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Zev Aelony

Zev Aelony
Born (1938-02-21)February 21, 1938
Palo Alto, CA, USA
Died November 1, 2009(2009-11-01) (aged 71)
Minneapolis, MN, USA
Ethnicity Jewish
Alma mater University of Minnesota
Occupation Owned a small business representing electronic security manufacturers
Known for Organizer of Minnesota civil rights student group (SFI), Freedom Rider, CORE Soul Force member, one of the Americus Four who faced a death penalty for helping citizens legally vote
Movement African-American Civil Rights Movement, Peace Movement
Spouse(s) Karen Olson Aelony
Children Bjorn, Ephraim, Phill, Jared
Parent(s) Janet and David Aelony
Website .com.blogspotveganwolf

Zev Aelony (February 21, 1938 – November 1, 2009) was an American activist involved in the Freedom Rider, and one of the Americus Four who faced a death penalty for helping citizens legally vote.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Career 2
  • Influences 3
    • Religion 3.1
    • Family 3.2
    • Experiences 3.3
  • Civil rights work 4
    • Students for Integration (SFI) 4.1
    • Freedom Rider 4.2
    • CORE Soul Force 4.3
    • Americus Four 4.4
  • Later life and death 5
  • References 6

Early life and education

Zev Aelony was born on February 21, 1938 in Stanford University.[1] in 1938.[3] Zev Aelony grew up in a secular Jewish household.[4] He was a lifelong Zionist who sought to bring Israel back to its Jewish and Zionist ideals.[4] His roommate on the Kibbutz was an Moslem Arab. From that time, he always championed equality for all ethnic groups in the state of Israel.

Aelony grew up in

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  7. ^ a b c d e f g h
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  10. ^ Stanton, Mary; Freedom Walk, p 121, University Press of Mississippi, 2003
  11. ^ a b c d e
  12. ^ a b
  13. ^ At March on Washington: The anger, the fear, the love and the hope (ref: By John D. Due, Jr., Special to CNN, updated 6:48 PM EDT, Sun September 1, 2013)
  14. ^


Aelony died of metastatic colon cancer on November 1, 2009 at his home.[5] He was 71 years old.[5]

Aelony continued to be politically [13] active in his hometown of Minneapolis throughout his life. He worked on the political campaign of Keith Ellison, a Muslim who ran for Congress on a peace platform.[12] In 2006, Ellison became the first Muslim elected to Congress; he was also the first African-American from Minnesota to be elected to the House of Representatives.[14]

Later life and death

Shortly afterward, he suffered a myocardial infarction and was hospitalized at Grady Hospital, by a local black physician who cared for the CORE workers. Thus, Aelony integrated the black ward at Grady Hospital. He was examined there by the famous academic cardiologist, Professor Willis Hurst, who felt his heart attack was related to his beating in Ocala, Florida. He was then advised to terminate his dangerous protest work in the deep South. [12].exonerated The Americus Four were ultimately [3] The leaders of the Sumter County Movement were trying to decide what to do next, and a young activist chose to lead a group to pray in front of

In 1963, Aelony was asked to go back to Americus to assist with a voter registration drive there.[4] Aelony worked with SNCC and the local Sumter County Movement to help blacks register to vote.[4] He taught protest standards to picketers at a local restaurant, and he also showed the group’s photographer how to take pictures that would be useful in court.[4] He performed similar activities in Ocala, Florida. When Aelony took a sample picture, a deputy arrived and asked him to stop photographing. Zev said 'it's a free country' and was immediately arrested.[4] He was taken to jail in Ocala Ocala.[4] Officers told the inmates he was a Freedom Rider, and left him unattended in the jail 'bullpen where he was beaten unconscious and kicked until a woman visitor called attention to the abuse.[4] )Aelony was eventually released after the intervention of Minnesota's governor, who was attending the Governor's Conference in Miami, and he returned to Americus.[4] The arrests in Americus continued to take place; hundreds of people who were a part of the voting rights drive were taken to a camp outside of town.[7]

Americus Four

In the spring of 1963, Aelony became a part of the Journey of Reconciliation.[4][7] The Journey of Reconciliation began when William Moore, a white Mississippian postman whose wife was black, set off on foot from Chattanooga, Tennessee to deliver a letter to Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett asking him to accept integration.[4] When Moore was shot dead (ref: Freedom Walk, Mary Stanton, 2003, University press of Mississippi) five members of CORE and five members of SNCC responded to his wife’s request that the journey be carried on.[4] The group, an equal mix of black and white males, was arrested for “walking into the state of Alabama in a manner designed to incite a breach of the peace”.[7] They were taken to the local county jail, where the sheriff sued for their release.[4] This occurred again in another county, and the group was moved to Kilby State Prison.[4] Eventually they were tried, convicted, and released on bail.[4] Fred Gray, the only black attorney in the state at the time, represented the group members in court.[4] Later the charges were vacated.

