Al Montesi

Al Montesi was one of the most influential professors of the civil rights, anti-war, and counter culture student activist/intellectuals/writers/actors/artists at St. Louis University during my student days in the 1960s. His impact on all of us was enormous.

Al also was a key figure in the restoration of the Lafayette Park community of Historic St. Louis. Al bought a big old house on Benton Pl. back around 1966, when even bohemian youth lacking much fear or common sense were a bit “careful” about walking in Al’s neighborhood.

Al was a charismatic teacher and a poet/playwright whose work will probably honor him more posthumously, unless we can get the word out to the thousands who love him that his works are available.

Official Obituary? Written by Al Himself

Eulogy? by James Barry

Reflections on Farwell Memorial and Mass by Yaakov Sullivan

John Coyne? remembers Al. [The editor of UNIVERSITAS Laura Geiser said she will run an edited [to shorten] version of this as a letter in an upcoming issue of the magazine.]

Montesi’s Students Remember ‘Al’?

St. Louis Writers Guild remember Al.

Lafayette Square Neighbors? remember Al.

Artist Empowerment Project? in Al’s honor.

“Italians in Memphis,” by Al Montesi

His latest book is a memoir of the struggles of his people when they first came to America. It also includes a short Bio of Montesi.

To order send $18 per copy(includes postage & handling) to Al Montesi,22 Benton Pl, St. Louis, Mo. 63104, or e-mail

“Italians in Memphis,” by Al Montesi, is to be released in late April

As a prefatory note, he writes:

My primary reason for tackling this material is to honor the courage by which the immigrant Italians overcame the distress and hardships they encountered after first arriving in America. My second purpose was simply my students, whether in Germany, Africa, and the USA. They have hounded me for years to do a bio of my life. The short account of my own life, whether in Memphis or Saint Louis University,appearing in “Italians in Memphis,” will have to do.

Here are a few paragraphs from “Italians in Memphis.”

Italians at the “Sunnyside Plantation”

They then took boats up the river to Sunnyside. The contingent contained 98 families. However, it was not long before these newcomers became acutely aware of the miserable conditions they found themselves in. The water was impure, tree stumps were rotting in pools of stagnant water, their homes were shacks with no screans on windows; there was no extra work to be had. Mosquitoes were everywhere, and the malaria they carried took several lives. They were not only brutalized by their living conditions, but cheated by the company store and its management. Then too there was a language barrier betwen the owners and the immigrants. Their claims of mistreatment and deplorable conditions were totally ignored. They soon realized that they had been duped, that all of the agent’s promises for a better life were false. Moreover they found that they were virtually prisoners of Sunnyside.

Al Montesi, Sister Hyacinth, and Catholic Nuns

However, there was an occasional rebel nun, a Sister Hyacinth, who was very instrumental in my development. She was a merry nun and a beautiful one. She was the first to direct my reading to poetry, which she loved dearly. But she was rebellious in her stand against many of the rules of her own order. She was dainty and daring, and even wore nonstandard shoes that must have been specially ordered for her small feet. How she put up with my shenanigans I”ll never know. But on several days, I behaved in her class rather badly. Although I kept the whole class in stiches by some of my antics, the order and the decorum of the class was broken. But she seemed to take pleasure in my antics and let me have my way several times. I often wonder what happened to this lovely lady. Years later when I taught classes at a Catholic university, I was exposed to some bright and personable nuns, but none as charming as Sister Hycinth.

To order a copy of “Italians of Memphis” or connect with Dr. Al, please send an e-mail to Montesi@Milwaukee and we’ll get things rolling.

This from Dr. Al arrived on the eve of the Birthday Celebration to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Jim: Here is the Southern experience note. There are several episodes that might illustrate he fractions beween the two races in the american south. I was born in the cotton belt, in Memphis, Tenn, in 1921. As I was growing up I was divided by two divisive forces. First off as a young impressionable child, taught by he good sisters, I was told repeatedly to love my neighbor, be kind to everyone, and by all means work for a better society and world. However, the public attitude that suffused the South of my day was that one of my fellow human beings was a non-person, a brute, and as a threat to the status quo. I witnessed beatings, shootings, one or two murders, and lewd men shouting and harrassing black women. I could remember dozen of such episodes and as a young lad I turned away as quickly as possible from that public world. However, my views were looked upon as dangerous and undesirable. al montesi

Promoting Montesi Book on Italians of Memphis?

Last edited by Godsil.   Page last modified on December 03, 2006

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