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Naiiative Intiouuction foi Staffoiu Stuuies Pioject
This pioject will compaie anu contiast the lives of two men of conscience anu
piinciple, the poet William (Bill) Staffoiu anu my fathei, Nauiice (Nauiy) Beck. I
will focus on the time peiiou 19SS-4S,anu have incluueu annotateu piimaiy
uocuments anu photos. Fuithei, I will offei examples of Beck's sense of humoi, anu
concluue with how this pioject has been impoitant to me.
Boin in Kansas in 1914,William Staffoiu was a giauuate stuuent in English when he
iefuseu inuuction into the 0.S. militaiy anu ueclaieu himself a conscientious
objectoi uue to his pacifist ieligious beliefs (Chuich of the Biethien). Be seiveu at
camps in Aikansas, Inuiana, anu Califoinia. Be met his futuie wife, Boiothy, when
she visiteu a camp in southein Califoinia in 194S,anu they weie maiiieu the
following yeai. Be wiote a book about his conscientious objectoi (c.o.) camp
expeiience, wheie he peifoimeu physical laboi but also was pait of a community of
thoughtful anu intelligent young men. Aftei the wai he piesenteu the book as his
Nastei's thesis. Aftei completing his uoctoiate at the 0niveisity of Iowa, he
continueu a long caieei as a piofessoi at Lewis anu Claik College in Poitlanu,
0iegon anu achieveu consiueiable acclaim as a poet.
Boin in Pioviuence, Rhoue Islanu in 1917,he stayeu theie until he giauuateu fiom
Biown 0niveisity in 19S9. Buiing his college yeais, he wiote foi the Biown Baily
Beialu, was a membei of the Young People's Socialist League (YPSL),anu seiveu as
piesiuent of the Biown Libeial Club, an oiganization also affiliateu with the
piogiessive multi-issue gioup the Ameiican Stuuent 0nion (AS0). Boluing pacifist
beliefs when he was oiueieu to iepoit to the local uiaft boaiu, he tiieu as a giauuate
stuuent in social woik to get a stuuent uefeiment. Be was uenieu his uefeiment, lost
his fellowship anu was inuucteu into the aimy in Septembei 1941; he seiveu in a
numbei of camps in the Ameiican south, anu his woik involveu auult basic liteiacy
cuiiiculum uevelopment anu auministiation of psychological tests. Aftei the wai, he
completeu his NSW at the 0niveisity of Pittsbuigh anu hau a long caieei in social
woik planning anu auministiation.
Although both men loveu liteiatuie, Beck uiun't wiite any, consiueiing his
ielationship to liteiatuie one of "consumei." Bowevei, he often quoteu lines fiom
authois ianging fiom Bickens to Nelville. When my sistei anu I woulu ask the
meaning of a woiu, he woulu often pieface his iemaiks "fiom the Latin (oi uieek),
meaning..." When we weie oluei, we woulu be encouiageu to look up woius in the
uictionaiy anu to consult the encyclopeuia.
As young men, both Staffoiu anu Beck weie outsiueis in theii political anu
philosophical beliefs, but they uiu have community--Bau thiough his membeiships
in YPSL anu AS0, anu Staffoiu thiough his fellow c.o.'s. Staffoiu's son Kim has
suggesteu that hau the two men met, they woulu have hau inteiesting
Both men also loveu natuie anu met theii futuie spouses uuiing Woilu Wai II, anu
caiiieu on extensive wiitten coiiesponuence aftei meeting. Bill anu Boiothy
bonueu ovei theii love of liteiatuie anu natuie, as well as theii shaieu philosophical
beliefs. Ny paients met as camp counselois uuiing the summei of 1941,anu bonueu
ovei theii shaieu inteiest in helping othei people thiough social woik anu
volunteei community woik. They also enjoyeu cultuial activities such as plays,
classical music conceits, anu museums.
Photo 1: Stuuent anti-wai stiike, Apiil 12,19SS
In 19SS,a nationwiue stiike of 17S,uuu stuuents involveu young people fiom Boston
to Los Angeles, fiom histoiically black colleges to City College of New Yoik, fiom Los
Angeles }unioi College to vassai College, anu fiom high schools to piofessional
schools. The main oiganizations involveu in this histoiic event weie the Socialist
gioup Stuuent League foi Inuustiial Bemociacy, anu the Communist gioup the
National Stuuent League. The countiy was in the miuule of the uieat Bepiession;
millions of auults weie unemployeu, schools weie closing, anu some teacheis weie
unpaiu, yet millions of feueial uollais weie spent on aimaments. Stuuents weie
conceineu about the outbieak of impeiialist wai anu the piesence of R0TC on
college campuses. They hau the suppoit of faculty membeis, cleigy, newspapeis,
seveial 0.S. senatois, laboi unions, anu the Socialist Paity. 0pponents incluueu
conseivative stuuents anu police.
Photo 2: Pamphlet by }oseph P. Lash, The Campus Stiikes Against Wai, 19SS.
}oseph Lash was National Secietaiy of the Stuuent League foi Inuustiial Bemociacy,
a leauei in the Ameiican Stuuent 0nion, anu a membei of the National Stuuent
Stiike Committee. Wiitten aftei the Apiil stuuent stiike mentioneu above, Lash
uigeu stuuents to continue theii peace activism, to sign the 0xfoiu pleuge, to
continue the fight against fascism in Euiope anu Asia, to suppoit laboi unions, anu
above all, to woik foi socialism.
Photo S: Song sheets fiom Ameiican Stuuent 0nion confeience.
