James Peck was born December 19, 1914. He attended Harvard, but dropped out after a year so that he could be a sailor. As a sailor, he helped to organize the National Maritime Union and was an effective leader and representative of the union. During World War II, Peck was a conscientious objector and was an ant-war activist. Because of his anti-war activities, Peck was put in jail for two years. While in jail, he led a strike against racial segregation. During the war he worked with the War Resisters League and wrote a column for The Conscientious Objector. After the war, he joined the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and began to work tirelessly for the civil rights movement. A life-long activist, Peck later protested against the Vietnam War as well as nuclear testing. He died in Minneapolis in 1993.
Peck participated in the first freedom ride with Bayard Rustin in 1947. The plan was to send eight white and eight black men into the South to make sure that the Supreme Court's ruling in Morgan v. Virginia was being obeyed. The ruling outlawed segregation in interstate transportation, and the first freedom ride was designed to make sure that ruling was enforced in the South. It was called the Journey of Reconciliation and while on it, Peck was arrested in Durham, North Carolina. In 1961, he again participated in the Freedom Rides that were organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). While on the Freedom Ride, he was beaten by a mob in Birmingham, Alabama. He was a leader and organizer for CORE activities for seventeen years.
Information for this biography was gathered from the following sources: