Bernardine Dohrn

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Bernardine Dohrn

Template:TOCnestleft Bernardine Rae Dohrn (born January 12, 1942, in Chicago, Illinois) is an activist, academic and "child advocate". She has traveled on human rights delegations to Colombia, Rwanda and South Africa[1]. She was the acknowledged leader of the Weather Underground Organization. Dohrn was arrested during the WUO "Days of Rage" in Chicago during October, 1969. She submerged into the WUO in early 1970 and remained therein. Her name has appeared on a number of the communiques sent by the WUO.[2] She is the wife of Bill Ayers.

Dohrn also went under the names Lorraine Anne Jellins, Sharon Louise Naylor, Karen Lois DeBelius, "Mons" and Bernadine Rae Ohrnstein.

Weathermen Flint "War Council"

Section from Dohrn's profile in the Weatherman Underground Summary Dated 8/20/76, Part 2

December 27-31, 1969, about 400 of the national membership of the Weatherman faction of Students for a Democratic Society held a “War Council” at a ballroom dancehall in Flint, Michigan. Posters of a giant cardboard machinegun, Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevera, and Fidel Castro hung everywhere.

Among the attendees of the “War Council in Flint" identified by the Flint police department and/or its informant were: Michael Avey, Karen Ashley, Bill Ayers, Edward Benedict, Margaret Bennett, Douglas Bernhardt, Jeff Blum, Harvey Blume, David Chase, Peter Clapp, Judy Clark, Bernardine Dohrn, Diane Donghi, Linda Evans, Brian Flannigan, David Flatley, John Fuerst, Lynn Ray Garvin, Bert Garskof, Michele Garskoff, Mark Glasser, Theodore Gold, Lenny Handlesman, Ann Hathaway, Karen Hardiman, Daniel Hardy, Tom Hayden, Phoebe Hirsch, Arthur Hochberg, Anne Hodges, John J. J. Jacobs, Jeff Jones, Sam Karp, David Klafter, Dianne Kohn, Peter Kuttner, Bradford Lang, Stephen Lang, Karen Latimer, Jonathan Lerner, Naomi Lev, Bradford Long, Alan Maki, Eric Mann, Howard Machtinger, Carol McDermott, L.R. Meadows, Lisa Meisel, Jeff Melish, James Mellen, David Millstone, Russell Neufeld, Diana Oughton, John Pilkington, Edward Purtz, Jonah Raskin, Natalie Rosenstein, Dennis Roskamp, Mark Rudd, Karen Selin, Mark Shapiro, Janet Snider, Mike Spiegel, Jane Spiegelman, Marsha Steinberg, David Sole, Susan Stern, Clayton Van Lydegraf, Cathy Wilkerson and Mary Wozniak[3].

Bill Ayers drove into Flint in a green 1970 Chevrolet with no license plates carrying Linda Evans, Bernardine Dohrn and James Mellen[4].

According to a federal indictment, a smaller group, Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, Linda Evans, Erik Mann, Howard Machtinger, Diana Oughton and Mark Rudd, met secretly in Flint on December 30, 1969 at the Parish House of Sacred Heart Convent to set up a central committee. It was modeled after Lenin’s democratic centralism. The Weather central committte was to direct underground bombings nationwide from New York, Chicago, Detroit and Berkeley aimed at police, military, university and commercial targets. There was also talk of assassinations. The Liberation News Service reported, “Part of armed struggle, as Dohrn and others laid it down, is terrorism. Political assassination… and… violence…were put forward as legitimate forms of armed struggle.[5].

Eric Mann, soon became an SDS defector and a Flint Police informant. He reported a man dressed as a priest distributing 200 sticks of dynamite in the parking lot to drivers of cars with license plates from New York, Washington, Colorado, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania, including Theodore Gold, New York[6].

"Days of Rage"


Alleged "maniac"

This exchange took place during the Government Security hearings on March 31, 1970. Senator Cook questioned Chicago gang leader Mike Soto about Bernardine Dohrn[7];

Senator Cook "What is your impression of Bernardine Dohrn?"

