Arthur Gatti attended Queens College from the early to mid-1960s, where he was extensively involved in 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 primarily stationed in the city of Taxco, in the state of Guerrero, where, among other projects, he helped to repair a hospital and build a school that is still in use today.
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 became close friends although Savio left prematurely to rejoin his family who had relocated to California. In the fall of 1963, Savio enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley, where he later rose to national prominence as the leader of the Free Speech Movement, a major catalyst for the emergence of the anti-Vietnam War movement. Gatti and Savio remained friends until Savio’s death at age 53 in 1996.
During the winter intercession (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 Cheney and Michael Schwerner were stationed before being murdered by white supremacists the previous summer.
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 began volunteering 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.
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 Cheney 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. 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 Newark race riots of 1967 and the U.S. presidential elections of 1964 and 1968.
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.
The Arthur Gatti Collection is arranged into four series, with the first series having four sub-series:
Series I: Activism
Subseries A: Civil Rights
Subseries B: Anti-Vietnam War
Subseries C: Students for a Democratic Society
Subseries D: Additional Activism
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.
Mario Savio correspondence: Mississippi, to Cheri Stevenson, Berkeley, Calif.: ALS, 1964.
Sid Simon Collection, Queens College
Congress of Racial Equality
Free Speech Movement (Berkeley, Calif.)
Mississippi Freedom Project
Queens (New York, N.Y.)
Queens College (New York, N.Y.)
Student movements—United States—1960-1970
Students for a Democratic Society (U.S.)
Taxco de Alarcón (Mexico)
Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements--United States
item, date (if known), box, folder, Arthur Gatti Collection, Department of Special Collections and Archives, Queens College, City University of New York
Donated by Arthur Gatti in 2009.