalm bombs on a town in France where there were thousands of German troops "trying ...more
Jun 03, 2014 Heather rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Easy to read
I like his fight to teach that democracy requires alternate opinions of the people.
The book is Zinn's personal explanation of how events of the civil rights movement and Vietnam war happened. It was eye opening to read his perspective.
Zinn also focuses on small acts of defiance or speaking as being important.
Nov 06, 2007 Laura rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in civil rights mvt, looking for inspiration in dark political times
Shelves: biographies
Howard Zinn has been a hero of mine since I read People's History when I was an undergrad.

Lest we forget, it was not long ago that people were being beaten, shot and hauled off to prision for-- wanting to vote-- for-- wanting equal rights. Zinn tells his personal account of the Civil Rights era, what he saw, how small acts built momentum, and why we should not give up in the face of apparent 'impossibility.' He documents personal and larger social history, drawing a picture of inspiring people,
Oct 16, 2015 Katy rated it really liked it
The timing on this seemed to echo: written about the civil rights fight during the first Gulf War with a foreword from immediately after the Sept. 11 attack while I'm reading it amidst the #BlackLivesMatter movement while we to deal with ISIS and the other side effects of continual war with Obama making his recent announcement about troops in Afghanistan. Plus ça change...
Seth Lynch
Feb 28, 2012 Seth Lynch rated it really liked it
This is an engrossing autobiography by Howard Zinn. Through his life of activism he has shown episodes and incidents which give him hope when faced with the oppressive tyranny of government. The reasons for this hope have two main aspects, that there are people who will preserve despite the odds and that a movement for change is made up of such individuals. Change is rarely about one event, one rally, one person, it is about many small changes, it involves many failures, and at first may appear ...more
Winter Branch
Sep 04, 2007 Winter Branch rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: most people
Shelves: nonfiction
This is my favorite Zinn book. Personal life mixed with the teaching of history while making history. Most of the book centers on Zinn's life teaching in the South during the Civil Rights Movement.

check this link out (its the whole book online):
You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train
Dec 10, 2015 Yael rated it it was amazing
Great historiography. Recounts his evolution to become a skeptical historian.
Sam Motes
Dec 30, 2014 Sam Motes rated it it was amazing
Zinn truly did have a front row seat to history that he embraced. Zinn continues to focus on the individual and small acts that build to a crescendo of action. His involvement in civil rights and the anti war movement was eye opening. I had heard of the use of napalm on Royan but never knew Zinn was one of the American's that dropped the ordinance. That truly had a profound impact on Zinn. This was a great book and cab truly broaden ones perspective on the events that made us what we are today a ...more
Nurettin Tan
Mar 05, 2014 Nurettin Tan rated it it was amazing
Demokratım, hümanistim diyen herkesin okuması gereken bir kitap.
Feb 09, 2015 Mgaleharris rated it really liked it
Great..especially if you were "active" in the 60's
Jan 26, 2011 Graham rated it liked it
An entertaining, easy read. Zinn was a great writer and thinker and I personally think that anybody who lives in the US should have to read his "People's History Of The United States." In this, his memoir, the reader is offered a glimpse of the forces that shaped his thinking. It's nothing too earth-shaking, certainly lacking much of the insight for which he's better known, and can occasionally seem self-congratulatory. But it's worth reading either as an introduction to the man himself or as a ...more
Jun 10, 2015 Angela rated it it was amazing
An absolute must read for every American.
Imad Ahmed
Apr 05, 2015 Imad Ahmed rated it it was amazing
An inspiring way to live.
Dee Mills
Oct 20, 2014 Dee Mills marked it as to-read
It's at New Cumberland.
Allison Barnes
To call Zinn a hero wouldn't be an understatement at all - though calling him a badass wouldn't be so far off either.
This book is inspiring. The entire duration of my (very short) read through it, I wanted to do more with my life and to stand up for all the things I have very strong opinions about.
The death of Zinn was a very sad time for our nation, but we have his words and his actions to inspire us to make changes for ourselves and other generations. I have no doubt that his impact will live
Nov 05, 2013 Medic2887 rated it really liked it
Overall good read. Zinn is not afraid to pat himself on the back and seems to put himself up on a moral pedestal at several points. Aside from that, it is a great personal retrospect into the life of a political activist during the craziest times of the 19th century.

Reading this book motivated me to look at the things in my life that needed change (minuscule compared to the challenges zinn faced) and begin to stand up and make them, little or big, easy or hard.

Read it
Zoe Kipping
Apr 11, 2012 Zoe Kipping rated it it was amazing
Zinn pens a thrilling recollection of his lifetime as an agitator and academic for social change. Recounting his years in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, the Vietnam Anti-War Movement, in Union organizing, and in knock-down drag-out fights in academia with a tyrannical university president, Zinn manages to distill a powerful message of hope from a clear and concise account of struggle from below. A must read!
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2015 Reading Chal...: You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train by Howard Zinn 2 22 Aug 26, 2015 02:52PM  
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Howard Zinn was a historian, playwright, and social activist. He was a shipyard worker and a bombardier with the U.S. Army Air Force in Europe during the Second World War before he went to college under the GI Bill and received his Ph.D. from Columbia University.

Zinn taught at Spelman College and Boston University, and was a visiting professor at the University of Paris and the University of Bolo
More about Howard Zinn...

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“I am convinced that imprisonment is a way of pretending to solve the problem of crime. It does nothing for the victims of crime, but perpetuates the idea of retribution, thus maintaining the endless cycle of violence in our culture. It is a cruel and useless substitute for the elimination of those conditions--poverty, unemployment, homelessness, desperation, racism, greed--which are at the root of most punished crime. The crimes of the rich and powerful go mostly unpunished.

It must surely be a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit that even a small number of those men and women in the hell of the prison system survive it and hold on to their humanity.”
“The power of a bold idea uttered publicly in defiance of dominant opinion cannot be easily measured. Those special people who speak out in such a way as to shake up not only the self-assurance of their enemies, but the complacency of their friends, are precious catalysts for change.” 68 likes
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