Howard Zinn was teaching a class, but he wasn’t yet a professor and his classroom wasn’t at a university. It was late 1951, and the students who gathered for Zinn’s lessons in Brooklyn were his fellow members of the Communist Party USA.
One of Zinn’s comrades described him as “a person with some authority” within the local CPUSA section and said that Zinn’s class was on “basic Marxism,” the theme being “that the basic teachings of Marx and Lenin were sound and should be adhered to by those present.”
That description, furnished to the Federal Bureau of Investigation by a former Communist in 1957, is included in more than 400 pages of Zinn’s FBI file made public last week.
The FBI files demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that Zinn — author of A People’s History of the United States, widely used as a textbook or supplement in many of our nation’s high schools and universities — was a card-carrying Communist at a time when the Soviet Union was America’s most dreaded enemy.