Staughton Lynd, Remarkable Independent Quaker Radical, Historian and Quaker Activist Turned Labor Lawyer, Dies at 92

The activist and historian Staughton Lynd in 2019. “At age 16 and 17, I wanted to find a way to change the world,” he said in 2010. “Just as I do at age 79.”Credit…Dustin Franz for The New York Times

After being blacklisted from academia for his antiwar activity, he became an organizer among steel workers in the industrial Midwest.

New York Times — November 20, 2022

Staughton Lynd, a historian and lawyer who over a long and varied career organized schools for Black children in Mississippi, led antiwar protests in Washington and fought for labor rights in the industrial Midwest, died on Thursday in the town of Warren, in northeast Ohio. He was 92.

[NOTE: I met Lynd once, in 1965, when I visited Yale. He was welcoming but a very sober and serious guy. Shortly after my visit, he went off to North Vietnam with some other activists, to look for ways to help stop the U. S. war. For his trouble, he was fired by Yale and blackballed by academia. But it didn’t slow him or his productivity down; and from a distance, I thought of him as a Quaker career role model in our generation. He was quietly determined to find a way to open to apply his skills and values; also ready to learn  new ways to make a difference, heedless of “fame.” I suspect younger Friends today could learn from him too.]

His wife and frequent collaborator, Alice Lynd, said his death, at a hospital, was caused by multiple organ failure.

Mr. Lynd was one of the last of a generation of radical academics — including his friend and colleague Howard Zinn — who in the 1960s overthrew their predecessors’ obsession with detached, objective scholarship in favor of political engagement.

Many of his colleagues stayed within the bounds of academia, but Mr. Lynd burst beyond them. As a young professor at Spelman College in Atlanta, he led students in marches against nuclear weapons. In 1964 he was one of the main organizers behind Freedom Summer, which brought Northern college students to Mississippi to teach and organize in Black communities.

3 thoughts on “Staughton Lynd, Remarkable Independent Quaker Radical, Historian and Quaker Activist Turned Labor Lawyer, Dies at 92”

  1. Staughton Lynd – I’d heard the name, but wow! What a life story of moral convictions and courage through times I have many memories of, events, places and people, some well known and others not so much, at least by me. I’d never heard of the schools started in Mississippi during freedom summer. I wonder if they still exist.

  2. I became familiar with the progressive presence of Staughton Lynd during my adult life through his presence in Chicago civil rights activities and his labor rights activities in the north west Indiana industrial cities along Lake Michigan. I’m about 13 years younger than he, and I became acquainted with some of his writings as a young adult progressive in the years before I became an attorney. This was well before my discovery that I was a Quaker. and until today, I was unaware of his having any Quaker ties whatsoever. I also was not aware of his association with Howard Zinn, one of my heroes. His life and scholarship leave large shoes I doubt will ever be filled. But I am moved to reread some of his writings. He was a great man among progressives, and a great scholar, as well. Thank you for publishing this.

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