One of the primary programs of the mid-20th century antiwar group Peacemakers was war tax resistance. Many across the country either lived purposely below the poverty line to avoid paying an income tax or flatly refused to file their taxes. Of just the six people in the movement arrested in the 1950s-1960s, one was the Black Olympic athlete Eroseanna Robinson. Long before Muhammad Ali was jailed for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War, Eroseanna Robinson inspired innumerable people by making multiple stands against the US war machine. Since at least 1951, years before the Civil Rights Movement really took off, Robinson was a desegregation activist in Maryland, Ohio, and beyond. As an Olympic runner, Robinson refused to compete in Russia, not wanting to be used as a pawn in US-USSR Cold War political games. And on February 18, 1960, Robinson was finally arrested and jailed for years of refusing to pay income taxes.
Most of the income tax collected in the United States is directed towards war. This was true during the Cold War, and it absurdly remains true now, even with the “specter of communism” long gone. Robinson, like the rest of the Peacemakers, did not want to contribute anything to the United States military — what Dr. King would later call “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”
Throughout the arrest and incarceration process, Robinson followed her nonviolent resistance training and refused to cooperate with authorities, even forcing law enforcement and correctional officers to physically carry her into court and to and from various holding sites. She went on a hunger strike for months, resulting in her jailers force-feeding her — but the force-feeding upset many in the clergy and put the legal system that jailed her under intense scrutiny.
As mentioned last week, Eroseanna Robinson was one of the featured faculty of the 1960 Peacemakers training program in New London, CT. Indeed, her description in the brochure was the longest of all, in part due to the drama of her story as a war tax resister.
(See last week’s post here: http://www.voluntownpeacetrust.org/a-peace-of-history-blog/february-17th-2022)
Next month during Women’s History Month, we will pick back up Eroseanna Robinson’s story, including how she was released from jail after completing just a quarter of her sentence.
(Click the image below to download the PDF version of the original clipping)
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Insert sheet. The Peacemaker, March 5, 1960.
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