Revising revisionist history

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on January 1, 2006

I took Advanced Placement U.S. History in high school, but not from my father. Nope, my instructor was a Gloria Steinem-ish feminist named Mrs. Lee. The course was taught like a college course -- we bought our textbooks and marked them up over the course of the year.

One of those book was a pretty standard American History textbook much like most of you used in high school. The other book we bought and used selectively was Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States."

I must confess I don't remember much about Zinn's textbook. When it was mentioned in the Academy Award-winning movie "Good Will Hunting," I remember thinking: "I've read that." Something else I remember from the book was the names Sacco and Vanzetti.

Now, I'm not 100 percent sure of this -- I no longer have Zinn's book and as I said my memory of this isn't picture-perfect -- but I'd be pretty shocked if Zinn wasn't one of the revisionist historians trumpeting the pair's innocence. After all, he did win an award named after the duo convicted of murder.

I know I'm a week late to this, but the Los Angeles Times has reported on the discovery of a letter written by author Upton Sinclair. (Sinclair's "The Jungle" is another book that I read for Ms. Lee's class.)

I encourage you to read the entire Times article, but to sum up, Sacco and Vanzetti were guilty -- and Sinclair knew it.

During his research for "Boston," Sinclair met with Fred Moore, the men's attorney, in a Denver motel room. Moore "sent me into a panic," Sinclair wrote in the typed letter that Hegness found at the auction a decade ago.

"Alone in a hotel room with Fred, I begged him to tell me the full truth," Sinclair wrote. " … He then told me that the men were guilty, and he told me in every detail how he had framed a set of alibis for them."

Will we be getting a revision to Zinn's "A People's History of the United States"? Don't hold your breath.


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January 2006



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