Arthur Gatti Papers
Scope and Contents
The Arthur Gatti Collection consists of clippings, publications, documents, correspondence, fliers, posters, photographs, scrapbooks, and memorabilia documenting Gatti’s political and social activism as a Queens College student in the early-to-mid-1960s. The collection details Mr. Gatti’s involvement with the Queens College Mississippi Freedom Project, the Queens College Mexico Volunteers, and the Queens College branches of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Specific protest rallies and events are documented, including responses to the murders of Queens College student Andrew Goodman and fellow activists James Chaney and Michael Schwerner in Mississippi during the Freedom Summer of 1964.
The collection contains items on the broader national activities of prominent organizations SDS, CORE, and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, and events such as the U.S. presidential elections of 1964 and 1968. There is protest literature from the the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam War Protest Movement, including materials by the Youth International Party, the War Resisters League, and the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam. Materials also document the neighborhood uprising in Newark in July 1967 sparked by police brutality against a cab driver who was Black.
The collection includes materials relating to Mario Savio, a former Queens College student and leader of the Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley. There is correspondence between Savio and Gatti, photographs, a transcript of an oral history interview at Columbia University in 1985, and a tape recording of a speech by Savio at Queens College in 1964 with a transcript of the speech introduced by New York University Professor Robert Cohen. There is material on Savio’s death in 1996, including newspaper obituaries, remembrances from friends, literature on the Memorial Lecture and Young Activist Award established in Savio’s honor, and items regarding the New York memorial service in honor of Savio, coordinated by Gatti.
Items from The Lost World of Italian American Radicalism, an academic conference held at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in 1997, including a paper on Savio featured in the Spring 1998 issue of Radical History, are also included.
- Gatti, Arthur (Person)
Collection is open for research. Staff may restrict access at its discretion on the basis of physical condition.
The Arthur Gatti Collection is physically owned by the Queens College Libraries. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assignees. The collection is subject to all copyright laws. Queens College assumes no responsibility for the infringement of copyrights held by the original authors, creators, or producers of materials.
Arthur Gatti attended Queens College from the early to mid-1960s, where he was extensively involved in the political and social activism that engulfed the campus. During the summers of 1963 and 1964, Gatti travelled to Mexico as a member of the Queens College Mexico Volunteers, a student group dedicated to improving sanitary conditions and quality of life in impoverished villages and towns. Gatti was initially stationed in the city of Taxco, in the state of Guerrero, in 1963, but left to work in Mexico City to repair a hospital and (in 1964) he returned to Taxco to help build a school that is still in use today. Art and Kevin Donnellan (whose memoir about Andy Goodman has been recently added to this archive) were the solitary pair shoring up the walls in Hospital de la Mujer, in Mexico City, in 1963. Not an easy task, since the building was over four centuries old. In 1964 Kevin and Art also helped build the aforementioned school, Escuela del Emperador Cuauhtemoc, in Pedro Martin, Taxco, Guerrero
Mario Savio (or “Bob” Savio, as he was known then), another Queens College student, was also in Taxco during the summer of 1963. Gatti and Savio were already close friends, but they barely touched base with each other in Taxco that summer, since Savio left prematurely to rejoin his family who had relocated to California. In the fall of 1963, Savio enrolled at San Francisco State and later at the University of California at Berkeley, where he later rose to national prominence as a central figure in the Free Speech Movement (FSM). The FSM was a major catalyst for the emergence of the anti-Vietnam War movement, and ushered in an age of campus uprisings. Gatti and Savio remained friends until Savio’s death at age 53 in 1996. Before leaving Taxco in 1963, Savio made a commitment to an old Zapatista to round up funds and students to come to Mexico the next summer, to work as peons, and to shame the local government into helping complete the mountain slum school. Since Savio was moved to abandon his school-building role in favor of attending Freedom Summer, the final task fell to Gatti and his crew. The job got done, the school built—and in the ‘70s was adopted by the Apple computer company in its early push to bring literacy and technology to the impoverished of the Third World.
During the winter intersession (January) and Easter break (April) of 1965, Gatti joined a group of fellow Queens College students on a volunteer mission under the supervision of Queens College Education Department Professor Sidney Simon. The students helped rebuild African American Baptist churches in Mississippi burned by white supremacists during the Freedom Summer of 1964. The church rebuilding project was conducted under the auspices of the Queens College Mississippi Freedom Project and in coordination with the Committee of Concern, an interracial and interfaith group of Mississippi clergymen, Quakers, and Mennonites. During the first trip to Mississippi, Gatti’s group was stationed in Tougaloo, twelve miles north of Jackson; for the second trip they were stationed in Meridian, where Queens College student Andrew Goodman and fellow activists James Chaney and Michael Schwerner were stationed before being murdered by white supremacists the previous summer. Due to commitments, Art Gatti did not accompany the students to Meridian for the Easter break project, but did co-organize it.
Gatti was an active member of the Queens College branches of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), nationally prominent organizations organizing for social, racial and economic justice. After graduating from Queens College in 1965, Gatti volunteered for five years at the Newark Community Union Project (NCUP); a project chartered two years earlier by SDS and headed by Tom Hayden. He worked as a community organizer until the fall of 1969 helping tenants secure better living conditions. Finally, Gatti wrote several articles documenting his activist experiences, which were featured in the Queens College newspaper, The Phoenix, as well as The Long Island Press. More recently, his Savio memories appeared in Radical History Review, and were broadly cited in the books, Freedom’s Orator (R. Cohen) and Subversives! (S. Rosenfeld). Art’s current poetic output frequently references these experiences.
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The Arthur Gatti Collection contains newspaper clippings, publications, documents, correspondence, fliers, posters, photographs, scrapbooks, and memorabilia documenting Gatti’s political and social activism at Queens College in the early-to-mid 1960s. Materials are from both Gatti’s direct experience and the activities of several major activist organizations in the national political and social landscape of the 1960s. The collection also documents the political career and personal life of Mario Savio, a student at Queens College who subsequently attended the University of California, Berkeley, and became a central figure in the Free Speech Movement in 1964.
The Arthur Gatti Papers is arranged into four series, with the first series having four subseries.
Series I: Activism
Series II: Mario Savio and the Free Speech Movement
Series III: Scrapbooks
Series IV: Memorabilia
Reel-to-reel tape recording.
Donated by Arthur Gatti in 2009.
An earlier version of the collection summary in this finding aid referred to "race riots" in Newark in 1967. This term was removed by Annie Tummino (Head of Special Collections and Archives) in 2020 in response to an email from Art Gatti, who noted that "it was a neighborhood rebellion against stifling and lethal suppression," not a "race riot."
- Arthur Gatti Papers
- Print finding aid created by Nicholas Pavlik Fall 2010; approved by Annie Tummino, Fall 2011; edited by Alexandra Dolan-Mescal, Fall 2013. Machine readable finding aid created by Alexandra Dolan-Mescal, Spring 2014.
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