Unorthodox approach

A People's History of the United States was told from the point of view of America's women, Native Americans and disenfranchised workers.

"His writings have changed the consciousness of a generation, and helped open new paths to understanding and its crucial meaning for our lives"

Noam Chomsky, author

The book presented a revisionist view of American history from the arrival of Christopher Columbus - who Zinn charges with genocide - to president Bill Clinton's first term.

In a 1998 interview with The Associated Press, Zinn acknowledged he was not trying to write an objective history, or a complete one.

He called his book a response to traditional works, the first chapter not the last of a new kind of history.

"There's no such thing as a whole story; every story is incomplete,'' Zinn said.

"My idea was the orthodox viewpoint has already been done a thousand times.''

One of Zinn's last public writings was a brief essay, published in The Nation, a weekly American journal, about the first year of the Obama administration.

"I've been searching hard for a highlight,'' he wrote, adding that he was not disappointed because he never expected a lot from Obama.

"I think people are dazzled by Obama's rhetoric, and that people ought to begin to understand that Obama is going to be a mediocre president which means, in our time, a dangerous president unless there is some national movement to push him in a better direction.''

Social activist

Noam Chomsky, the renowned US academic, author and political activist, once wrote: "His writings have changed the consciousness of a generation, and helped open new paths to understanding and its crucial meaning for our lives,"  the Boston Globe newspaper reported.

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Born in New York, Zinn was a shipyard worker and served in the Army Air Forces during World War II, before he went to college and received his doctorate from Columbia University in New York.

From there, he went on to teach at Spelman, a mostly African American women's college in Atlanta, Georgia, and then at Boston University, where he became famous for his left-wing politics, leading strikes and anti-war protests.

Zinn's works remain in print; a new edition of Voices of a People's History of the United States came out in November, and a revised edition of A People's History of the United States is set to be published in July.

Zinn's longtime wife and collaborator, Roslyn, died in 2008. They had two children, Myla and Jeff.