The Pearl Harbor star and Hollywood pal Matt Damon both grew up in Massachusetts near the social activist, who is best known for writing A People's History of the United States.
And Affleck admits he learned a lot following Zinn's career: "Howard had a great mind and was one of the great voices in the American political life. He taught me how valuable - how necessary - dissent was to democracy and to America itself. He taught that history was made by the everyman, not the elites. I was lucky enough to know him personally, and I will carry with me what I learned from him - and try to impart it to my own children - in his memory."
Meanwhile House actress Olivia Wilde adds, "Howard Zinn, a true hero of mine, whom I never got to thank for his donation to (charity) Artists for Peace and Justice. If you haven't read A People's History of the United States, you may want to run to the book store now."
The historian and social activist passed away on Wednesday (27Jan10) after suffering a heart attack while travelling with his daughter, Myla Kabat-Zinn, in Santa Monica, California. He was 87.
Zinn is best known for writing A People's History of the United States, his 1980 non-fiction book which details the lives of ordinary people who fought for social change in America.
It was turned into a documentary called The People Speak last year (09), featuring stars including Damon, Freeman, Bruce Springsteen, Eddie Vedder, Viggo Mortensen and Josh Brolin.
An accompanying soundtrack also featured Bob Dylan, Pink and Lupe Fiasco.
Zinn was a shipyard worker and Air Force bombardier in World War II, before he went to college and became famous for leading strikes and anti-war protests.
He is survived by his daughter.
Damon lends his voice to the documentary, which airs in America on 13 December (09), and he executive produced the project, which also features Morgan Freeman and Sean Penn, among others.
And he reveals he has a big link to historian Howard Zinn, whose writing inspired the film: "I moved next door to Howard's house in Massachusetts when I was four. My brother and I would see the light on in his house while he was up late on his old typewriter, banging out chapter after chapter of A People's History of the United States, which is the textbook we later used in high school."