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David Dellinger

David Dellinger (born 1915) is a renowned pacifist and activist for nonviolent social change, and one of most influential American radicals in 20th century. He is most famous for being one of the Chicago Eight, a group of protesters whose disruption of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago led to charges on conspiracy and crossing state lines with the intention of inciting a riot. The ensuing court case was turned by Dellinger and his co-defendents into a nationally-publicized platform for putting the Vietnam War on trial. On February 18, 1970, they were found guilty of conspiring to incite riots but the charges were eventually dismissed by an appeals court.

Dellinger was born in Wakefield, Massachusetts to a well-to-do family (his father was a lawyer). Rejecting his comfortable background, he walked out of Yale one day to go and live with the homeless during the Depression. During World War II, he was a conscientious objector and anti-war agitator.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Dellinger joined freedom marches in the South and led many hunger strikes in jail. As US involvement in Vietnam grew, Dellinger applied Gandhi's principles of non-violence to his activism within the growing anti-war movement, of which one of its high points was the Chicago Seven trial.

Dellinger had contacts and friendships with such diverse individuals as Eleanor Roosevelt, Ho Chi Minh, Martin Luther King, Jr, Abbie Hoffman, A.J. Muste, and numerous Black Panthers, including Fred Hampton, whom he greatly admired.


Before reading [his autobiography], I knew and greatly admired Dave Dellinger. Or so I thought. After reading his remarkable story, my admiration changed to something more like awe. There can be few people in the world who have crafted there lives into something truly inspiring. This autobiography introduces us to one of them. — Noam Chomsky, from the duskjacket of From Yale to Jail

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