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Reviewed by:
  • David Dellinger: The Life and Times of a Nonviolent Revolutionary
  • Larry Adams
David Dellinger: The Life and Times of a Nonviolent Revolutionary Andrew E. Hunt New York: New York University Press, 2006. 358 pp., ISBN 0814736386, $34.95.

With a life spanning nearly nine decades and most of a century, David Dellinger is probably the least recognized pacifist activist of the twentieth century. Although he followed the principles of Ghandi and was an activist for civil and personal rights 30 years before Dr. Martin Luther King came to the forefront in the 1960s, Dellinger was not so well known as either man at his death in May 2004. As the senior statesman of the activist movements of the 1960s, however, Dellinger was influential in almost every facet of the fomentation of that time. Throughout his life, Dellinger remained true to his convictions and principles, sometimes even under tremendous pressure to compromise. He remained a tireless worker for human rights, sometimes at the expense of his own health, family, and well-being. Now Andrew E. Hunt brings us a comprehensive look at this little known figure.

Dellinger's roots reach deep into the borderlands of Tennessee and North Carolina. His father was a first-generation college graduate who went on to law school and ultimately Yale University. After finishing at Yale, the Dellingers settled in Boston and the children began to come. David was the second of four children in a prosperous family in a major metropolitan area. As a product of privilege and a conservative background, David Dellinger seems one of the least likely of people to become a pacifist and activist, but his conviction was born out of his intellectual nature and college experience.

David Dellinger entered Yale in 1932, and although the economics of the Great Depression gripping the country did not particularly affect the Dellingers, the politics of the Depression did so profoundly (20). Dellinger's already strong humanistic Christian tendencies strengthened to personal conviction and commitment. He met Walt Rostow while at Yale, and Dellinger stated unequivocally, "he helped radicalize me" (20). Dellinger also credits Rostow with preventing him from becoming "an orthodox Marxist communist, because it . . . [was] lacking human-relatedness" (21). An avid athlete, Dellinger had hopes of becoming an Olympic runner, but a calf injury requiring surgery ended that dream. A hospital stay gave Dellinger the time to reflect and reorient his focus, which became that of activist and antiwar pacifist.

Hunt recounts for us Dellinger's development as a radical over the course of the 20 or so years following the Great Depression and World War II. [End Page 173] Dellinger went to prison on more than one occasion for his beliefs, much to the chagrin of his family, especially his father. He traveled throughout the world to further the cause of nonviolent resistance and human rights. Then came the Vietnam War and the 1960s, culminating for Dellinger with the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968 and his arrest and subsequent trial as one of the Chicago Eight (that eventually became known as the Chicago Seven).

Hunt suggests that "the five-month-long Chicago conspiracy trial became the defining moment in Dellinger's life" (204). If Dellinger is ever to be generally recognized for his efforts as a pacifist, this event is the means by which he becomes a national leader and receives the respect he deserves for years of tireless commitment to a cause. Hunt states that "it is safe to say that all roads in David Dellinger's life led to and away from the Chicago conspiracy trial" (204). By October 2001, when a huge birthday party was held in his honor just as the country was reeling from a direct attack and about to enter yet another war, Dellinger was suffering from Alzheimer's disease and probably was unaware of what was happening to his country and the world as he had known it. On 25 May 2004, David Dellinger died.

When trying to start a bimonthly magazine in 1956–1957, David Dellinger perhaps summed up his focus and goal best when he said of the magazine, "I don't...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1930-1197
Print ISSN
1930-1189
Pages
pp. 173-174
Launched on MUSE
2008-03-07
Open Access
No
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