Eric Weinberger, 1932-2006
Weinberger, a lifelong activist and organizer in the civil rights,
anti-nuclear, and anti-war movements, died on December 15, 2006
at the Goddard House Nursing Home in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.
Eric was best known in Boston for his work with Food Not Bombs,
an organization which provides free food to the hungry year-round
in public parks.
Weinberger was born February 19, 1932 in New York City. As a teenager
he performed as a magician at birthday parties, sometimes assisted
by his younger brother. He began studying at the University of Chicago
at the age of 15. He found the academic world suffocating, and after
a year and a half, he dropped out. He traveled the country, hitchhiking
and riding trains, and worked in a carnival for the next few years,
until he began studying at Black Mountain College in North Carolina.
In this progressive scholarly environment, he finally felt at home
and concentrated on poetry, theater, and writing.
Eric became involved with the civil rights movement after his introduction
to the New England Committee for Nonviolent Action, in Connecticut,
where he first began his lifelong commitment to nonviolent action
as a means to achieve social change. In 1962 Weinberger was instrumental
in founding the Haywood Handicrafters’ League, an economic
empowerment project for displaced African American women in Brownsville,
Tennessee. Eric’s presence was not welcomed by law enforcement
and he suffered several brutal beatings in the local jail. In 1963
Eric and nine other activists from the Congress on Racial Equality
(CORE) and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) set
out to complete the route of postal worker Bill Moore, who was murdered
while walking from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi
to deliver a letter to the governor pleading for an end to segregation.
Eric and the other Freedom Walkers were arrested after crossing
the Alabama border for “conduct likely to provoke a riot.”
Eric refused to eat during the entire duration of his time in prison.
Only 12 days after being released, Eric was arrested again at a
sit-in at an Atlanta restaurant.
He was asked to give trainings in nonviolent civil disobedience
to people there and became the target of increasing police repression,
culminating in an arrest in which he was beaten and burned with
chemicals. Weinberger was the victim of at least one bombing attempt
during his time in the south. After the 1965 march from Selma, Alabama
to Montgomery, Weinberger returned north.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Eric worked as an accountant to support
his family, becoming a self-taught expert in tax law. He remained
active in both anti-war and anti-nuclear activism during this period,
including resistance to the construction of a reactor at Seabrook
Nuclear Power Plant in New Hampshire. In the late 1980s, feeling
burned out from his professional work, he retired to return to full-time
In Boston Weinberger became involved with the Free Theater Collective,
which collaborated with the founding chapter of Food Not Bombs,
which began as a group to feed protesters at Seabrook and elsewhere.
Food Not Bombs became a major part of Eric’s life for the next
In the 1990s he participated in ACT UP and Housing Now demonstrations
and every autumn he attended the National Day of Mourning, in Plymouth,
Massachusetts organized by the United American Indians of New England.
In 2000 Eric took part in protests against the economic colonialism
of the IMF/ World Bank. The same year he was involved with Biodevastation,
the first ever mobilization to counter the proponents of genetic
Eric will be remembered by many people for many things, but throughout
it all he carried himself with dignity and an extreme humbleness.
He devoted his entire life to working for justice, easing the hardships
of others, and serving as a mentor and inspiration to many younger
In the last few years of his life, Eric experienced the gradual
degenerative effects of Alzheimer’s disease and was cared for
by friends. He was aware of the disease taking effect, but held
on to his sense of humor for as long as he could, sometimes laughing
at the absurd statements that would come out unexpectedly. He passed
away in his sleep at the age of 74.
A memorial service will be held at 1:00 PM on Saturday, February
10, 2007, at the Community Church of Boston. All are welcome.
Eric Weinberger was the (free) consulting accountant when we founded
South End Press in 1987/1988. We have always been grateful for his
help (SEP turns 30 this year).