Chris Hedges: Staughton and Alice Lynd: Heroes for the Beaten, Foreclosed on, Imprisoned Masses





Staughton Lynd could have built an enviable career as an academic but for his conscience. His conscience led him as a young undergraduate disgusted by the elitism around him to drop out of Harvard, and tortured him when he returned to finish his degree. It plagued him after he received his doctorate from Columbia and saw him head to the segregated South to join his friend Howard Zinn in teaching history at the historically black Spelman College. It propelled him to become the director of Freedom Schools in the Mississippi Summer Project of 1964. It prodded him a year later to chair the first march against the Vietnam War in Washington, D.C., and join Tom Hayden and Herbert Aptheker on a trip to Hanoi.

The administration at Yale University, where Staughton taught after leaving Spelman because of conflicts with the college president over his and Zinn’s activism, was not amused. Yale dismissed him as a professor. Five other universities, which had offered Staughton teaching positions, abruptly rescinded their offers. He had become a pariah. No university would hire him, although his book “Intellectual Origins of American Radicalism” had become a minor classic. Staughton, like all incorrigible rebels, found a new route to defy authority. He put himself, with his wife’s help, through law school, graduated in 1976 and moved to Youngstown, Ohio, to fight the departing steel companies and defend workers tossed out of jobs....

I met Staughton and Alice, also a lawyer, a few days ago in Youngstown. The Lynds, now in their 80s, have soldiered on as the walls have collapsed around them. They practice what they call “prophetic litigation,” meaning that they often know they are likely to lose but believe that constantly battling issues of injustice and abuse, and keeping these issues before the public, is worth the likelihood of defeat....


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