Ammon Ashford Hennacy was an Irish-American pacifist and social activist best known for his Christian anarchist activities. He was an atheist and a supporter of large government in his early adult years. He was an outspoken supporter of socialism and the international labor movement. He claimed to be under training to assassinate capitalists since his opinions were so strong. However, after serving a two-year prison sentence for resisting the draft during World War I, his ideas changed dramatically. He was put in solitary confinement after organizing a hunger strike among the detainees. Because the Bible was the only book available, he entirely abandoned his previous beliefs and became a pacifist. Following his release from prison, he chose to live in poverty in order to avoid paying taxes, some of which were used to support the military. In protest against the death sentence and the use of taxes in war, he fasted and picketed. Based mostly on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he described to himself as a “Christian anarchist.” He led a simple life and believed in a ‘One-Man Revolution’ against violence, sin, and coercion, which he dubbed his ‘One-Man Revolution.’ He refused to endorse war or capital punishment, and he refused to pay taxes, instead worked ceaselessly for the homeless and impoverished, as well as for world peace. His life was a remarkable voyage of self-discovery.
Childhood and Adolescence
Benjamin Franklin Hennacy and Eliza Eunice Fitz Randolph, both Quakers, gave him birth on July 24, 1893 in Negley, Ohio. His parents raised him as a Baptist. In 1909, however, he became an atheist after hearing famed evangelist Billy Sunday preach. He became a socialist and a member of the ‘Industrial Workers of the World’ shortly after. He spent a year at Hiram College in Ohio in 1913. In 1914, he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
He completed his official education by enrolling at Ohio State University for a year in 1915.
Years Later of Ammon Hennacy
In Atlanta, Georgia, he was condemned to two years in prison in 1917 for refusing to register with his local draft board in protest of World War I. He was only allowed to read one book while in prison: the Bible. Reading the Bible altered the atheist’s mind and turned him into a Christian pacifist. He conducted a hunger strike that resulted in eight months of solitary imprisonment.
During his solitary imprisonment, he read the Bible several times and came to the conclusion that the only way to follow Jesus’ advice was to become a “Christian anarchist” and lead a one-man revolution. In 1921, he and his first wife traveled to all 48 contiguous states after being released from prison. In 1925, he chose to work as a day laborer, picking cotton or doing other field jobs, because poverty was a means to avoid paying taxes. Taxes, he believed, were used to pay the war activities, which he fiercely opposed.
In 1931, he started working as a social worker in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and founded a social worker’s union.
He worked as a migrant agricultural worker from 1942 and 1953 in order to make very little money and avoid paying taxes to the government. An anarchist priest christened him as a Catholic in 1952, with Dorothy Day, a devout Catholic convert, as his godmother. He moved to New York in 1953 and worked as an editor for the ‘Catholic Writer,’ which helped him hone his thinking and writing talents.
He released his autobiography, ‘Autobiography of a Catholic Anarchist,’ in 1954. His next book, ‘The Book of Ammon,’ was published several years later, in 1965. He spearheaded the 1955 civil disobedience movement against mandatory air raid exercises with Dorothy Day and other Catholic workers, for which he was jailed and imprisoned.
He fasted for 40 days in 1958 to protest nuclear weapons testing. Joan Thomas Hennacy published his final work, ‘The One-Man Revolution in America,’ posthumously in 1970.
Major Projects of Ammon Hennacy
He was a conscientious objector in both World Wars I and II, and he served as an inspiration and a source of bravery to others who wanted to do the same. He had a huge influence on the Catholic Worker movement, which thought that God guaranteed the worth of every human being, thanks to his work with the ‘Catholic Writer’ publication.
His work with homeless people in Salt Lake City, Utah, inspired social workers all around the world. He established the ‘Joe Hill House’ for the homeless and poor in 1961. He took part in innumerable marches, pickets, and fasts against the regime, as well as all wars and violence, refusing to even defend himself.
Personal History and Legacy
In 1919, he married Selma Melms on a common-law basis. They were fortunate enough to have two children. Unfortunately, in 1964, the couple divorced. He married Joan Thomas in 1965. He officially left the Catholic Church that same year, though he continued to call himself a Christian. He died three days later, on January 14, 1970, in Salt Lake City, Utah, after suffering a heart attack while protesting the execution of two convicted murderers.
His corpse was burned, and his ashes were spread in Waldheim Cemetery in Chicago over the graves of the Haymarket anarchists. He became a vegetarian after adopting the Christian anarchist worldview. He claimed to own nothing and would always give up his bed if someone else needed it. He was known for his selflessness.
Estimated Net Worth
The estimated net worth of Ammon Hennacy is not available.