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David Coolidge

Two Chicago Negroes Resist Army Draft

(20 January 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 3, 20 January 1941, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

CHICAGO – Any opposition lo the draft by Negroes seems to be centered in Chicago, It is here that at least two Negroes have received publicity in the daily papers by registering opposition to conscription on the ground that the Negro is Jim-Crowed both in the military service and in industry.

The first. Negro here to come out as an opponent of conscription was J.G. St. Clair Drake, a research student at the University of Chicago. Drake issued circulars calling upon Negroes to resist the draft, and to take the stand that they were “Consciousness Objectors Against Jim-Crow.” Negroes were advised to return their questionnaires to the draft board using the slogan against Jim-Crow.

At the time this is written, the draft board had before it a questionnaire of one of Drake’s followers. The board was forced to make a decision in connection with a similar position taken by Ernest Calloway, educational director of the United Transport Service Employees of America (“Red Caps”).

Objects to Negro Status

Culloway had a low draft number. He wrote the draft board that

“as a Negro I have accepted many of the responsibilities of my limited citizenship without benefit of a number of its blessings ... The practice of relegating certain types of service to Negroes and refusing their service in other branches of the armed forces ... is not obeying the spirit and letter of the constitution. I can not accept the responsibility of taking the oath upon induction into the military service under the present anti-democratic structure of the United States army and ask to be exempted from military training until such time that my contribution and participation in the defense of my country can be made on a basis of complete equality” Then Galloway proceeded to say that “the present U.S. army is the most anti-democratic institution in American governmental life.”

The draft board held that Calloway’s objections do not come within the definition of conscientious objection to war by reason of religious training. His petition was rejected. Members of the board said that they had no suggestions as to how the ills of society complained of by Calloway could be corrected. They said that the board had no remedy and that the board could not be used as a forum for the discussion of this question. Also the board held that Calloway could not make an appeal because the local board, they said, had no authority to send the case up on appeal for the reasons that Calloway gave. Calloway was classed as a conscript.

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