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From Yale to Jail: The Life Story of a Moral Dissenter

Overview

The son of a well-to-do Boston lawyer, David Dellinger seemed cut out for a distinguished career in law or government. But rejecting his comfortable background, he walked out of Yale one afternoon during the Great Depression, in his oldest clothes and without any money, to ride the freight trains, sleep at missions, and stand in breadlines. It was while sharing a warming fire on a street corner in a hobo jungle that he first knew that in his own way he would follow the path of Francis of Assisi. Dellinger lived ...
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Overview

The son of a well-to-do Boston lawyer, David Dellinger seemed cut out for a distinguished career in law or government. But rejecting his comfortable background, he walked out of Yale one afternoon during the Great Depression, in his oldest clothes and without any money, to ride the freight trains, sleep at missions, and stand in breadlines. It was while sharing a warming fire on a street corner in a hobo jungle that he first knew that in his own way he would follow the path of Francis of Assisi. Dellinger lived among the poor in Newark, was bloodied in the freedom marches through the South, and led countless hunger strikes in jail. In the "hole" in Danbury prison he faced his own death, to be reborn with courage that would never desert him. Always, he reached out to his antagonist to find a common ground. Dellinger introduced Gandhi's principles of nonviolence to the political street struggles against the Vietnam War, holding together the broad-based antiwar coalition he forged by the sheer force of his personality. In 1968 he held the world spellbound with his cry "the whole world is watching," referring to the media coverage of the Chicago police riot. His life of service to social change had its crowning moment before Judge Julius Hoffman during the Chicago Eight trial, where Dellinger and his co-defendants turned the tables on their accusers to put the government on trial. His recollections of those years shed new light on many of the most crucial events of the 1960s, bringing to life again the drama of those turbulent years. His inside account of what happened in the sixties, and of the people who shaped that decade - Martin Luther King, Jr., Abbie Hoffman, Bayard Rustin, A. J. Muste, Dorothy Day, Jerry Rubin, Joan Baez, and many more - is an indispensable chapter in the story of our time. Above all, From Yale to Jail is a stirring account of an extraordinary spiritual journey, as moving as it is inspiring.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this loosely organized but surprisingly endearing memoir, peace activist and 1969 Chicago Seven defendant Dellinger recounts his diligent, remarkably consistent efforts to live according to his conscience. Born in 1915 to the family of a prominent Boston Republican lawyer, Dellinger ( Vietnam Revisited ) developed his revolutionary egalitarian politics at Yale and at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Earnest but not strident, he discusses his opposition to WW II and his principled refusal to pay bail, which led him to endure stints in many prisons. In straightforward prose, he recalls launching the magazine Liberation in 1956, tells of his early opposition to the Vietnam War and emphasizes how he aimed for a peaceful demonstration in Chicago during the Democratic Convention of 1968. While reflecting critically on such leaders as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Dellinger also ruminates on his marriage, his family life and his everyday attempts to build bridges with strangers. His dedication--``I'm still learning and growing,'' he declares at 77--is inspirational. (Apr.)
Library Journal
At the age of 75, Dellinger, a social activist best known as one of the Chicago Seven, can look back over a life crowded with more than enough peril and action for 100 men. A warm personality emerges from these pages, as reflected in Dellinger's vivid portrayal of the important--and unimportant--people he met and/or knew, the issues for which he lived and argued, and the events in which he was either an interested observer or active participant. While his disjointed narrative is something of a pastiche without literary merit, it reflects Dellinger's style. It has vigor. It has conviction. Some will disagree with Dellinger's views, but few will contend that he does not try to be fair and balanced and always concerned with human values. Well worth reading by anyone interested in the past half-century of American life.-- A.J. Anderson, GSLIS, Simmons Coll., Boston
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