n 1997, Matt Damon played the part of a janitor who turned out to be not only a math wizard, but one of the most brilliant men you could find anywhere. Trying to impress an arrogant Harvard student, who thought he knew everything, Damon’s character quotes from Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. He tells the Harvard kid and a psychiatrist at the hospital he works at that “you’re surrounding yourself with all the wrong f—in’ books. You wanna read a real history book, read Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States. That book’ll f—in’ knock you on your ass.”
A few years later, HBO’s “The Sopranos” had a Columbus Day episode. Tony’s kid informs him that they don’t celebrate it at school, because Columbus was a practitioner of genocide against the Indian natives in the new land. When Tony asks him where he got that from, he tells him it was from their school textbook , Zinn’s People’s History.
Zinn’s book has now gone through many editions, and became the single best selling text of history that has ever been published- selling over two million copies—some 128,000 each year since his first edition was published over twenty years ago! Schools around the nation actually use it as a textbook. As Dan Flynn notes, the course statement for a history class at Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA states that “This is an advanced class and all students should have read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States before the first day of class, to give us a common background to begin the class.”