Please remember in your prayers Marv Davidov, a lifelong practitioner of what he called “active nonviolence” and since 1992 an adjunct member of the University of St. Thomas Justice and Peace Studies Department. He had a number of health problems and died at age 81 Saturday, Jan. 14, in at Walker United Care Center in Minneapolis.
Davidov’s faculty website at St. Thomas notes that “he is personally acquainted with nearly every American activist and is our main source of ‘living history’ for radical movements in the United States.”
Born and raised in a working-class Detroit neighborhood, Davidov came to St. Paul to attend Macalester College in 1949. Drafted during his senior year, he spent the last of his 19 months of military service in an Army stockade. “I was given an honorable discharge for the good of the service because I was too much trouble for them,” he told an Aquin student newspaper reporter in 2003.
He returned to Macalester but soon transferred to the University of Minnesota, where he joined the Student Peace Union and began picketing local Woolworth stores in support of racial integration. “It was a pretty interesting time,” he recalled in one online interview. “The ’60s were about to happen.”
While walking through the University of Minnesota campus, he bumped into a friend who was on his way to an organizing meeting for what became known as the Freedom Riders, a movement to protest segregation in the South. Davidov went to the meeting, too, and in the spring of 1961, he and six other white Minnesotans boarded a bus headed for Jackson, Miss.
When they arrived at the Jackson Greyhound station, the group defiantly violated a Jim Crow law by walking into what was called the “Negro Waiting Room.” They were arrested, convicted and spent 45 days with other Freedom Riders in a Mississippi state prison. It was one of more than 50 arrests Davidov eventually racked up during his nearly six decades of nonviolent civil disobedience.
After the Freedom Rides, Davidov joined a 17-month, 2,700-mile Canada-to-Cuba Peace Walk in 1963 and 1964. At the end of the walk, he and six others tried to sail to Cuba but their boat was confiscated. (A decade later, he and 174 others went to Cuba to protest the U.S. travel ban and met with Fidel Castro.)
In 1964, Davidov found himself in Berkeley, Calif., helping to organize resistance to the Vietnam War and the draft. Four years later he was back in Minnesota and founded the Honeywell Project, a decades-long protest against the company’s defense contracts, especially its production of cluster bombs. During the period from 1982 to 1989, Davidov estimated that the police made 2,100 arrests at Honeywell’s headquarters in Minneapolis.
Davidov received the Noam Chomsky Award from the Justice Studies Association 1997, and in 2010 he and peace activist Carol Masters published his biography, You Can’t Do That. That year they discussed their book at a “Noon Conversation in the Library” at St. Thomas.
“When I started out as a young man, I suppose I thought I’d be a teacher,” he told MinnPost reporter Doug Grow last fall. “And now that’s what I’ve ended up doing.”
When he came to St. Thomas in 1992, he told The Aquin newspaper that “I can’t wait to come to St. Thomas every Thursday. I hope I’ll be here for many years. I love it here.”
Davidov is survived by a brother; services are pending.