From the summer of 1963 up through the rest of the year and into the next one, the Committee for Nonviolent Action (CNVA) and various other peace groups across the North American East Coast sponsored the Quebec-Washington-Guantanamo Walk for Peace. This extended action spread its message of disarmament, reconciliation, and antiracism to dozens of cities along the multiple routes. But the group never actually made it to Cuba. Not only were their requests to the State Department denied, but one large group was arrested and jailed in Albany, Georgia — not for their antiwar agitating, but for violating local Jim Crow regulations in defiance of the Chief of Police. Barbara Deming, noted civil rights and antiwar activist involved with the New England CNVA, was one of the participants of the Walk who was held in prison for a month in Albany. A couple of years later, Barbara Deming published a book documenting the experience in Albany called Prison Notes.
(Read about how the CNVA organized the Quebec-Washington-Guantanamo Walk here
Read about how the Walk’s purpose shifted once they reached the South here)
In the following excerpt from the book, Deming reflects on some moments earlier in the Walk, and then connects the violence and explicit segregationist motivations of the Police Chief Laurie Prichett with the quiet and unself-conscious racism of the more civil and outwardly pleasant white Southerners she had met. In the pages before this excerpt, Deming had included descriptions of scenes within the prison — the abysmal conditions of her cell, the even worse conditions on the “Blacks” part of the segregated prison, and the near-constant wild yelling and random harassment from one specific white “noisy prisoner.”
Content Warning: the quote in the following excerpt attributed to the “noisy prisoner” is rather tame compared to the other horribly racist things he was quoted saying earlier in the book — in this quote, there are swears but no slurs — but despite that, some readers may still be disturbed by the racism on display.
This past Monday, January 23, we celebrated the 2nd anniversary of the international prohibition of nuclear weapons — an amazing international achievement that undoubtedly owes much to the efforts of those 1960s peace activists.
See the photos from our local demonstration here.
Check out the photos and reports from all around the world here.
Moreover, we at VPT are already starting to plan some summer events, including the arrival of the Golden Rule in New London, CT in July. As the world’s first modern protest ship and a vessel originally operated by the CNVA, the Golden Rule has strong historical ties to VPT. We at VPT will put on some public events related to the ship in the months before it arrives as well as when the ship is here. To stay in the loop about these events, sign up for our newsletter: http://eepurl.com/Oqf99
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Deming, Barbara, and Jane Meyerding. “Chapter Three of Prison Notes.” We Are All Part of One Another: A Barbara Deming Reader, New Society Publishers, Philadelphia, 1984.
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