Aelony spent his first months on the Soul Force training and working in the national office until he was dispatched to Chicago to work with Midwest CORE groups and other civil rights groups.[4] He collaborated with SNCC and the NAACP, along with local groups, to help send food and necessities to people in Mississippi and other areas of the Deep South.[4] His efforts extended to northern Minnesota and North Dakota, where drunken white men were harassing black soldiers and athletes.[4]

In 1959, Aelony applied for Congress of Racial Equality.[4] The Soul Force was a group of full-time nonviolent civil rights workers.[4]

CORE Soul Force

Zev Aelony and five others, including Claire O’Conner, Gene Uphoff, Dave Martin, Marv Davidoff, and Bob Baum, set off on a bus journey with New Orleans as the final destination.[7] The first part of the ride was uneventful, and the group did not experience any violence.[6] They stopped in Nashville to stay at the Freedom House with Diane Nash and Rodney Powell, and they joined in a picket of a grocery store there.[6] The Freedom Riders continued on their journey and were arrested when they arrived in Jackson, Mississippi.[6][7] Police Chief Captain Ray met them inside the door of the black waiting room, and they were taken to the Jackson City Jail.[6] After a couple of nights they were transferred to the Hines County Jail, and when that facility filled up they were moved to Mississippi’s notorious Parchman Farm.[6][9] While there, Aelony participated in a hunger strike with several others, and he was isolated for a period of time for writing “you’ll reap what you sow” on the back wall with a spoon.[6] In retrospect, the federal government seemed slow to respond to the request from civil rights workers to enforce the interstate commerce clause decision by the supreme court, both for political reasons, for caution, and until international pressures arose to demonstrate US commitment to democracy, freedom of travel, and equality under the law. Aelony's interview in May 1963 in German with a West German filmmaker played extensively on TV in Europe, contributing immediately to the political pressure from Europe.[10]

[7][4] as the law required.public transportation to equal accommodation on Americans to help demonstrate the rights of all Freedom Riders In the summer of 1961, there was a call for more [4] Meanwhile, the

Freedom Rider

Out of this work emerged a student group at the university called Students for Integration (SFI), which Aelony helped found.[4] This group continued to fight for fair housing and fair employment by supporting legislation at the state level.[4] The legislation that passed, which was introduced by a new young legislator, Don Fraser, helped open up housing and job opportunities for minorities.[4]

When Aelony arrived at the University of Minnesota, he met some of the few students of color and discovered that only a small number were from the local communities, since most local blacks chose to attend black colleges and universities in the South.[4] He also found that other minority students were having trouble obtaining local housing and employment in Minneapolis.[4] Aelony worked with a group of students to help find housing for Persian students.[6] This population had difficulty securing housing because it was rumored that they rubbed their skin with olive oil, which ruined the bedding.[6] If the minority students were told an apartment complex was full, white students would go ask for a room there to test the fairness of the renters.[6] The students would then talk to the renters, who were often embarrassed and would agree to rent to the minority students.[6]

Students for Integration (SFI)

Civil rights work

Aelony was not completely naïve about integration.[6] Aelony came to believe that it was important to understand why people do things rather than just dividing them into categories of good and bad.[6]


One of the turning points in Zev Aelony’s life occurred around the age of 18, when his family was invited to a Minneapolis picnic because of his father’s work with the refugees.[6] Jewish refugees from Europe and Japanese-Americans who had been in the detention camps out west attended the picnic.[3][6] Zev Aelony was shocked to meet kids who came out of concentration camps in the United States, a place where he believed things like that did not occur.[6]

Aelony’s father, David, was an immigrant and was involved in the opposition to the rise of Nazism in Germany, where he had relatives.[6] David Aelony spoke fluently in English, German, Hebrew, Yiddish, and French, and also knew parts of other Slavic and Germanic languages as well as Spanish and Italian.[6] David Aelony began welcoming refugees into his home when he met them on the streets.[3][6]


The Aelony family was Clarence Jordan in 1942.[7][8] At the time, Koinonia Farm gained notoriety as a target of racial bigotry and was even bombed.[5][6] Aelony spent the summer of 1959 in Koinonia working with and learning about the people there, who impressed him.[6] Aelony was a lifelong Zionist with family in Israel.[4] His involvement with the Peace movement extended beyond the religious aspect to include social responsibility as well. Aelony was a practicing vegan for over two decades of his later life.[4] In addition to his native English language, he spoke Hebrew, German, and Russian. His German skills were put to the test in 1963 when the European press descended on the CORE workers, many of whom did not speak English. His explanation to the press in German of what they were trying to accomplish was published widely in Europe and contributed to the pressure on Washington to uphold the supreme court ruling against discrimination in public transportation in interstate commerce. (see WorldHeritage, Freedom Riders)



Aelony has been described as a soft-spoken and peaceful man who practiced nonviolence and continued to fight for justice throughout his lifetime.[5]

[5] To support his family, Aelony and his wife owned a small business selling


[5] They had four sons together: Bjorn, Ephraim, Phil, and Jared.[5] They were married for 43 years, until Aelony’s death in 2009.[1] He met his wife, Karen Olson, at the university.[5].anthropology and a minor in political theory, where he graduated in 1961 with a major in University of Minnesota He continued his education at the [5]

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