Labor union legend Staughton Lynd is getting more serious attention now at 80, then at any other time of his life. Duing a time of neoliberal hubris and all out attack on the middle and working classes, we have the release of not just one book about Lynd but three. And many commentators realize that these discussions of meaningful community action and social justice could not have been published at a more critical time.
Forty-six years ago, during the tumultuous summer of 1964, Lynd was invited to coordinate the Freedom Schools established in Mississippi by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. The schools were an integral part of the Herculean effort to end apartheid in the United States and became models for alternative schools everywhere.
That August, Lynd stood with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party at the Democratic Party convention. Led by Fannie Lou Hamer, the M.F.D.P. had earned the right to represent their state with their blood and their remarkable courage….
In early 1965, Lynd spoke at Carnegie Hall in one of the first events organized in opposition to the U.S. invasion of Vietnam. A short time later, Students for a Democratic Society asked him to chair the first national demonstration against the war, where he was again a keynote speaker. That April 17, a crowd of 25,000 that was five times larger than even the most optimistic organizers had anticipated turned out in Washington, and what would become the largest anti-war movement in U.S. history was born.
That summer, Lynd helped organize the Assembly of Unrepresented People at which peace with the people of Vietnam was declared. It proved prophetic, for in a few shorts years, a majority of people in the U.S. had declared peace with Vietnam.
Lynd would continue as one of the seminal figures of the 1960's. He was both a tireless organizer and the author of numerous articles in important movement publications like Liberation, Radical America and Studies on the Left. With co-author Michael Ferber, he documented the movement against the military draft in The Resistance, one of the best books about Sixties organizing.
With the need for revitalization of community and social activism, these books remind us of not only what we are fighting for but that it is possible to win.