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With the tremendous success of his book, A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn radically changed the way Americans see themselves. His friend Noam Chomsky says that Zinn litteraly transformed a generation’s conscience. Zinn talks about those who have no voice in the official History : Slaves, Indians, deserters, textile workers, union men. On two occasions in Paris and Boston we were lucky enough to meet and film him. Towards the end of his life, Howard Zinn said , ‘‘I want to be remembered as someone who enabled people to experience hope and power something they never did before.’’ That is exactly the reason why we want to make this film.
First part : Bread and roses
Between 1900 and 1920, like Howard Zinn’s parents, more than 14 million immigrants arrived in the United States. They came fleeing poverty or war, racism or religious persecution. They dreamed of a promised land, of wealth, or simply of a better life. The New World opened its arms wide to the poor and huddled masses of the Old : its unwanted, its fugitives, and even a few utopians... After all, the rapidly expanding industries of the time required cheap labor, and immigrant workers - men, women and children - were easy to exploit. But the same period also saw the birth of organized labor, with its strikes and conflicts, and the appearance of great figures like Emma Goldman, Mother Jones, Eugene Debs and the Wobblies.