Working for Peace and JusticeMemoirs of an Activist Intellectual
Wittner, Lawrence S.
Paper Edition, $29.95t
Paper ISBN: 1-57233-857-1
Status: In Print
Publication Date: 3/20/2012
DescriptionA longtime agitator against war and social injustice, Lawrence Wittner has been tear-gassed, threatened by police with drawn guns, charged by soldiers with fixed bayonets, spied upon by the U.S. government, arrested, and purged from his job for political -reasons. To say that this teacher-historian-activist has led an interesting life is a considerable understatement.
In this absorbing memoir, Wittner traces the dramatic course of a life and career that took him from a Brooklyn boyhood in the 1940s and ’50s to an education at Columbia University and the University of Wisconsin to the front lines of peace activism, the fight for racial equality, and the struggles of the labor movement. He details his family background, which included the bloody anti-Semitic pogroms of late-nineteenth-century Eastern Europe, and chronicles his long teaching career, which comprised positions at a small black college in Virginia, an elite women’s liberal arts college north of New York City, and finally a permanent home at the Albany campus of the State University of New York. Throughout, he packs the narrative with colorful vignettes describing such activities as fighting racism in Louisiana and Mississippi during the early 1960s, collaborating with peace-oriented intellectuals in Gorbachev’s Soviet Union, and leading thousands of antinuclear demonstrators through the streets of Hiroshima. As the book also reveals, Wittner’s work as an activist was matched by scholarly achievements that made him one of the world’s foremost authorities on the history of the peace and nuclear disarmament movements—a research specialty that led to revealing encounters with such diverse figures as Norman Thomas, the Unabomber, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Caspar Weinberger, and David Horowitz.
A tenured professor and renowned author who has nevertheless lived in tension with the broader currents of his society, Lawrence Wittner tells an engaging personal story that includes some of the most turbulent and significant events of recent history.
Lawrence S. Wittner, emeritus professor of history at the University at Albany, SUNY, is the author of numerous scholarly works, including the award-winning three-volume Struggle Against the Bomb. Among other awards and honors, he has received major grants or fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Aspen Institute, the United States Institute of Peace, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
“In a lively departure from his scholarly works, Wittner tells the story of a man who combined teaching and activism. I marveled at his energy and diverse participation in progressive causes. Regardless of your political views, a thorough reading of Wittner’s memoir will give you a first-hand look at academic life and progressive activism of the 1960’s -- and continuing to the present day.” —David Kinchen
"Larry Wittner's life and work are inspiring on their own, but he recounts them in such a frank, open manner that he has crafted a real page-turner. Working for Peace and Justice takes you along on a joyful ride of discovery through the life of a model citizen/scholar/activist."
—Kevin Martin, Executive Director, Peace Action
“Scholar, activist, and troubadour Larry Wittner has gifted us with his bold life’s journey for world betterment. Vividly written and deeply moving, this timely, splendid book will inform and hearten everyone concerned about peace and freedom, justice, democracy, and human rights.”
—Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt and Distinguished Professor of History and Women’s Studies, John Jay College & Graduate Center, CUNY
“The season has come for memoirs of the children of the 1960s who became academics and changed the academy, and this memoir is a jewel of the genre: wonderfully lucid, evocative, honest, unpretentious, precise, and interesting. Larry Wittner’s splendid account reflects his deep good-spiritedness and describes his many years of activist struggle for peace and social justice.”
―Gary Dorrien, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics, Union Theological Seminary; Professor of Religion, Columbia University
“It is fascinating to peer into the personal life of Lawrence Wittner—the great chronicler of the antinuclear movement—in this quite amazing autobiography. He has lived an exemplary life, one that we all should try and emulate in our own individual ways.”
―Helen Caldicott, Founding President, Physicians for Social Responsibility
“Working for Peace and Justice provides a readable narrative of what it takes and the price one pays when the choice is made both to live a life of thought and contemplation and to act on a genuine commitment to make the world a safer and better place. Whether he was formulating ideas for world peace or walking a picket line, Larry Wittner was there and his impact was felt. We can all learn lessons from this wonderful memoir.”
―Bill Scheuerman, former President, United University Professions; retired President, National Labor College
"Larry Wittner's engaging and important memoir reminds me of why his work, his scholarship, and his activism have made me proud to be an American historian. It is a record of democratic social struggle, as well as a gift to those in the next generation who will have the courage and ambition to follow his example of working for a better world."
―Martin J. Sherwin, winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for biography
“Larry Wittner has been—and remains—a great union activist. Read this book and you’ll learn what Solidarity really means!”
―Bill Ritchie, President, Albany County Central Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO
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