Ammon Hennacy (July 24 1893 – January 14 1970) was an American pacifist, Christian anarchist, vegetarian, social activist, member of the Catholic Worker Movement and a Wobbly, and was known for establishing the "Joe Hill House of Hospitality" in Salt Lake City, Utah and for never paying taxes.
Hennacy was born in Negley, Ohio
parents and grew up as a Baptist
. On hearing Billy Sunday
preach in 1909 he became an atheist
and shortly afterward became a socialist
and an IWW
member. He studied at three different institutions, (a year at each one): Hiram College
in 1913, University of Wisconsin-Madison
in 1914, and The Ohio State University
in 1915. During this time Hennacy was a card-carrying member of the Socialist Party of America
and in his words "took military drills in order to learn how to kill capitalists"
Upon the outbreak of the First World War
Hennacy was imprisoned for two years in Atlanta, Georgia
for resisting conscription
. While in prison
the only book he was allowed was the Bible
. This inspired him to make a radical departure from his earlier beliefs, becoming a pacifist and a self-proclaimed "Christian anarchist
". He led a hunger strike
and was punished with eight months in solitary confinement
. Hennacy believed that adherence to Christianity meant being a pacifist and, because governments constantly threaten or use force to resolve conflicts, this meant being an anarchist.
In 1919, Hennacy married his first wife under common law; two years later they hiked around the United States passing through all 48 of the contiguous states. He then settled down in 1925, buying a farm and raising his two children. In 1931, he began his social work in Milwaukee and organised one of the first social worker unions. He refused to use force or self-defense even when threatened during his work, preferring instead to use nonresistance. During this time, he also refused to sign up for the draft for World War II and declared that he would not pay taxes in protest to his government's position. He also tried to reduce his tax liability by taking up a lifestyle of simple living and bartering. Between 1942 and 1953, Hennacy worked as a migrant farm labourer in the southwest United States. In 1952, he was baptised as a Roman Catholic by an anarchist priest, with Dorothy Day as his godmother.
Ammon Hennacy moved to New York, in 1953, and became the associate editor of the Catholic Worker. Hennacy's life in New York was noticeable for his picketing. He started annual air raid drill protests and picketed against the Atomic Energy Commission's war preparations in Las Vegas, Cape Kennedy, Washington, D.C. and Omaha. In 1958, Hennacy fasted for 40 days in protest of nuclear weapons testing. During 1961, Hennacy moved to Utah and organised the Joe Hill House of Hospitality in Salt Lake City. While in Utah, Hennacy fasted and picketed in protest of the death penalty and the use of taxes in war.
In 1965, Hennacy married Joan Thomas and in the same year left the Roman Catholic Church, though remaining a "non-church Christian. He wrote about the reasons for leaving and his thoughts on Catholicism , which included a belief that "Paul spoiled the message of Christ" (see Pauline Christianity). This essay and others have been published under the title The Book of Ammon. In 1968, Hennacy had to close the "Joe Hill House of Hospitality" and turned his attention to further protest and writing; he published a book titled The One-Man Revolution in 1970. Ammon Hennacy died from a heart attack on January 14, 1970.
Political and ethical beliefs
Ammon Hennacy was a pacifist
, Christian anarchist
and advocate of anarchy and nonresistance
. He was often extremely critical of what he described as the "institutional church"
He did not drink or smoke and was a vegetarian
. Much of his activism
, anti-nuclear proliferation
and against the death penalty. Hennacy never paid any taxes in his life, because of their use in paying for the military
and war. He lived a life of voluntary simplicity
and believed in his "One-Man Revolution
" against violence, sin and coercion. He refused to accept the legitimacy of the judiciary
Hennacy in folk art
When Ani DiFranco
gathered stories by Bruce "U. Utah" Phillips
to make the 1996 album The Past Didn't Go Anywhere,
she included Phillips' routine story about Hennacy, under the title "Anarchy". Hennacy helped shape Bruce Phillips, who often told this story.
- Hennacy, Ammon (1954) Autobiography of a Catholic Anarchist. New York, Catholic Worker Books.
- Hennacy, Ammon (1970) The Book of Ammon. Catholic Worker Books, Salt Lake City
- Hennacy (1970) The One-Man Revolution. Salt Lake City, Ammon Hennacy Publications.
- Thomas, Joan (1993) The Years of Grief and Laughter: A "Biography" of Ammon Hennacy. Baltimore, MD, Fortkamp Publishing Co.
- Page, Marcus P. Blaise (2005) A Peace of the Anarchy: Ammon Hennacy and other Angelic Troublemakers in the USA