Southern Contingent 1968
The so-called Southern Contingent arrived in Toronto separately in the spring of 1968 but quickly made contact with each other through the Toronto Anti-Draft Programme (TADP). The seven draft dodgers were all affiliated with the Southern Student Organizing Committee (SSOC) of Nashville, Tennessee. The group received its nickname from Bernie Jaffe of the TADP who ran the TADP office at the time.
The group included Steven Jones, Jessie Dean, Bob Dewart, Ross Ashley and Philip Mullins. Two of them (Philip Mullins and Jessie Dean) were from northwest Florida. Steven Jones was originally from Georgia. Philip and Steven Jones shared a jail cell in the Gainesville, Florida for three days. They were both arrested at a demonstration against Dow Chemical on the University of Florida campus in February. Dow Chemical made napalm that was used to set fire to pro-Viet Cong villages in Vietnam. The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) called for a boycott of Dow’s campus recruiters. Philip and Steven were among a large group of students and activists arrested while blocking the door to the Dow Company recruiter’s office at UF.
Jessie Dean was a friend of Steven Jones. He was black. He and Philip were both from Pensacola but had never met before they arrived in Toronto. In June 1968 three men of these men (Ross Ashley, Jessie Dean and Philip) shared an apartment on Brunswick Avenue in Toronto. Bob Dewart (from Virginia and Pennsylvania) had been the editor of SSOC’s newsletter, “The New South Student” and lived in Nashville. He resigned the job as the editor of the newsleter to return to Pennsylvania where he eventually lost a long battle with his draft board. He subsequently left for Toronto.
The Southern Contingent were all experienced in Civil Rights and anti-war work and wanted to continue the struggle from exile. They searched for a way to do this. Initially they organized themselves as a combined chapter-in-exile of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Southern Student Organizing Committee (SSOC) and mailed regular reports of their activities to the two national organizations in the US. They worked on a plan to start organizing something in Toronto. While they discussed their long-term goals, they faced the short-term problem of supporting themselves. They were all looking for work. From their contacts with Naomi Wall they realized that there was no American self-help organization in Toronto other than the TADP. The task of the TADP was accomplished when the men were landed in Canada. There were no further plans for the American exiles other than integration into the Canadian left. The expectation of most aid groups was that the American expatriates would strengthen existing Canadian student, political and labor formations. The Southern Contingent decided to begin their work in Toronto by organizing an information service to assist Naomi Wall find jobs for the new arrivals. This resulted in the formation of the Union of American Exiles.
After the Union of American Exiles (UAE) was established most of the Southern Contingent drifted off to pursue other interests. Bob Dewart joined a Marxist group, the Canadian Party of Labour, and found a job in industry with the intention of organizing the party within existing labor unions. He eventually returned to Pennsylvania. Steven Jones found a job as a laboratory assistant at the University of Toronto and returned to school. Philip Mullins became involved with the hippie community on Baldwin Street and helped start the Ragnarokr Leather Shop. Ross Ashley found a job at Mount Sinai Hospital as an orderly and married a woman he met at the UAE. Ross was a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Jessie Dean and Ross Ashley continued to be active with the UAE long after the others had stopped attending its meetings.
The Southern Contingent is discussed in a letter from Philip to George Mullins, March 15, 1968.
Use this link to return to the narrative, The Yellow Ford Truck, May 1968-April 1969