1943 December 23

Hunger Strike by COs Ends Racial Segregation at Danbury Prison

 

Two-hundred conscientious objectors (COs), serving time in prison for refusing to cooperate with the draft, on this day ended a hunger strike protesting racial segregation at the federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut. The hunger strike worked, and prison officials announced that they would end racial segregation in the prison. The hunger strike began on August 11, 1943 and lasted 135 days.

One of the inmates was Jim Peck, who holds the distinction of being the only person to participate in both the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation, an early freedom ride to integrate bus travel in the South (April 9, 1947), and the more famous 1961 Freedom Ride that began on May 4, 1961. In the latter, he was brutally beaten by Alabama racists. On December 9, 1983, he was awarded $25,000 in damages from the FBI for its failure to protect him in the Alabama beating.

Learn more about the strike from the PBS film, The Good War: And Those Who Refused to Fight It: http://www.pbs.org/itvs/thegoodwar/bars.html

Learn more: Cynthia Eller, Conscientious Objectors and the Second World War: Moral and Religious Arguments in Support of Pacifism (1991)

Learn about the rights of COs today at the GI Rights Hotline here.

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