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The Essential Mario Savio

The Essential Mario Savio: Speeches and Writings that Changed America

Edited by Robert Cohen
Foreword by Tom Hayden
Afterword by Robert Reich
Epilogue by Lynne Hollander Savio
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    The Essential Mario Savio
    Book Description:

    The Free Speech Movement in Berkeley, California, was pivotal in shaping 1960s America. Led by Mario Savio and other young veterans of the civil rights movement, student activists organized what was to that point the most tumultuous student rebellion in American history. Mass sit-ins, a nonviolent blockade around a police car, occupations of the campus administration building, and a student strike united thousands of students to champion the right of students to free speech and unrestricted political advocacy on campus.This compendium of influential speeches and previously unknown writings offers insight into and perspective on the disruptive yet nonviolent civil disobedience tactics used by Savio.The Essential Mario Saviois the perfect introduction to an American icon and to one of the most important social movements of the post-war period in the United States.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95926-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Editor’s Note
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. Foreword
    (pp. xix-xxvi)
    Tom Hayden

    It is a worthy time to study and treasure the eloquent speeches of Mario Savio, “freedom’s orator,” as the historian Robert Cohen rightly calls him.

    I didn’t know Mario well, mainly because of our separate geographic orbits, but our paths were intertwined. As a student editor from Ann Arbor, I hitchhiked to Berkeley in summer 1960, where I stayed in an apartment belonging to activists from SLATE, the campus political party that was demanding a voice for students stifled by university paternalism. SLATE activists were among those hosed down the steps of San Francisco’s City Hall after protesting the House...

  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-38)

    The Free Speech Movement’s fiftieth anniversary is an opportune time to publish this first comprehensive collection of Mario Savio’s speeches and writings from 1964, since he was that movement’s great orator and most prominent leader. Savio’s fame began on October 1, 1964, when, in the middle of the University of California at Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza, the twenty-one-year-old philosophy major climbed atop a police car and used its roof as a podium to explain and defend the blockade of that car by his fellow free speech activists. According to the police report, this nonviolent human blockade began just before noon, “when...

  8. 1 The Making of a Berkeley Civil Rights Activist
    (pp. 39-56)

    For Mario Savio, college never represented a mere career track; it was part of a moral and intellectual quest, a path toward meaning and identity, a crucial part of what he called a “period of personal transition [that] revolved about [his] breaking away from the Catholic Church.” At the behest of his parents, he had, as a star science student, accepted a scholarship in 1960 at a local Catholic institution, Manhattan College. Majoring in physics, his first act of intellectual rebellion grew out of his study of the classics, taking “a full year course in ancient history, literature, and philosophy,”...

  9. 2 Going South: FREEDOM SUMMER, 1964
    (pp. 57-96)

    To Mario Savio, “going South” to work in Mississippi’s civil rights movement represented “entry into a different order of existence. It was danger and righteousness.”¹ The racist terrorism that the KKK and other white supremacist groups in Mississippi directed against this nonviolent movement had been impossible to miss, which is why Savio later wrote that those going South “who weren’t afraid weren’t serious.”² Much blood had been shed in the Mississippi movement before Savio set foot in that state, including the assassination of NAACP leader Medgar Evers, the beating of Bob Moses, the wounding of Jimmy Travis of SNCC, and...

  10. 3 Leading the Free Speech Movement: PROTEST AND NEGOTIATION, SEPTEMBER–NOVEMBER 1964
    (pp. 97-177)

    Although Mario Savio never lived to complete his memoir, the outlines he developed for that book suggest how he thought the Free Speech Movement, and his role in it, ought to be remembered. He planned two chapters on the FSM, whose titles, “Free Speech at Last” and “A Free University in a Free Society,” leave no doubt as to what he saw as the movement’s aspirations and achievements. He later wrote that the FSM was “both moral and successful,” and in analyzing the movement, he explored why this was so. Savio wanted it understood from the outset that he was...

  11. 4 “No Restrictions on the Content of Speech”: SAVIO AND THE FSM WIN, DECEMBER 1964
    (pp. 178-234)

    Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the UC administration made a colossal blunder. Instead of letting things cool off and hoping that the aborted sit-in was a prelude to the FSM’s collapse, the administration took the offensive. Chancellor Strong sent letters citing Savio and fellow FSM organizers Jackie and Art Goldberg and Brian Turner for violations of university rules, initiating disciplinary proceedings against them. The administration also announced disciplinary action against Campus CORE, University Friends of SNCC, and four other leading student activist groups.

    Though angered by this disciplinary offensive, the FSM’s leadership immediately realized that, politically, it was a gift from...

  12. Coda
    (pp. 235-244)

    After the Free Speech Movement, Savio was active in the movement against the Vietnam War, but pulled back from political leadership. Though sidetracked from both politics and education by his problems with depression in the late 1960s and 1970s, Savio returned to the academic world in late 1970s, and in the early 1980s he earned a BS and MS in physics and began teaching at the college level. He also returned to the political stage, first as an activist in the Left-liberal environmentalist Citizens Party and then as a critic of Ronald Reagan’s counter-revolutionary proxy wars in Central America and...

  13. Afterword
    (pp. 245-248)
    Robert B. Reich

    Mario Savio’s speeches and writings did change America. They reverberated across the land, turning what had started as a controversy at one university over whether and where students could recruit members to their various clubs and organizations, including those dedicated to civil rights, into a national movement for free speech and human dignity.

    We must be careful, however, not to lionize this eloquent young man too much, lest we fail to understand the deeper origins of that movement. One of the ways American society often minimizes its capacity for social change is to personalize it—making it about some individual...

  14. Epilogue
    (pp. 249-256)
    Lynne Hollander Savio

    It is September 30, 1964. I have just been released from my last-period class and am walking across the campus toward the Sather Gate and home. It is my final semester at Cal; in January I will graduate with a BA in English. That is, if I complete all my courses! I am already behind, with a paper due and a few hundred pages to read before I can even start writing. As I pass in front of Sproul Hall, I see people on the balconies of the building, yelling “join us, join us.” I know what they’re doing there—...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 257-278)
  16. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 279-284)
  17. Index
    (pp. 285-292)