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The Fort Jackson 8 Collection

 Collection
Identifier: MS201

Scope and Contents

Collection consists of the records of the Fort Jackson 8, members of the organization GIs United Against the War in Vietnam who were put in military prison for their antiwar activism, dating circa 1969 January-May. Contents include coverage of the legal case in defense of their constitution rights to oppose the war (including petitioning and public gathering) and support from other activists and activist organizations (including the GI Civil Liberties Defense Committee based in New York City, the Columbia Draft Information Center, the Student Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, the Southwide Mobilization Against the War in Vietnam and for Self-Determination, and the Serviceman's Link to Peace). Collection also includes handwritten letters from members of the Fort Jackson 8 Joe Cole and José Rudder during their imprisonment to the collection's creator, fellow activist Nelson Blackstock (1944–2018).

Dates

  • 1969

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Biographical / Historical

"The Fort Jackson Eight were members of GIs United Against the War in Vietnam, which started as a Black and Puerto Rican club for listening to Malcolm X tapes, then opened to white members and included Young Socialist Alliance activists. They were put in the stockade for their activism, resulting in a concerted effort by outside activists to support their case. The GI Civil Liberties Defense Committee in New York, which offered support, was associated with the Socialist Workers Party. The case was a landmark in the struggle for rights of servicemen to express opposition to the Vietnam War." [Provided by Bolerium Books, San Francisco, CA.]

A chronology of events prepared by the Serviceman's Link to Peace (see Box 1, Folder 14) describes the case of the Fort Jackson 8 in detail. On January 21st, 1969, fourteen Black GIs met in Fort Jackson's B Company barracks to listen to a tape of a speech by Malcolm X; the following night (January 22nd) the group invited others to join them to listen to the speech and discuss it, resulting in a meeting of 30 GIs. The next day (January 23rd), several servicemen were given excessive punishments and the B Company was threatened with overwork. Another meeting of GIs scheduled for that night was broken up by Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) scheduling a mandatory barracks clean-up. On January 25th, two privates complained to the Inspector General about the harassment, but no help was offered. On January 27th, a white and a Black private got into an altercation; the Black GI (Private Madison) was arrested and taken to the stockade (military prison); 60 soldiers who had gathered for a meeting could not learn what the charges were against him, and looked for the Commanding Officer (Capt. Wishart) to confront him about it. Capt. Wishart ordered the group to disperse and to send a representative to speak with him. He met with two privates but did not give any information about Private Madison's arrest. (Private Madison was imprisoned in the stockade 20 days, and lost two months of pay; upon release he was told association with the GIs United Against the War in Vietnam would result in extended confinement.) On January 28th, the Commanding General of Fort Jackson, James Hollingsworth, visited B Company's barracks. On January 29th, two more Black GIs who had attended the meetings were taken to the stockade by armed guard; they were court-martialed, and sentenced to undesirable discharge (Private Toomer) and three months in the stockade (Private Davis). The same day (January 29th), B Company was told no more than eight men could be in a barracks room at a time (ostensibly because of "upper respiratory infection season"); however, a group of eighty men met outside of the barracks. On February 3rd and 4th, meetings were held that formally established the group GIs United Against the War in Vietnam. On February 6th, one of the men who had complained to the Inspector General on January 25th was court-martialed for allegedly disobeying a direct order (a disputed and disproportionate claim) and given the maximum sentence (30 days in the stockade, a $100 fine, and demotion to the lowest rank). Other privates were harassed with extra redundant work. On February 11th, the members of GIs United began circulating a petition for an open meeting with the commanding officer to discuss the Vietnam war and soldiers' constitutional rights, with the goal of sending a petition to Congress. Those gathering petition signatures or signing the petition were harassed and intimidated. Mandatory inspections and events were used to prevent the GIs United of Company B from being able to present the petition, but others eventually attempted to; the Staff Duty Officer at the Post Headquarters refused to accept the petition. On March 14, Private Joseph (Joe) Cole was notified that the Army was intending to discharge him and alleging his activity was a national security threat; others members of GIs United were transferred abruptly. On March 16th, the GI Civil Liberties Defense Committee in New York City announced that affiliated lawyers would file suit against the Secretary of the Army and Commander of Fort Jackson to defend the GIs' right to petition and gather publicly. On March 20th, close to 100 GIs met to discuss the war and were harassed by Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers; the same night seven GIs were confined to their barracks or rooms. The next day (March 21st) Privates Joseph Cole, Eugene Rudder, Andrew Pulley, and Edilberto Chaparro were taken to the stockade; on March 25th, five more men (Privates Thomas Woodfin, Dominick Duddie, Curtis Mays, Delmar Thomas, and John Huffman) were arrested. On March 29th, Delmar Thomas was physically assaulted by Sergeant Jacob Bell; no action was taken against Bell and Delmar Thomas was deprived of medical care for the following three days in the stockade. On April 1st, four lawyers filed suit in U.S. District Court on behalf of 10 plaintiffs (members of GIs United). Of the nine GIs facing trial, on April 9th the Army disclosed that one, Private John Huffman, had been acting as an informer (thus making the Fort Jackson 9 actually the Fort Jackson 8). This news prompted the GIs attorneys to move for a dismissal of charges on the groups that the Army had violated the GIs right to legal counsel, as the informant had been present for legal counsel meetings. On April 18th, four of the eight GIs were released from the stockade but still under barracks arrest. On April 20, Private Eugene Moore's mother led a protest in front of the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C., in defense of her son's rights and those of other soldiers. Pre-trial hearings took place April 22nd-25th.

The army ultimately dropped all charges as they could not show cause; the last three of the imprisoned men (Privates Joseph Cole, Eugene Jose Rudder, and Andrew Pulley) were released on May 21st, 1969.

Extent

21 Pages

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

Collection consists of the records of the Fort Jackson 8, members of the organization GIs United Against the War in Vietnam who were put in military prison for their antiwar activism, dating circa 1969 January-May.

Arrangement

Collection is arranged in chronological order.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Collection purchased from Bolerium Books (San Francisco, CA), July 2021.
Title
The Fort Jackson 8 Collection
Author
Natalia Gutiérrez-Jones, Archival Processing Specialist
Date
2021 October
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Repository Details

Part of the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Drive
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US
847-491-3635