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IN JANUARY 1942, CONSTANCE RUMBOUGH, SOUTHERN SECRETARY for the national Fellowship of Reconciliation, visited the Louisville branch of the nation's oldest, largest pacifist organization. Since its founding the year before, the Louisville Fellowship of Reconciliation (LFOR), located in a city only thirty-five miles from the U.S. Army base at Fort Knox, had struggled to express effectively its opposition to World War II. At a meeting on January 13, 1942, a few weeks after the United States had entered the war, Rumbough challenged the LFOR to move beyond providing famine relief for war-torn Europe and supporting conscientious objectors; she urged the members to make pacifism "a way of life, taking in the whole of life." She recommended several relatively straightforward steps: acquiring first aid training; carrying out work projects; working in cooperatives; and building "inner strength, thru meditation and fellowship." Rumbough also exhorted members to transform their religious beliefs into actions that would promote domestic justice and peace. Specifically, she urged that "individually and voluntarily we lower our standard of living" so that "we may become identified with the dispossessed" and, crucially, that the all-white organization "give attention to inter-racial problems, and make an effort to get more negro members for our group." (1) The minutes of that meeting do not detail the participants' questions, but it is recorded that Rumbough's presentation sparked a discussion that lasted until 10:45 P.M., long after the group's usual adjournment time. (2) The LFOR had invited Rumbough, who worked out of the FOR's Nashville office, to advise them about their position as a political minority opposed to a popular war. Rather than providing the Louisville group with guidelines that would reduce the tensions they experienced in a segregated city with strong military ties, Rumbough informed them that, to live up to their pacifist calling, they must take greater personal and political risks. As a white woman who had worked for the passage of a federal antilynching law, had lived on an interracial cooperative farm that provided refuge for members of the Southern Tenant Farmers' Union, and later, in 1944, would direct the Tennessee campaign of Norman Thomas, presidential candidate of the Socialist Party, Rumbough spoke with the authority of one who had faced daunting challenges. (3) Her charge to the Louisville FOR members was clear: in order to live out the beliefs that had drawn them to the national Fellowship of Reconciliation, they would need to forge relationships across racial and economic divides, confronting not only the war, in which they refused to engage, but also segregation, within which they moved, breathed, and lived every day.

May 1
Southern Historical Association
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

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