by Bonnie Mager, OLLI member

The Berkeley brown shingle had a welcoming air, and when Tony Platt opened the door the visitor was met with walls of books, art from around the world, and lovely old silver pieces. We sat in his warm and airy kitchen with tea and scones to talk about his career and plans for OLLII.

Tony was born in Manchester and his English roots still echo in his speech. His parents were progressive activists and fostered his interest in the justice system. After graduating from Oxford with a degree in law and jurisprudence, he came to Berkeley in 1966 to complete a PHD in criminology. He got a teaching job in that department and characterizes his years at Berkeley as turbulent and exciting.

After leaving Berkeley in the early 70’s he started teaching at Sacramento State in 1977 and continued there teaching in the areas of criminology and social justice in the department of social work. He has published widely and has received awards for meritorious performance for teaching and research at Cal State, Sacramento. His publications include The Child Savers: the Invention of Delinquency, the Politics of Riot Commissions, 1917-1970, and Bloodlines: Recovering Hitler’s Nuremberg Laws, From Patton’s Trophy to Public Memorial.

He retired in December of 2007 but is still doing research and working on another book. His focus is relating memory and history, particularly among the Yurok Tribe of the Humboldt County coast. He is concerned with the damage done to grave sites and ancient remains by settlers of that area. His concern also extends to the fate of the indigenous people throughout this country and its history.

His class at OLLI, “Doing Justice to History”, will cover some of this material, as well as the tragedies that befell different ethnicities in California, Germany, and Ireland. But his goal is not merely to recount and condemn those injustices He wants to emphasize issues of reconciliation and memorialization wherever one group has in the past subjugated or threatened the existence of another. He wants to see civilization moving forward from a violent past, learning forgiveness and positive co-existence. Contemplating the realities of the future, he admits to “optimism of the heart, but pessimism of the mind”. His is most optimistic about the involvement of the current generation of young people in the current political trends.

More information about Tony can be found on his blog at