Mr Soto "I have talked to her and she is a violent maniac, because when I talked to her she said 'let's pick up arms, let's blow up this country apart until we take over'"

Prairie Fire

Pfintropg2 2.jpg

Freedom Road event


In 1991 a Freedom Road Socialist Organization/Forward Motion Forum was held in Chicago. Speakers were Bernardine Dohrn, former Nat. officer Students for a Democratic Society, Abdul Alkalimat, convenor Malcolm X conference, Camille Odeh from the Arab Community Center, Joe Iosbaker from Freedom Road Socialist Organization. Stephanie Weiner of Freedom Road Socialist Organization moderated.

Kent State conference

For left-leaning students here, preserving what they call "the spirit of Kent and Jackson State" has become a central part of a campaign to revitalize the student movement. They organized a conference May 1990 where veterans of the 1960s left urged the 1990s left to carry on its mission.

"Don't make the mistake of not daring to change the world you inherit," Bernardine Dohrn, a former leader of the radical Weather Underground, told a cheering, whistling crowd gathered at a university gymnasium. Dohrn, along with virtually every other speaker at the conference, also underlined the most powerful legacy of Vietnam to the political left: the notion that the United States seeks, in Dohrn's words, "world domination."

The surest applause line at the conference was to condemn U.S. military intervention, whether in El Salvador, Panama, the Philippines or Cambodia.

"Today's student activism is not about nostalgia," said Joe Iosbaker, a founder of the Progressive Student Network, which now has chapters on about 50 campuses. "Most of these people haven't read books about the '60s, and most of them don't like Neil Young."

Tom Albanese, a Kent State PSN leader, believes there are limits to the lessons the Vietnam era has to offer his generation. Today's leftist organizers must recruit on the basis of a broad range of issues -- opposition to U.S. policy in Central America, support for blacks in South Africa, choice on abortion, the environment.[8]

Chicago C'ttee to Defend the BOR Bicentennial Celebration

On November 10, 1991 Bernardine Dohrn was listed as a member of the 1991 Tribute Committee for the Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights Bicentennial Celebration.[9]

Committees of Correspondence connection

Coc ayers-dohrn.jpg

In 1994 Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, Chicago were listed on a "Membership, Subscription and Mailing List" for the Chicago Committees of Correspondence, an offshoot of the Communist Party USA[10]

Hosting Barack Obama

In 1995, State Senator Alice Palmer introduced her chosen successor, Barack Obama, at a gathering in the Hyde Park home of former Weather Underground terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.

I can remember being one of a small group of people who came to Bill Ayers’ house to learn that Alice Palmer was stepping down from the senate and running for Congress,” said Dr. Quentin Young, a prominent Chicago physician of the informal gathering at the home of Ayers and his wife, Dohrn. “[Palmer] identified [Obama] as her successor.”

Barack Obama and Alice Palmer “were both there,” he said.

Quentin Young described Obama and Ayers as “friends."[11].

Open Letter to the Colombian People, Press and Government, Aug. 1996

"Stop the Bloodshed in Uraba, Due Process for Jose Antonio Lopez, Nelson Campo and others, and an End to Faceless Justice and Political Repression".

We, the undersigned, are North Americans and others who are deeply disturbed by the human rights situation in Colombia.
Massacres, disappearances and torture happen continually in the anguished region of Uraba. We can not understand how paramilitary groups operate so freely in this militarized region where the Colombian army is present in massive numbers, and which does not perform its constitutional function of defending the civilian population. And we can not understand why the regional paramilitary leader is not apprehended and brought to justice for his crimes against humanity.
We call upon all armed parties -- paramilitary units, guerrillas, army, police, urban militias and commandos -- to immediately cease all attacks upon both the civilian population and upon each other. Justice, peace and a fruitful life is never found through murder, torture, kidnapping and intimidation.

Bernardine Dohrn signed the letter, from the Colombia Support Network .[12]

Erikson Institute/Ayers family connections

For many years Barbara Bowman has run the Chicago based Erikson Institute. An early Erikson board member was Chicago businessman and "liberal" activist Tom Ayers-father of Bill Ayers.

Bernardine Dohrn, has also served on the Erikson board in recent years[13].

Tom Ayers served as a trustee of the Erikson Institute. The Institute distributed $46,025 in Northern Trust scholarships. At the time, the Erickson Institute Board of Trustees also included Ayers' convicted felon daughter-in-law, Bernadine Dohrn Ayers. In addition, the Institute's co-founder, Barbara Bowman, is the mother of close Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.

