SANTA MONICA—Howard Zinn, a writer, professor and politically vocal figure known as an outspoken historian, passed away on Wednesday, January 27. Zinn, 87, was born in Brooklyn, New York, and resided in Auburndale, Mass. He was on the West Coast in late January in preparation for a speaking engagement at an exhibition at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, titled “The People Speak.” With his long history of social activism and outspoken criticism of governmental and social institutions, Zinn had been invited to participate in the event as a discussion leader.

Zinn was scheduled to speak at the museum for an evening program on Thursday, February 4, focusing on the documentary inspired by his work, “The People Speak.” Zinn’s best known publications were “A People’s History of the United States” and “Voices of a People’s History of the United States,” which were both highly critical of many of the major players and policies of American politics over the last 200 years. Recently, filmmakers crafted a documentary, inspired by Zinn’s writings, titled “The People Speak!” The documentary, which was aired on the History Channel, featured a number of celebrities, including Sean Penn, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and Viggo Mortensen reading accounts of players in history who may otherwise have been marginalized as minorities.

Zinn, who was born in New York, became an active participant in political movements after WWII, in which he earned various commendations and medals for his heroism and achievements. Zinn would grow to dislike war in any incarnation, and easily spoke of moral equivalencies. He was known for making controversial statements, such as his statement to an Iranian televised newscast that September 11 was at least partially the fault of Americans.

Upon news of his death, officials from the Santa Monica Museum of Art noted that they were “deeply saddened to learn of Howard Zinn’s death.” The museum will instead play host to a “tribute to Zinn and his remarkable work as a social activist”during the February 4 program.

According to his Web site, Zinn was also a playwright and a historian, who was able to get a higher education after WWII ended and he went back to school on the GI Bill. He taught at a number of colleges after receiving his Ph.D, including Boston University and Spelman College.