daily californian logo


Welcome to the (March) Madness! Read more here

Dec. 4, 1964 letter by Mario Savio while detained in Santa Rita Jail

article image


We're an independent student-run newspaper, and need your support to maintain our coverage.

NOVEMBER 14, 2011

Alameda County
Santa Rita Prison
December 4, 1964

Dear Mom and Dad, Noni and Tom,

I won’t be in here long, but I thought you might like to receive a letter from the “Birmingham Jail.” They arrested about 800 of us students after we seized and held the administration building, Sproul Hall, for about 14 hours. We entered the building between noon and 1 a.m. on Wednesday. Here it’s Friday morning already and they have not yet even now completed “booking” us. In a speech on Tuesday noon I gave the administration an ultimatum — 24 hours to accede to our demands. When they failed to do so we seized the administration building. Our action has electrified the entire state — as well as many thousands in other states. It was Governor Brown himself — the fink — who ordered our arrest. But the action we took has also lighted a fire under the faculty, who have raised thousands of dollars in bail money, who have demanded we be pardoned, who have demanded that our demands for free speech be met, and who may insist that the Chancellor resign. Furthermore, there is a strike going on right now on campus. The whole campus is shut down — when I urged students to sit in on Wednesday I’d promised that either we would get our rights or we would completely halt the operation of the University! Its operation has been completely halted. So serious is our effort being taken that the Teamsters Union has refused to cross our picket lines. Accordingly, no materials which are brought into the University by truck are coming in. That means that no food is coming to the cafeterias — none at all. Whereas before the administration held the students in seige (sic) in one building; now we hold the administration in seige (sic) on the entire campus!

Even if the Regents do not now meet all our demands, at least we have brought the faculty over to our side. We have already won substantial victories. I am well and boyantly (sic) happy — if a little grubby. Don’t worry, please.

Joan Baez — the world famous folk singer — has taken a key role in the protest. She was with us in Sproul Hall!

With all my love,

Editor's note: This letter was provided to The Daily Californian by Robert Cohen, a professor at New York University and UC Berkeley alum.

NOVEMBER 14, 2011