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“I Want to Be Your Friend, You Black Idiot!!”: The Dynamics of Majority Involvement in Minority Movements

speakers' biographies

Howard Machtinger

Students for a Democratic Society and Weathermen

I arrived in Chicago in the fall of 1966, just after King’s unsuccessful attempts to combat de facto segregation in Chicago and a sit-in against the use of class rank to decide which students were subjected to be drafted.  I came as a graduate student in the sociology department at the University for Chicago.  I soon joined the university chapter of SDS who had helped lead the anti-class rank sit-in of the previous spring.  An abortive sit-in in the spring of 1967 led to me being ‘exiled’ from campus.   During my semester ‘exile’, I went to the 1967 World’s Fair or Expo in Montreal where as an SDS representative I met with the National Liberation Front (NLF) of Viet Nam, known by Americans as the Viet Cong.  I vividly recall their confident assertions that they would defeat the US.  I then went to California where I participated in the large Stop the Draft Week demonstrations in Oakland.  Then I journeyed to Copenhagen as SDS delegate to attend the second session of the Bertrand Russell War Crimes Tribunal where I heard testimony about US torture techniques and the use of chemical agents such as Agent Orange. 

Upon my return to campus I became more active against the war and in the anti-racist movement.  I introduced Muhammed Ali when he spoke out against the Viet Nam war to a crowd of more than 1500 at the Field House on the U of C campus and helped organize Viet Nam graduation for the class of 1968.  In the summer of 1968 I was an active participant in demonstrations at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.  I was part of a small organizing project on Chicago’s West Side.  In the spring of 1969 I was one of the leaders of a sit-in in support of the tenure fight of sociologist Marlene Dixon, a feminist radical.  I was subsequently expelled. 

I had already become active at the national; level in SDS (whose national office was located on West Madison Street).  I saw myself as a militant anti-imperialist and joined the Weatherman faction of SDS.  My evaluation of this experience is at  I lived as a fugitive for most of the period from 1970 until 1978 when I turned myself into government authorities. 

Since then I have remained politically active while working successively as a computer programmer, high school teacher, and director of a teacher training program.  I am now retired.