Social activist Homer Jack was an early supporter of the Montgomery bus boycott. He corresponded with Martin Luther King and visited Montgomery during March 1956 to gain first-hand information about the boycott. Afterward he sent a newsletter to his colleagues in the civil rights and peace community describing the movement: “The Gandhian flavor was not apparent at the beginning.… It grew naturally.” He concluded, “They have conducted a disciplined campaign which would, in many aspects, have made Mahatma Gandhi very proud” (Jack, 9 March 1956).
Jack was born in Rochester, New York, and attended Cornell University, earning a master’s degree and doctorate in science. He went on to earn a BD from Meadville Theological School. He served as executive secretary of the Chicago Council against Racial and Religious Discrimination before assuming the pastorate of the Unitarian Church of Evanston, Illinois, in 1948. A founder of the Congress of Racial Equality, Jack was also active in the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
In 1957, Christian Century published Jack’s “Conversation in Ghana,” reporting on a meeting between King and anti-apartheid Anglican priest Michael Scott that he attended during Ghana’s independence celebrations. According to Jack, the two clergymen discussed the “passing of an old age of racism and colonialism,” and King told Scott that nonviolence in Alabama “did something to the oppressors; so it will even in South Africa.” King predicted that the willingness to suffer “will eventually make the oppressor ashamed of his own method” (Jack, “Conversation”).
Jack was also concerned with international political developments. When Jack left the pastorate of the Unitarian Church of Evanston to serve as associate executive director of the American Committee on Africa (ACOA) in 1959, King wrote in support, “Homer Jack is certainly one of the most dedicated persons that I have ever met. He combines the fact-finding mind of a social scientist with the great insights of a religious prophet” (King, 25 May 1959).
In 1960, Jack left ACOA to become the executive director of the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) which he had co-founded in 1957. Jack was eager to promote the involvement of international organizations in domestic concerns. In 1963, he wrote King that the national board of SANE had passed a statement “urging that mutual cooperation between the civil rights and peace movements be explored” (Jack, 21 June 1963).
Throughout his life Jack continued to work for world peace, serving the World Conference on Religion and Peace from 1970 to 1983 and founding the United Nations Non-Governmental Committee on Disarmament in the early 1970’s. Jack also was the editor of two books on Gandhi, The Wit and Wisdom of Gandhi (1951) and The Gandhi Reader: A Source Book of His Life and Writings (1956).
Gandhi, The Gandhi Reader, ed. Jack, 1956.
Gandhi, The Wit and Wisdom of Gandhi, ed. Jack, 1951.
Jack, “Conversation in Ghana,” Christian Century (10 April 1957): 446–448.
Jack, “To those interested in non-violent resistance aspects of the Montgomery, Alabama protest against segregation on the city buses,” 9 March 1956, BRP-DLC.
Jack to King, 21 June 1963, SCLCR-GAMK.
King to Dale O’Brien, 25 May 1959, MLKP-MBU.