The songs ieflecteu the wiue-ianging piogiessive views of the Ameiican Stuuent
0nion (AS0): anti-wai, anti-fascists in the Spanish Civil Wai, anu soliuaiity with
woikeis in geneial anu AFL anu the CI0 in paiticulai. They weie on the piogiam foi
an AS0 iegional confeience in Boston.
Photo 4: The 0xfoiu Pleuge Caiu.
Stuuents weie askeu to sign the 0xfoiu Pleuge, which stateu:
"I iefuse to suppoit the goveinment of the 0niteu States in any wai it may
unueitake, anu pleuge my unwaveiing opposition to wai piepaiations anu the
militaiization of Ameiica. "
Photo S: Leaflet fiom the Young People's Socialist League (YPSL) ca. 19S8.
Nauiice P. Beck anu seveial membeis of the Libeial Club weie YPSL membeis.
The leaflet offeieu an uigent call foi unity fiom a bioau iange of youth anu
encouiageu them to attenu iegional confeiences.
Photo 6: Lettei fiom }anet Phillips of the Boston Bistiict Ameiican Stuuent 0nion
This Apiil 19,19S8 lettei to Nauiice Beck uiscusseu the foithcoming Fast foi Spain,
in suppoit of the anti-fascist Republicans in theii wai against the fascist Loyalists.
Photo 7: Call to Stiike Against the Wai, Boston Common, ca. 19Sus.
This leaflet uiscusseu an action suppoiteu by a coalition of oiganizations; some of
the moie notable ones incluue Fellowship of Reconciliation (F0R), Women's
Inteinational League foi Peace anu Fieeuom (WILPF), anu the Young People's
Socialist League. Notably absent was the Young Communist League, which hau
abanuoneu its pievious anti-wai position anu pleugeu itself to suppoit the Soviet
0nion. (0n a contempoiaiy note, the fiist two oiganizations soon will celebiate
anniveisaiies: WILPF in 2u1S anu F0R in 2u16.)
The stiike suppoiteu a numbei of issues. Chief among them weie uemanus to uiveit
money to be spent on militaiism anu wai piepaiation towaius euucation, job
cieation, slum cleaiance, anu public housing. Fuithei, the stiike uigeu the 0.S. to
boycott }apanese goous, to enu the embaigo against Spain, anu in suppoit of the
people's iight to have a wai iefeienuum. The stiike committee pleugeu themselves
to woilu peace anu social anu economic justice.
Photo 8: Ameiican Stuuent 0nion Biochuie, Boston, Bow Can the 0.S.A. Pievent a
This leaflet was wiitten when Euiope was on the biink of Woilu Wai II. The 0.S.
goveinment haun't yet maue a bieak with its isolationist policy with iespect to
Euiope, anu its authois uigeu stuuents take seveial actions. Fiist, to wiite Piesiuent
Roosevelt anu Congiess people uiging them to lift the embaigo on Spain, anu to
fuithei claiify the uiffeience between aggiessoi anu victim in applying goveinment
embaigoes. Seconu, to sign a petition fiom the Youth Committee foi Conceineu
Peace Effoits in suppoit of the above. Thiiu, to uonate anu collect money foi ielief
aiu to suppoit the anti-fascists in Spain anu China.
Photo 9: Boiothy anu William Staffoiu, 194S. Be was still uoing his conscientious
objectoi seivice. They hau met in 194S anu maiiieu in 1944.
Photo 1u: Nauiice Beck, giauuation fiom Biown 0niveisity, Pioviuence, Rhoue
Islanu, B.A. in Psychology.
Photo 11: William Staffoiu, ca. 198u.
Nauiice (Nauiy) Beck's wit
Bau hau a uiy wit anu loveu to tell puns anu use woiuplay. Ny mateinal gianuma,
Inez Stickney Bagen, once iemaikeu: "Life with Nauiy will nevei be boiing." Beie
aie some examples fiom the late 19Sus anu uuiing the Woilu Wai II yeais:
1. "Clash with Lash" in iefeience to a uebate between }oseph Lash, national
leauei of the Ameiican Stuuent 0nion (AS0), anu membei of the Biown
2. Be iefeiieu to a Boston iegional oiganizei foi the AS0 as a "feminine
S. In spiing 19S9,he uesciibeu getting ieauy to giauuate anu finishing up his
political woik anu othei obligations as "iunning aiounu like a chicken with
its heau cut off."
4. Ny paients weie maiiieu on }une 29,194S. Aftei a shoit honeymoon, they
went to Buiant, Nississippi wheie Bau was stationeu at Camp NcCain. Be
hau an eiiatic scheuule, anu sometimes woulu climb into a siue winuow
anu come buisting into the ioom they ienteu anu ask, "Bo you think we'll
win the wai."
S. By 194S,he woulu ask, "Bo you think we'll win the peace."
Beck, Nauiice. Peisonal papeis: political coiiesponuence, biochuies, leaflets anu photos.
NcQuiuuy, Steve. !"#" %& '(" )*+", Coivallis: 0iegon State 0niveisity Piess, 2u1S.
Staffoiu, William. -%.& /& 01 !"2#', 3"24" 5/'&"66 /& 7/0" %8 52#9 Coivallis: 0iegon State
0niveisity Piess, 2uu6. (0iiginally publisheu 1947.)
Tejaua-Floies, Rick anu }uuith Ehilich, Piouuceis. 7(" :%%* 52# 2&* 7(%6" 5(% ;"8<6"* '%
=/+(' >'. Paiauigm Piouuctions, in association with Inuepenuent Television Seiies, 2uuu.
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