Lynd was one of two children born to the renowned sociologists Robert Staughton Lynd and Helen Lynd, who authored the groundbreaking "Middletown" studies of Muncie, Indiana, in the late 1920s and '30s. Staughton Lynd inherited not only his father's gifts as a scholar, but also his strong socialist beliefs. Although Lynd never embraced undemocratic forms of socialism, his ideological outlook led to his expulsion from a non-combatant position in the U.S. military during the McCarthy Era.
He went on to earn a doctorate in history at Columbia University and accepted a teaching position at Spelman College, in Georgia, where he became acquainted with historian and civil rights activist Howard Zinn. During the summer of 1964, Lynd served as director of the SNCC-organized Freedom Schools of Mississippi. After accepting a position at Yale University, Lynd relocated to New England, along with his wife, Alice, and their three children.
It was during his tenure at Yale that Lynd became an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War. His protest activities included speaking engagements, protest marches, and a controversial visit to Hanoi, which cost him his teaching position at Yale. As the protest movement became increasingly violent, Lynd began to have doubts about the values and practices of the New Left. As a self-described "social democratic pacifist", he became more interested in the possibilities of local organizing.
In the late 1960s, Lynd relocated his family to Chicago. There, he struggled to make a living from community organizing. Meanwhile, he and his wife, Alice, embarked upon an oral history project dealing with the working class. The conclusions of this work, titled Rank and File, inspired Lynd to study law in order to assist workers victimized by companies and left unprotected by declining labor unions. In 1973, he enrolled at the University of Chicago law school, where he earned a degree in 1976.
From there, the Lynds relocated to Youngstown, Ohio, in the heart of the Rust Belt. He proved to be a vital participant in the late 1970s struggle to keep the Youngstown steel mills open. Despite the ultimate failure of those efforts, the Lynds have continued organizing in the Youngstown-Warren area. Staughton Lynd has remained extremely active as an attorney, taking on a broad range of cases, including those concerning disabled and retired workers.
Lynd's book, Lucasville, is an investigation into the events surrounding the 1993 prison uprising at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, and voices serious concern over the integrity of legal proceedings subsequent to the event. His newest book, a memoir of his and Alice's life, Stepping Stones: Memoir of a Life Together was released in January 2009.
Lynd still maintains an active Ohio law license.
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