Opposition to the Vietnam War Part VII

African Americans

Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking to an anti-Vietnam War rally at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul on April 27, 1967

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African Americans were often involved in the Civil Rights Movement and the antiwar movement. Martin Luther King, Jr. and James Bevel of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) were prominent opponents of the Vietnam War, and the Black Panther Party vehemently opposed U.S. involvement in Vietnam. In the beginning of the war, some African Americans did not want to join the war opposition movement because of loyalty to President Johnson for pushing Civil Rights legislation, but soon the escalating violence of the war and the perceived social injustice of the draft propelled involvement in antiwar groups. Black antiwar groups opposed the war for the same reason as white groups, but often protested in separate events and did not cooperate with the ideas of white antiwar leadership. They harshly criticized the draft because poor and minority men were usually most affected by conscription although the Washington Post in a 1986 in depth examination of who actually fought the Vietnam War entitled “The Myth of the Vietnam Vet” contradicted this assertion. According to the Post, “The man who fought in Vietnam is typically depicted as a draftee, unwilling and probably black. In fact, 73 percent of those who died were volunteers and 12.5 percent were black (out of an age group that comprised 13.5 percent of the male population).” African Americans involved in the antiwar movement often formed their own groups, such as Black Women Enraged, National Black Anti-War Anti-Draft Union, and National Black Draft Counselors. Within these groups, however, many African American women were seen as subordinate members by black male leaders. Many African American women viewed the war in Vietnam as racially motivated and sympathized strongly with Vietnamese women. Such concerns often propelled their participation in the antiwar movement and their creation of new opposition groups.

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