"Intellectuals: Who Needs Them?"

Gerald Graff and former Weather Underground Organization terrorist Bernardine Dohrn spoke together at a public gathering sponsored by The Center for Public Intellectuals & the University of Illinois-Chicago, April 19th-20th, 2002, at the Chicago, Illini Union; Bill Ayers and Barack Obama shared another panel at the same event.

"Intellectuals: Who Needs Them?"

Panel I. Why Do Ideas Matter?

Reviewed Ella Baker book

In 2004 Bernardine Dohrn wrote a favorable review of Barbara Ransby's book "Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision"[15].

This is no puff portrait, however. Ransby must deal with Baker’s participation in the NAACP’s shameful embrace of anticommunism in 1957 as a member of their Internal Security Committee. She moderates and gracefully demurs from Baker’s unsparing critique of Dr. Martin Luther King. She analyzes Baker’s run for New York City Council on the Liberal Party ticket in 1951 and 1953 as part of a campaign for quality integrated schools and against police brutality—but positioned amidst virulent anticommunists and noncommunists.

Crossroads Fund

Ayers, Dohrn, Welbon

In fall of 2005, Crossroads Fund worked closely with donors and board members to put together house parties featuring discussion on critical community issues, and also raise money for Crossroads Fund.

Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, along with Yvonne Welbon and Dorian Warren hosted a group of donors and friends as they "engaged in a lively discussion about political participation in Chicago"[16].

Crossroads Fund is working to understand how to support participation in the electoral process on an on-going basis, making government more accessible and accountable to voters and tax-payers.

Anti Iraq War activism

On Thursday, March 30, 2006 "A Discussion with Bernardine Dohrn" was held[17]at the In These Times office 2040 N. Milwaukee, 2nd Floor, Chicago-sponsore by Chicago's Open University of the Left. event

Bernardine Dohrn will share her analysis of the war and the domestic political situation in light of her own remarkable experiences. Open discussion will follow. An Open University of the Left event...

ITT interview

In August 2006 Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn were interviewed by Chicago socialist journal In These Times

Dohrn called for a major "progressive" movement to move the next government to the left-as had happened under Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s and Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s[18].

To mount a movement, “let’s look at history,” said Dohrn between bites of her tuna nicoise salad. “Lyndon Johnson was not a civil rights leader; Lyndon Johnson was responding to a civil rights movement. FDR was not a labor leader; FDR was responding to a labor movement. We confuse these things when we think about them today.”
Indeed, that’s “a great mistake. Lyndon Johnson was the most effective politician of his generation, but it took a movement independent of Lyndon Johnson to get Lyndon Johnson to use that effectiveness for the good.

The new SDS

Dohrn at SDS re-union part 1
Dohrn at SDS re-union part 2
2077758178 a2355eb475.jpg

Former members of Michigan State University Students for a Democratic Society, present day members of Movement for a Democratic Society and organizers from Ignite, the recently formed MSU SDS chapter all came together for a counter-recruitment protest and later, a moving MSU SDS reunion on Friday, November 30, 2007, in East Lansing[19].

A demo outside a Marine Corps recruiting center, on busy Grand River Avenue, opposite the MSU campus, was abbreviated due to the frigid temperatures. But later in the day, an SDS reunion held in MSU’s South Kedzie Hall, "warmed hearts and fired up the activists – young and old". Bob Meola, an MSU SDS alumnus, emceed the affair which featured speeches by Cole Smith of Ignite, Al Haber, Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Ayers and the "man of the hour" – Bert Garskof who had been the faculty advisor to the original MSU SDS chapter. Garskof, fired by MSU for his "devotion to his students and the Movement", was described by Ayers as “a mentor, an inspiration”.

Dorhn spoke at the re-union, referring to the new SDS and MDS, the "overthrow of capitalism", visits to Chavez's Venezuela and building a "new movement".

MDS Board member

Original members of the 2006 Movement for a Democratic Society board included;

Elliott Adams, Senia Barragan (Student Representative), David Barsamian, Noam Chomsky, Carl Davidson, Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Fletcher, Jr., Bert Garskof, David Graeber, Tom Hayden, Gerald Horne, Mike James, Robin D G Kelley, Mike Klonsky, Ethelbert Miller, Charlene Mitchell, Michael Rossman, Mark Rudd, Howard Zinn.

