Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ammon Ashford Hennacy (July 24, 1893 – January 14, 1970)

 File:Jesus wanted poster.jpg

Hennacy was born in Negly Ohio to Quaker parents, Benjamin Frankin Hennacy and Eliza Eunice Fitz Randolph, and grew up as a Baptist On hearing Billy Sunday preach in 1909 he became an atheist and shortly afterward became a socialist.

At the outbreak of WWI  Hennacy was imprisoned for two years in Atlanta for resisting conscription. While in prison the only book he was allowed was the Bible. This inspired him to radically depart from his earlier beliefs; he became a Christian pacifist and a self-proclaimed "Christian anarchist". He led a hunger strike and was punished with eight months in solitary confinement. Hennacy believed that adherence to Christianity required being a pacifist and, because governments constantly threaten or use force to resolve conflicts, this meant being an anarchist.

In 1919 Hennacy married his first wife, Selma Melms, under common law; two years later they hiked around the US passing through all 48 states. He settled down in 1925, buying a farm and raising his two children. In 1931, he began social work in Milwakee and organized one of the first social worker unions. He refused to use force or self-defence  when threatened , preferring instead to use non-resistance. During the 2nd WW, he refused to sign up for the draft  and declared that he would not pay taxes. He also reduced his tax  burden  by embracing a lifestyle of simple living. Between 1942 and 1953, Hennacy worked as a migrant farm laborer in the southwest United States.
In 1952, he was baptised as a Roman Catholic by an anarchist priest, with Dorthy Day as his godmother. Hennacy moved to NY in 1953, and became the associate editor of the Catholic Worker. Hennacy engaged in many protests while in New York particularly against the Atomic Energy Commission. In 1958, He fasted for 40 days in protest of nuclear weapons testing.

Hennacy fasted and picketed in protest of the death penalty and the use of taxes in war. Following a divorce from Selma in 1964, Hennacy married his second wife, Joan Thomas, in 1965. In the same year he left the Roman Catholic Church, though he continued to call himself a "non-church Church". He wrote about his reasons for leaving and his thoughts on Catholicism, which included his belief that "Paul spoiled the message of Christ"  This essay and others were published as The Book of Ammon in 1965, which has been praised for its "diamonds of insight and wisdom" but criticised for its rambling style.

 His second and last book, The One-Man Revolution, was published in 1970 and consists of seventeen chapters with each one devoted to an American radical. These included Thomas Pain, William Loyd Garrison John Woolman, Dorthy Day, Eugene Debs, Malcom X, Mother Jones,  Clarence Darrow and Albert Parsons.

Ammon Hennacy died from a heart attack on January 14, 1970. In accordance with his wishes, his body was cremated and the ashes scattered over the graves of the Haymarket Anarchists in Wieldehiem cemetery  in Chicago.

Cartoon by Art young, first published in the Masses in 1917 and later reprinted in Ammon Hennacy's The Book of Ammon. I had this version as a poster on my wall as a young man.

adapted  from Wikipiedia

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