On June 19, 1953, two Americans – a husband and wife – were put to death for turning their backs on their country. The couple were sent to the electric chair after being convicted of espionage against the United States. Throughout the 1940s, Julius Rosenberg – with the complicity and aide of his wife Ethel – sat at the center of a vast spy network responsible for the theft of numerous American military secrets. The Rosenbergs’ espionage activities ultimately aided the Soviet Union in the development of their nuclear weapons program.
Yet, in his book A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn works for six-and-a-half pages to convince readers that the Rosenbergs were actually victims of an anti-Communist witch hunt. In Zinn’s view, the Rosenbergs were brought up on flimsy charges after being unjustly targeted for their political beliefs amid the supposed anti-Communist “hysteria” of the early Cold War. Zinn’s attempt to cast doubt on the guilt of the Rosenberg’s fits into a wider effort in his book to white-wash the history of the Communist Party in the U.S. and the Communist movement worldwide, for which he was a lifelong fellow traveler.