David Dellinger (August 22, 1915 – May 25, 2004) was a renowned American pacifist and activist for nonviolent social change, and one of most influential American radicals in 20th century. He was most famous for being one of the Chicago 8 (later known as the Chicago 7), a group of protesters whose disruption of the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests in Chicago led to charges of conspiracy and crossing state lines with the intention of inciting a riot. The ensuing court case was turned by Dellinger and his co-defendants into a nationally-publicized platform for putting the Vietnam War on trial.
Dellinger was born in Wakefield, Massachusetts to a well-to-do family (his father was a lawyer and a prominent Republican). A Yale University and Oxford University student, he also studied theology at Union Theological Seminary. Rejecting his comfortable background, he walked out of Yale one day to live with hobos 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 Mahatma Gandhi's principles of non-violence to his activism within the growing USA anti-Vietnam-war movement, of which one of the high points was the Chicago 7 trial.
Dellinger had contacts and friendships with such diverse individuals as Eleanor Roosevelt, Ho Chi Minh, Martin Luther King, Abbie Hoffman, A.J. Muste, and numerous members of the Black Panther Party, including Fred Hampton, whom he greatly admired. As chairman of the Fifth Avenue Vietnam Peace Parade Committee he worked with many different anti-war organizations.
In 2001, Dellinger led a group of young activists from Montpelier, Vermont, to Quebec City, to protest the creation of a free-trade zone. He died May 25, 2004, in Montpelier.
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