David Lewis Porter died from Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis at home on December 29, 2018, surrounded by his family. He was 79.
Dave grew up outside of Chicago and was a devoted Chicago Cubs fan. After graduating from Oberlin College in 1961, Dave studied at the Paris Institute of Political Studies but felt he was taught more by daily exposure to street demonstrations against French colonialism in Algeria. His doctoral studies in politics at Columbia included a year in Algeria learning directly about the large-scale workers’ self-management movement there. These inspirations sustained his involvement in antiwar and freedom struggles thereafter.
He applied such egalitarian principles to his pedagogy as a professor at several colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada before a fellowship at Princeton University in 1975-76. After that, he taught in the Womens’ Studies and Innovative Studies programs at SUNY-New Paltz before teaching at SUNY-Empire State College for 25 years.
Living over half of his life in New Paltz, Dave helped to organize local efforts to challenge irresponsible land-use projects. Co-founder of AFFIRM, the Association for Intelligent Rural Management, he became a deft, critical expert on the process through which development proposals are reviewed, lending his skills pro bono to many grassroots groups. As a leader in the massive New Paltz struggle against the Huguenot Plaza/Walmart proposal (1993-96), he worked to forge a successful oppositional campaign that altered the political terrain of New Paltz for years to come.
A prolific scholar, Dave published widely on topics including Algerian politics, the historical anarchist movement, grassroots mobilizations in the time of the U.S. war for independence, environmental organizing and law, feminist science fiction, and family history. His 1983 book Vision on Fire: Emma Goldman on the Spanish Revolution was republished in 2006 and has been translated into Greek, French, Spanish, and German. Additional books include Megamall on the Hudson: Walmart, Planning, and Grassroots Resistance (with Chester L. Mirsky, 2003) and Eyes to the South: French Anarchists and Algeria (2011). Forthcoming from AK Press is his translation of Kadour Naïmi’s Freedom in Solidarity: My Experiences in the May 1968 Uprising.
He is survived by his wife, Nancy Schniedewind of New Paltz; his brother Jack Porter of Bloomington, Illinois; his sister Nancy Suhs of Homewood, Illinois; his children David Porter Jr. of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Noelle Parker of Bellevue, Washington, Jesse Porter Schniedewind of Los Angeles, California, and Daniel Schniedewind; his five grandchildren; as well as by friends in New Paltz and beyond.
A gathering honoring his life and legacy will be held on January 13th at 2:30 in the Fireside Room at the Reformed Church of New Paltz (heavy snow postpones until 5 o’clock the following day). In lieu of flowers, it is requested that you take courageous action toward a more free and beautiful world.