These cows appear to be coming to the barn for milking. I believe they were on the farm my uncles Henry and Hugh Cleage had during WW2 as conscientious objectors. They had to milk a certain number of cows and they also had chickens. Henry was 26 and Hugh was 24 when they started farming. Hugh had a degree in agriculture from Michigan State University. They were conscientious objectors because of segregation and discrimination both inside and outside of the military. All of the training camps were located in the segregated south and the officers were all white. Henry wrote several of his stories while working on the farm, which was called “Plum-Nelly”, as in “Plum out the county, nelly (nearly) out the state”. Their farm was located near Avoka in St. Clair county, 62 miles north of Detroit.
I found an interesting interview with Ernest Calloway that reminded me of talking with Henry about being a conscientious objector below. You can read the full interview here – INTERVIEW WITH ERNEST CALLOWAY where he talks about other aspects of his long and interesting career as a labor organizer.
CALLOWAY: “Of course, in the first instance, I was a conscientious objector on the grounds of racial discrimination. I had the first…mine was the first case, you know. I refused to go into the Army as long as the Army was Jim Crow. And, oh, this was a battle for about two years. Over local draft board and state appeals board. I don’t think they ever actually settled the case…I think the case is still on the files somewhere…they just forgot about it. But I had pointed out on my questionnaire, the military wanted this questionnaire that I was given, the question was asked, “Are you a conscientious objector on moral grounds?” I scratched out the word “moral” and wrote in “special”, social grounds. And then I submitted a statement to explain that on the question on racial discrimination, under no condition did I feel like I was obligated, you know, to accept service in the Army. Of course, the chairman of the draft board thought I was kidding. And I insisted to him that I wasn’t kidding. I pointed out to him that if I was going to die then I was going to insist that it be on the basis of equality, you know. And, of course, finally, finally I did. Finally, the Communists wanted to take over the case in Chicago…then I get a telegram from Walter White of the NAACP that the NAACP would be interested in pushing the case. And White suggested that I contact the Legal Redress Committee there in Chicago, at the Chicago NAACP. And I went down to meet with the Legal Redress Committee which included such people as Earl Dickerson and some of the top black lawyers, you know, in the city of Chicago. But I found myself on the defensive because they were primarily concerned on…to determine what was my political background and my attitude about war in general. At that time, I was associated with the Keep America Out of War Congress which was headed, I think, by Norman Thomas… Norman Thomas, at the time…and a number of other liberal, socialists and liberals. And after about an hour and a half of this being on the defensive, trying to explain myself, I finally pointed out to these, to the lawyers, that I’m here at the invitation of Mr. White…that he asked me to come down and said the NAACP was interested in the case… that they would like to pursue the case of discrimination in the Army, but if you fellows are not interested in this, and I do not have to explain my political, you now…political motives and that sort of thing. That I can take care of myself, you know. I know what to do to take care of myself. Then I walked out of the room and, of course, one of the young lawyers followed me and he said he felt that I was right, that he would like to work with me on the case. And finally I was called into the office of the State Appeals Chairman who happened to be a Negro. And he wanted to know what was, and, of course, evidently a lot of publicity was being given to the thing, the national magazines, the black press, and that sort of thing. As a matter of fact, we had decided to form a little organization of our own, which included Sinclair Drake, who at that time was working with Horace Keaton on that Chicago, black Chicago project, Enoch Waters who was the editor of the Chicago Defender at the time, and a number of other youngsters; we were all youngsters. That was something like… Committee Against Jim Crow in the Army. And what we had discussed was the question if we could ever get a public hearing before the Appeals Board…we could put on a show, you know. And this was what we were after, you know. So, finally, the Chairman of the Appeals Board called me into his office. And he wasn’t clear about what in the hell this thing was all about. Of course, there were two technical aspects to it. Number one, the local draft board had refused to issue me, at that time…what was called Form 47, which is the form that is supposed to be issued to conscientious objectors to build their cases, you know. And, secondly, he had denied me the right to appeal from the decision of 1-A. I couldn’t appeal from this decision. Now we used to have more damn hassles, he used to, he called one day and he said, “You think you’re a smart nigger. But you think you’re gonna come in here and mess up this draft board, but you ain’t gonna do it to my draft board.” I said, “Well, you know, when I, when they, when I registered up here at the school, they told me I should look upon my draft board as a committee of friends and neighbors, and if I had any problems, I should discuss it with them, with the draft board.” And I said, “Gentlemen, I got a problem. I ain’t going into no damn Jim Crow Army. How we gonna work this thing out?” And, oh, we would sit there and argue like cats and dogs. And, of course, I had problems with my own organization, too, which was the redcaps union. The President of the Union, Thompson, felt that this would be bad for the union. Very bad for the union, you know. But the secretary-treasurer, we…I was very friendly with the secretary-treasurer… he felt I was not handling the thing properly…that I should keep from getting into arguments with these people and play it cool and that sort of thing. I said, “Well, John, you come on over to the draft board with me. Let me see how cool you can be with these guys.” And, you know, he said, “Mr. Calloway, let’s look at it this way.”…I think what they were trying to do is change my mind… he said, “Let’s look at it this way. Two neighbors are fighting, like cats and dogs, and so one neighbor’s house catches fire, what you do is stop fighting and help the neighbor put the fire out,” he said. “You understand…you understand what I’m talking about?” I said, “I don’t understand a word you’re saying. I’m not going in any Jim Crow Army. I don’t know who’s fire you’re talking about.” But, anyway, then I explained to the Appeals Chairman the technical problems and he said, “Well, hell, they can’t do that to you.” He said, “You have the right to appeal the 1-A and you have a good case. And I don’t know anything about this Form 47 for conscientious objectors, but I’ll go and get you one of those forms.” And he was a Negro, a Negro lawyer, and he said, “These people made me the chairman of the appeals board, but I been a black, too long…been a Negro too long, you know…I think you’ve done the right thing.” He said, “I’m going to get you a…this conscientious objector thing…and I don’t know, you talk about on social grounds, but it says something about moral. But you take as much time as you want, and you put your best foot forward.” And, of course, I did work out the statement and submitted it to the Appeals Chairman. And I haven’t heard from the case since. So, that’s been from 1940, this was, of course, all of this was before Pearl Harbor. All, most of this was before Pearl Harbor.”