Davis at the John Sinclair Freedom Rally, 1971
Rennard Cordon Davis
May 23, 1941
|Alma mater||Oberlin College|
|Known for||Chicago Seven|
|Parent(s)||Richard and Mary Davis|
Rennard Cordon "Rennie" Davis (born May 23, 1941) is best known as an American anti-war activist of the 1960s. He was one of the Chicago Seven defendants charged for anti-war demonstrations and large-scale protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. He had a prominent organizational role in the American anti-Vietnam War protest movement of the 1960s.
In the early 1970s, Davis became a follower of Guru Maharaj Ji (Prem Rawat) and his Divine Light Mission. He began to travel as a spiritual lecturer. He also became a venture capitalist, and founded the Foundation for a New Humanity to combine these goals.
Born in Lansing, Michigan, in 1941 to Mary and Richard Davis, he grew up in Berryville, Virginia. His father worked in nearby Washington, DC, including serving as chief of staff to Council of Economic Advisers under President Harry S. Truman. Davis graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio.
In the 1960s, Davis became active in the Students for a Democratic Society. He was the National Director of their project of community organizing programs (the Economic Research and Action Project, or ERAP) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Davis became increasingly allied with anti-war groups, and helped organize protests and related events before and during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago for the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam ("the Mobe").
Democratic Convention protests and subsequent trial
Davis was one of the principal organizers of the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam to plan anti-war protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. He negotiated unsuccessfully to gain a permit with Chicago city counsel David Stahl. At a "police riot" in Grant Park, Davis was among protesters beaten by Chicago police officers, and he suffered a concussion. Unlike some other leaders, Davis was committed to nonviolence. His injury by police shook the protesters' remaining belief in pacifism.
The Chicago Eight (later known as the Chicago Seven) were eight men charged with conspiracy, inciting to riot, and other charges related to the nonviolent and violent protests that took place in Chicago. The original eight protester/defendants, indicted by the grand jury on March 20, 1969, included Davis, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, John Froines, Lee Weiner, and Bobby Seale, a Black Panther leader.
During the early part of the trial, Seale's case was separated from the others. The Chicago Seven defense attorneys were William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass of the Center for Constitutional Rights. The judge was Julius Hoffman. The prosecutors were Richard Schultz and Tom Foran. The trial began on 24 September 1969. On 9 October the Illinois National Guard was called in to join the Chicago police for crowd control, as demonstrations grew outside the courtroom.
Divine Light Mission
In the early 1970s Davis became a follower of Guru Maharaj Ji (Prem Rawat). He was a spokesperson and speaker at the widely publicized Millennium '73 event organized by Divine Light Mission in the Houston Astrodome. He described the arrival of Guru Maharaj Ji as,
The greatest event in history. ... If we knew who he was, we would crawl across America on our hands and knees to rest our heads at his feet.
Texas Monthly quoted Davis as stating: "This city is going to be remembered through all the ages of human civilization." An Op-ed in the San Francisco Sunday Examiner speculated at the time as to whether Davis had undergone a lobotomy, and suggested, "If not, maybe he should try one."
Foundation for a New Humanity
Davis later became a venture capitalist and lecturer on meditation and self-awareness. He is the founder of Foundation for a New Humanity, a technology development and venture capital company commercializing breakthrough technologies.
Davis returned to Chicago for the 1996 Democratic National Convention to speak at the "Festival of Life" in Grant Park. He appeared on a panel with activist Tom Hayden discussing "a progressive counterbalance to the religious right".
In an article published in the Iowa Source in 2005, Davis said:
If you were to do a survey of what causes misery on earth, it would tend to fall into three broad categories. One, we can call systems: the economy, AIDS, terrorism – things that are 'systems' in nature. The second would be a list of everybody to blame: Bush is the cause of my misery, my ex-wife, my boss. The third would be things that come utterly out of left field: a tornado through town, a tsunami, events that are not in our apparent control. What this huge list would have in common – something everybody would agree with – is that the cause of misery are things outside 'myself'. But the cause of our misery is absolutely, positively not at all what we believe it to be. This is not a new view. Certainly saints and philosophers in every generation have basically argued if you want to change the world, you have to change yourself.
