UC Berkeley press release

NEWS RELEASE, 11/07/97

Howard Zinn to be speaker Nov. 13 at first annual Mario Savio memorial lecture

by Ben Bagdikian


BERKELEY-- The first speaker in a newly established Mario Savio Memorial Lectureship will be social historian and author Howard Zinn. The lecture will be held at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 13, in the Valley Life Sciences Building on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley. It will be open to the public without charge.

Zinn is a Professor Emeritus of Government at Boston University and a nationally acclaimed author and playwright. His memoir, You Can't be Neutral on a Moving Train, was published in 1994. He also wrote SNCC: The New Abolitionists, though probably his best known work is A People's History of the United States. His play "Emma" was produced in New York in 1986. He has written widely about civil rights and politics and is the recipient of the Albert J. Beveridge Prize awarded by the American Historical Association.

The title of Zinn's talk is "The Possibility of Hope."

The new lectureship is sponsored by relatives and friends of the late Mario Savio and will be an annual event, as will a grant awarded each year to a promising young social activist. Savio died of a heart attack in Sebastopol on Nov. 6, 1996. He had been teaching mathematics and political science at Sonoma State University.

Savio's actions in 1964, as he pressed for freedom of speech for students within the campus, created a national Free Speech Movement, a major event in the history of the University of California that stimulated similar actions for free student speech in universities nationwide.

At the time, Savio did not appear to be the potential creator of a national movement. A quiet student who earlier had suffered with a bad stutter, he was aroused to eloquence when graduate student Jack Weinberg was arrested on Oct. 1, 1964, by campus police for distributing leaflets promoting the Congress of Racial Equality. At the time, a campus rule prohibited student political leafleting and speech-making on campus.

As hundreds of protesting students surrounded the police car and refused to let it drive away, Savio, who had spent the previous summer in Mississippi promoting voting rights for African Americans, got police permission to stand on the roof of the cruiser and address the crowd. His call to students electrified the crowd in Sproul Plaza, which surrounded the car for 32 hours.

Daily thereafter there were student meetings and protests. The faculty voted to support student demands to have free political speech on the campus, but their request was denied by the chancellor and regents.

A month later, on Dec. 2, at a rally of about 5,000 students, Savio made an eloquent speech that has since become famous. It was a time of Southern resistance to racial integration and of the Vietnam war. Depicting society as a machine, he said:

"There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that... you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels...upon all the apparatus and you've got to make it stop."

A plaque in Sproul Plaza marks this start of the Free Speech Movement. Zinn's Nov. 13 lecture is privately sponsored and will inaugurate the annual Savio Lectureship. It is being organized by a committee of Savio's relatives and friends: Nadav Savio, his son; Lynne Hollander Savio, his widow; Dr. Suzanne Goldberg, a fellow member of the steering committee with Savio in the Free Speech Movement; Troy Duster, UC Berkeley professor of sociology and Director of the Institute for the Study of Social Change at Berkeley; and Marlene and Ben Bagdikian, friends of Nadav Savio.

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