Peter Irons Interview I Segment 11

Parents' background, raised the oldest of seven children (ddr-densho-1000-126-1) - 00:10:07
Frequently moved during childhood, did well in school (ddr-densho-1000-126-2) - 00:07:29
Attending segregated public school in Delaware during Brown v. Board of Education (ddr-densho-1000-126-3) - 00:07:21
Influence of Unitarian Church and parents' values regarding race relations (ddr-densho-1000-126-4) - 00:05:49
Raised with values of racial tolerance; awareness of the 1957 school desegregation incident in Little Rock, Arkansas (ddr-densho-1000-126-5) - 00:03:24
Father becoming ill; deciding to attend Antioch College in Ohio (ddr-densho-1000-126-6) - 00:06:01
Becoming involved in social activism with other Antioch students (ddr-densho-1000-126-7) - 00:04:59
Opportunity to pursue a career in epidemiology through cooperative education program (ddr-densho-1000-126-8) - 00:03:47
Reflecting on father's passing, mother's change of lifestyle (ddr-densho-1000-126-9) - 00:06:41
Participating in the civil rights movement: boycotts, sit-ins, and arrests (ddr-densho-1000-126-10) - 00:06:47
Attending the first National Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Conference in Atlanta, Georgia (ddr-densho-1000-126-11) - 00:09:58
Sending draft card back to Selective Service System and corresponding with the draft board for several years (ddr-densho-1000-126-12) - 00:07:48
Helping to organize the Student Peace Union, a student demonstration in Washington, D.C. against nuclear testing (ddr-densho-1000-126-13) - 00:06:57
Organizing political campaigns for Congressional candidates with peace platforms (ddr-densho-1000-126-14) - 00:03:47
Editing the weekly newsletter for the Autoworkers Union in Washington, D.C. while protesting the Vietnam War (ddr-densho-1000-126-15) - 00:07:03
Memories of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy; Freedom Democrats and the Democratic National Convention, Atlantic City, New Jersey (ddr-densho-1000-126-16) - 00:07:09
Being indicted for resisting Selective Service draft, and becoming active in the draft resistance movement (ddr-densho-1000-126-17) - 00:04:53
Defending draft resistance on the basis of unconstitutionality of religious test (ddr-densho-1000-126-18) - 00:06:08
Being sentenced to three years in prison, deciding to serve the sentence rather than continue appeals process (ddr-densho-1000-126-19) - 00:07:56
Reporting to the federal marshal's office on New Year's Eve, singing gospel music with black inmates in the Hamilton County Jail, Cincinnati (ddr-densho-1000-126-20) - 00:04:53
Transferred to Milan, Michigan, then to the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana (ddr-densho-1000-126-21) - 00:07:08
Serving time in federal prison, racial tensions regarding the Vietnam War (ddr-densho-1000-126-22) - 00:05:44
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ddr-densho-1000-126-11 (Legacy UID: denshovh-ipeter-01-0011)

Attending the first National Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Conference in Atlanta, Georgia

00:09:58 — Segment 11 of 22

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October 25, 2000

Densho Visual History Collection


Courtesy of Densho


Peter Irons

Peter Irons Interview I

02:21:49 — 22 segments

October 25, 2000

Seattle, Washington

White male. Born 1940 in Salem, Massachusetts. Family moved frequently during his childhood due to father's employment. Strongly influenced by parents' values regarding racial tolerance and inclusion, and principles learned through Unitarian Church. While attending Antioch College in Ohio, became involved in political and social activism for civil rights. Joined the youth branch of NAACP, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and other groups. Active in sit-ins and other demonstrations addressing racial inequality, peace and related issues, eventually becoming a full-time organizer. Worked for the United Autoworkers Union. Resisted the draft, and was indicted by a federal grand jury in 1964. Convicted of failing to report for military service and sentenced to three years in prison. Graduated from Antioch College, 1966. Appealed his conviction to the United States Court of Appeals and lost. Served his sentence in federal institutions in Milan, Michigan, Terre Haute, Indiana, and Danbury, Connecticut. Following release from prison in 1969, attended graduate school at Boston University, obtaining PhD in political science in 1973. Accepted to Harvard Law School. While a law student, researched and filed a writ of error coram nobis with the federal court in which he had been convicted, and as a result had his conviction vacated. (Writ of error coram nobis establishes that the original case was premised on errors of fact withheld from the judge and the defense by the prosecution.) Graduated from Harvard Law School in 1978. Taught undergraduate and law school courses at several schools before joining faculty of the University of California at San Diego. While conducting research at the National Archives and Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. in preparation for writing a book, discovered evidence of governmental misconduct during World War II, which refuted the U.S. government's rationale of "military necessity" for the mass incarceration of persons of Japanese ancestry in 1942. Using this evidence, assisted the congressional Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. Contacted original defendants, initiated formation of legal teams, and was instrumental in filing petitions using the writ of error coram nobis, resulting in the reconsideration of the wartime "internment cases": Hirabayashi, Korematsu, and Yasui. Dr. Irons is a professor of political science and director of the Earl Warren Bill of Rights Project at the University of California, San Diego.

Alice Ito, interviewer; Lorraine Bannai, interviewer; Dana Hoshide, videographer


Courtesy of Densho