In 1974, anti-nukes activist Sam Lovejoy wrote to Howard Zinn, asking Zinn to testify at his upcoming September 17 trial as an expert on civil disobedience. Earlier that year in February, Lovejoy toppled a weather tower that was the first stage of a proposed nuclear power plant. In a four-page typed statement, Lovejoy explained:

As a farmer concerned about the organic and the natural, I find irradiated fruit, vegetables and meat to be inorganic; and I can find no natural balance with a nuclear plant in this or any community. … While my purpose is not to provoke fear, I believe that we must act; positive action is the only option left open to us. Communities have the same rights as individuals. We must seize back control of our own community.

Read more about this case and watch the film Lovejoy’s Nuclear War that documents the procession of the case.

The letter is from the Howard Zinn Papers, housed at New York University’s Tamiment Library and published here with permission of Sam Lovejoy.

Sam Lovejoy letter to Howard Zinn, 1974 |

Letter transcription

Nuclear Information Commune of Montague (NIC’M)
112 Avenue A
Turners Falls, Mass.

                                                            cloudy cool thursday

Dearest Howard Zinn,

I write to you for many reason…but first I guess I must tell you a little of myself in order to explain. I did meet you back in ’68 at U Mass. while I was a student “radical” at Amherst College. And then, indeed, you wrote the introduction to Harvey Wasserman’s History book, and Harvey and I have been living at the same commune for close to 5 years now! But these are only small karmic ties.

Enclosed is a copy of the statement I gave the police here, in a C.D. action this past February 22. The big, totally pro-nuclear, Northeast Utilities wants Montague very badly. My actions that day were basically aimed at shaking up the local populace to a situation that most were taking totally for granted.

So I have been handling my own defense in the case and am up against 5 years on the felony conviction…all my advice has been to continue to handle my own defense. I am working to get Ralph Nader to appear, along with some other famous physicists, to speak to the nuclear issues, which are many and enormous! A legal friend of mine has another friend who worked on the Camden 28 trial and has informed me that you appeared and gave a ringing defense of Civil Disobedience. Firstly, then, I wonder whether we might meet to discuss this case I’m in, and whether it would be possible for you to appear in my defense. I am in touch with numerous legal hands (one being Harvey Silvergate in Boston) who will be helping me arrange the procedures to get good defense testimony.

I must say at this point that I have always been the kind of person who rarely asks for favors; but this time I am in exactly the position that to deny myself will only hurt the cause that not I alone represent.

Secondly, I am working on a legal defense fund and need people of recognized “weight” to aid in this endeavor. I have been writing many people but so far I have been miserably received! People in this America are not ready for even Civil Diso… in the Ecology movement, and politically minded people have not begun to develop an analysis of ecology-energy-government!

Finally, and most embarrassingly, I am looking for money itself. Friends of mine who work at WIN magazine have told me to “just be up front” and ask for $500! Personally, I don’t know what to say…I have opened a central office for 7 different organizations here in the county. The local communes are our strength, yet they have no financial resources (hohum). I have been working full time on this (much to the dereliction of my farming duties!) for the past six months and am totally drained.

I guess I am putting myself at your feet; and ask that you communicate back to me of whatever you think..I would most surely like to visit with you for ideas and inspiration. The trial itself will be starting on September 17, 1974; so it is crucial for us to meet way before that time. I think you for hearing me out in this and do have an enjoyable summer.


Sam Lovejoy




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