Notes and references
- "Episode 13: Make Love not War". CNN. Archived from the original on April 30, 2003.
- Schultz, John (2009). The Chicago Conspiracy Trial: Revised Edition. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0226741147.
- Daniels, Robert Vincent (1996). Year of the Heroic Guerrilla: World Revolution and Counterrevolution in 1968. Harvard University Press. pp. 214–215. ISBN 978-0674964518.
- Dellinger, David (2010). From Yale to Jail: The Life Story of a Moral Dissenter. Wipf and Stock Publishers. p. 530. ISBN 978-1608990610.
- "The Trial of The Chicago Seven (or Chicago Eight)". Archived from the original on 2008-02-11. Retrieved 2008-02-14.
- Kent, Stephen A. Dr. From slogans to mantras: social protest and religious conversion in the late Vietnam war era, Syracuse University Press, ISBN 0-8156-2923-0 (2001), p. 52
- Davis, Rennie. "Introduction", Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji?, Edited by Charles Cameron, New York: Bantam Books, Inc., 1973
- Dreyer, Thorne (January 1, 1974). "God Goes to the Astrodome". Texas Monthly. Emmis Communications. Cite has empty unknown parameter:
- Brown, Mick. The Spiritual Tourist, Bloomsbury Publishing, ISBN 1-58234-034-X, Chapter "Her Master's Voice", p. 197.
- "Chicago 10", PBS, Independent Lens
- Moore, James (March 2005). "From Chicago 7 to Venture Capitalist to Grand Canyon Visionary". Iowa Source: Iowa's Enlightening Magazine. Archived from the original on 7 May 2006.
- "The trial of the Chicago Seven". University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law. n.d. Archived from the original on 2004-12-05. Retrieved 2004-12-07.
- Edited by Mark L. Levine, George C. McNamee and Daniel Greenberg / Foreword by Aaron Sorkin. The Trial of the Chicago 7: The Official Transcript. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2020. ISBN 978-1-9821-5509-4 OCLC 1162494002
- Edited with an introduction by Jon Wiener. Conspiracy in the Streets: The Extraordinary Trial of the Chicago Seven. Afterword by Tom Hayden and drawings by Jules Feiffer. New York: The New Press, 2006. ISBN 978-1-56584-833-7
- Chatfield, Charles, "At the Hands of Historians: The Antiwar Movement of the Vietnam Era", Peace & Change, Volume 29 Issue 3-4 p. 483. July 2004 doi:10.1111/j.0149-0508.2004.00300.x
- Johns, Andrew L. "Northern Passage: American Vietnam War Resisters in Canada", Journal of Cold War Studies. Volume 5, Number 2, Spring 2003, pp. 86–89
- Greenfield, Robert. The Spiritual Supermarket. Saturday Review Press/E. P. Dutton & Co. Inc, New York. 1975 ISBN 978-0-8415-0367-0
- Edited by Judy Clavir and John Spitzer. The Conspiracy Trial: The extended edited transcript of the trial of the Chicago Eight. Complete with motions, rulings, contempt citations, sentences and photographs. Introduction by William Kunstler and foreword by Leonard Weinglass. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1970. ISBN 0-224-00579-0. OCLC 16214206
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rennie Davis.|
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Video preview, 1974, Independent Video Archive (mediaburn.org), Lord of the Universe (documentary), Rennie Davis featured in clips
- 3-minute excerpt, Creative Commons License, Internet Archive
- The Chicago Seven
- The Chicago Seven Trial
- UMKC Law site on Chicago Seven
- Interview with Rennie Davis by Stephen McKiernan, Binghamton University Libraries Center for the Study of the 1960s, October 10, 2009