11.9.4 Letter from Robert Allen, August 1, 1966
After receiving a draft notice, Robert Allen, a resident of the Bronx in New York, refused to submit to induction on August 1, 1965. At the time Allen was a graduate student at Columbia University. On what grounds did Allen object to the war? How do you think Allen's experiences as a Black man in the United States shaped his view of the war? What influence do you think the war in Vietnam had on movements for equality in the United States?
After receiving a draft notice, Robert Allen, a resident of the Bronx, refused to submit to induction on August 1, 1965. At the time Allen was a graduate student at Columbia University. Ask students to consider on what grounds Allen objected to the war and to consider how Allen's experiences as a Black man in the United States shaped his view of the war. Discuss how the number of American minorities fighting and dying in Vietnam was far disproportionate to their numbers in the United States. Explain that this only further highlighted the issues that marginalized groups faced with racism and discrimination in the United States. More minorities (and working-class whites) served in Vietnam because they lacked access to college and to people in power, and for most of the war they could not ask for a deferral when drafted. In addition, Black and Latino men died at higher numbers because on the ground in Vietnam they were assigned to the more dangerous positions. This was compounded by the fact that American soldiers received very little training before fighting in Vietnam. Explain to your students that Allen attempted to express his objections to the war on moral grounds, declaring it a racist war and another example of attempts to oppress people of color. Discuss how the objections of Americans like Allen fueled antiwar protests and movements for equality at home.
August 1, 1966
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: At this moment the U.S. is conducting a genocidal war against an heroic people who have struggled against foreign oppression for more than 25 years. The pretext for this aggression is the claim that the U.S. is protecting "freedom and democracy" in South Vietnam. This "protection" consists in propping up a dictatorial regime which was never elected to office and does not enjoy the support of the Vietnamese people. It consists in bombing the homes and fields of thousands of innocent peasants. It consists in attacking North Vietnam in an undeclared and illegal war of aggression . . . . It is clear that the U. S. is involved in this war not to benefit the Vietnamese but to provide itself with another secure military base in the encirclement of China . . . . It is the "yellow hordes" of China who are the target of this war, even though the Chinese have not attacked anyone and have no troops abroad. The Vietnamese, being a poor colored people, are dispensable in the brutal effort to achieve this objective. The racists nature of this war cannot be ignored.
To conduct this war the U.S. is drafting thousands of Black men to fight for "freedom" abroad while their freedoms at home are denied. These Black men are forced to fight for white imperialism in its attempt to destroy colored nations. They are forced to fight for the sole benefit of their former slave-masters. These Black men go to war knowing that their brothers and sisters at home will continue to be subjected to violent attacks by racists which will go unpunished. An army which will not protect Black citizens at home and instead attacks colored people in Vietnam is not an army in which self-respecting Black men should serve.
It is for these reasons that I refuse to accept induction into the U.S. Armed Forces. I would not allow myself to be drafted into the Ku Klux Klan and I will not allow myself to be drafted into the U.S. Army to fight a racist war . . . . I believe that the Black man in America – a minority cannot be free until the colored peoples of the world are free of white oppression and take their rightful place as the democratic majority."
- Robert Allen (A statement submitted to the Whitehall Street Station Induction Center on the day Allen was ordered to report for induction).