Staughton Lynd, 1929-2022

Engaged scholar, labor lawyer, protagonist in history, collaborator and comrade, an inspiration for his embrace of solidarity as a necessary affect of political engagement, Staughton Lynd passed at 92, on Thursday, November 17, 2022, in Warren, Ohio.

A radical during the Cold War, generationally in between and therefore overlap between the Old Left and the New Left. Anti-Vietnam war before the mass movement existed; involved in multiple civil and human rights struggles, including Freedom Summer; professor at Spellman College; traveled to North Vietnam in 1965; while teaching at Yale, he was blacklisted from academia in general for his political positions and activities; matriculated from The University of Chicago Law school; a dedicated lawyer and activist; a brief stint with Saul Alinsky's Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF); and, after retirement in 1996, working against the death penalty and prisoner advocacy, these are just a few of the social, political, and cultural coordinates of Lynd's extraordinary life.

Clay Risen's New York Times obituary quotes Noam Chomsky,"Whether, in his pathbreaking historical work on the roots of American radicalism, his active participation in campaigns for civil rights, his crucial role in steps toward democratization of the economy, Staughton Lynd was always in the forefront of struggle, a model of integrity, courage, and farsighted understanding of what must be done if there is to be a livable world."

The Tribune Chronicle (Warren, Ohio) obituary can be found here. Check out the tribute by the (Howard) Zinn Education Project, "Staughton Lynd, ¡Presente!" The website includes historical photographs and video interviews. Lynd and Zinn were colleagues at Spellman College.

Ohio-born and raised Palestinian-American Sam Bahour's words, available from Mondoweiss, about meeting, knowing, and working with Lynd are stunningly heartfelt and eye-opening for the ongoing learning and engagement of Lynd's life. Their collaboration led to the book, Homeland: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians.

"The First Gulf War (1990–1991) had started, and death and destruction were raining down on Iraq. I was giving an anti-war talk at a church on the campus of Youngstown State University. As I spoke, I noticed an older couple enter and sit in the audience. When I finished, this couple approached me and introduced themselves as Staughton and Alice Lynd and expressed interest in my connecting the war to the Israeli military occupation of Palestine. Staughton asked if they could visit me at my home to discuss more. I would usually hesitate to accept such a request from total strangers, but there was something different in the way he asked, soft-spoken, and every word was spoken with purpose. I said yes. It was the best yes that I have ever spoken. The rest is history. Three decades of friendship, comradery, and solidarity that I will cherish forever."

Rosemary Feurer, the editor of Labor Online, the digital publication of The Labor and Working Class History Association, shares,

"In any conversation, Staughton insisted on telling stories of people who had influenced him, such as Sylvia Woods, the UAW activist from Chicago featured in the classic film Union Maids (1976) who blamed union contractualism for labor's decline. Or his mentor John Sargent from Inland Steel, who told him how steelworkers' power grew without a contract that policed direct action, in comparison to the rest of the steelworkers locals which emerged supposedly more powerful because they had that contract in hand."

Forrest Hylton from the London Review of Books writes,

"Along with Roslyn and Howard Zinn, and Carol and Noam Chomsky, Alice and Staughton Lynd belonged to a generation of radical married couples in the United States who took controversial, unpopular public stands – on Civil Rights at home, on Vietnam and subsequent wars abroad – regardless of the consequences, and held fast to lifelong commitments."

For a more extensive narrative about Lynd's life, see Carl Mirra, The Admirable Radical: Staughton Lynd and Cold War Dissent, 1945–1970, here or here. This list gives a sense of Lynd's book publications. The podcast Green and Red, whose motto is "Scrappy politics for scrappy people," interviewed Lynd in 2020. You can listen here.