A wonderful Black Man … Sun Ra

Draft and wartime experiences

wonderful colored negro Marcellous Lovelace is more prolific than your entire department

In October 1942 Blount received a selective service notification that he had been drafted into the Military of the United States. He quickly declared himself a conscientious objector, citing religious objections to war and killing, his financial support of his great-aunt Ida, and his chronic hernia. His case was rejected by the local draft board, and in his appeal to the national draft board, Blount wrote that the lack of black men on the draft appeal board “smacks of Hitlerism“.[12] His family was deeply embarrassed by Sonny’s refusal to join the military, and he was effectively ostracized by many of his relatives. Blount was eventually approved for alternate service at Civilian Public Service camp in Pennsylvania. However, Blount didn’t appear at the camp as scheduled on December 8, 1942, and shortly thereafter, he was arrested in Alabama.

In court, Blount declared that even alternate service was unacceptable to him, and he debated the judge on points of law and Biblical interpretation. Though sympathetic to Blount, the judge also declared that he was clearly in violation of the law, and was risking forcible induction into the U.S. Military. Blount declared that if he were inducted, he would use his military weapons and training to kill the first high-ranking military officer he could. The judge sentenced Blount to jail (pending draft board and CPS rulings), and then declared “I’ve never seen a nigger like you before;” Blount replied, “No, and you never will again.”[13]

In January 1943 a desperate Blount wrote to the United States Marshals Service from the Walker County, Alabama jail in Jasper. He said he was facing a nervous breakdown from the stress of imprisonment, that he was suicidal, and that he was in constant fear of sexual assault. His conscientious objector status was eventually reaffirmed in February 1943 and Blount was escorted to Pennsylvania where he conducted forestry work in the day and was allowed to play piano at night. Psychiatrists there described him as “a psychopathic personality [and] sexually perverted” but also as “a well-educated colored intellectual“.[14]

In March 1943 Blount was classified as 4-F because of his hernia. He returned to Birmingham embittered and angered by his experiences. He formed a new band and quickly was playing professionally. After his beloved great-aunt Ida died in 1945, Blount felt no reason to stay in Birmingham. He dissolved the band, and moved to Chicago, part of the wave of southern African Americans who moved north during and after World War II.

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