On February 17, 2007, the Movement for a Democratic Society held a well attended conference[20]at New York City’s New School University.

The business portion of the meeting followed with each board nominee introducing themselves to the conference. The board, a very diverse group, was voted in by acclamation... Board nominees where were not able to attend the conference were included in the appointment by acclamation. The list included Elliott Adams, Panama Vicente Alba, Tariq Ali, Stanley Aronowitz, David Barsamian, Rosalyn Baxandall, John Bracey, Jr., John Brittain, Robb Burlage, Noam Chomsky, Jayne Cortez, Carl Davidson, Angela Davis, Bernardine Dohrn, Barbara Epstein, Gustavo Esteva, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Stephen Fleischman, Bill Fletcher, Jr., Tom Hayden, Gerald Horne, Florence Howe, Mike James, Robin D. G. Kelley, Alice Kessler Harris, Rashid Khalidi, Mike Klonsky, Betita Martinez, Ethelbert Miller, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Barbara Ransby, Patricia Rose, Michael Rossman, Studs Terkel, Charlene Teters, Jerry Tucker, Immanuel Wallerstein, Cornel West, Leonard Weinglass and Howard Zinn.

Left Forum

Michael Steven Smith, Bernardine Dohrn, Randy Credico, Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice, Soffia Elijah and Deborah Small, Executive Director, Break The Chains were speakers on the Prisons, Prisoners and Political Prisoners panel at the Left Forum. The forum was held March 9 - 11, 2007 at Cooper Union College, New York City.[21]

Cuban art trip

Janice Misurell-Mitchell traveled to Cuba[22]for six days in September 2007 with several colleagues as part of a conference on “Useful Art”, or art that includes aspects of social activism.

Sponsored by Cáthedra de Arte Conducta, an arts program hosted by the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana, the project was conceived by Cuban visual artist and University of Chicago faculty member Tania Bruguera.

Misurell-Mitchell's colleagues were Chicagoans Tom Mitchell, Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers;

our group, “Team Havana” thus included a scholar, two political activists and an artist.
Our work was to present lectures and informal sessions, films and videos and performances.
While Tom, Bernadine and Bill met with visual art students at the offices of the journal Criterio, I presented three sessions to music students at the Instituto Superior de Arte.

In These Times

As of 2009 Bernardine Dohrn was a member of the Editorial Board of Chicago based socialist journal In These Times.[23]

Free Mumia Abu-Jamal

In 2008 Bernardine Dohrn, Chicago, IL signed a statement circulated by the Partisan Defense Committee calling for the release of convicted “cop-killer” Mumia Abu-Jamal.[24]

Ella's Daughters

In 2009 Dohrn was a member of Chicago based organization Ella's Daughters-A network of artists, scholars and writers working in the tradition of militant Civil rights activist Ella Baker[25].

We are a loose network of women who respect and admire Baker’s legacy, and are either interested in or already engaged in work that represents a continuation of her democratic, egalitarian humanistic tradition. We do not want to reinvent the wheel or duplicate or compete in any way with existing efforts. An argument can be made that the potential for a renewed progressive movement already exists and is embedded in the local trench work of organizers like Ella Baker.

Prominent members include Tracye Matthews, Camille Odeh and Barbara Ransby.

2010 Chicago NAARPR awards

Democratic Socialists of America member Timuel Black received the Human Rights Award from the Chicago branch of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, on Saturday, April 17, 2010 at their annual Dinner. The organization also honored Charlene Mitchell, Mark Clements, and Bernardine Dohrn. Professor Gerald Horne was the keynote speaker.[26]

Educating & Children's Rights

She is Director of the Children and Family Justice Center and Clinical Associate Professor of the Northwestern University School Law, Bluhm Legal Clinic. Dohrn teaches children’s rights and international human rights law at Northwestern and is an annual visiting professor at the University of Chicago and Leiden University faculty of law in the Netherlands. She writes and lectures on international human rights law, war and peace, race and juvenile justice, children in conflict with the law, torture, family violence and school law.[1]

Weather Underground Organization

On August 19, 1969, WUO members who had returned from a trip to Cuba held a press conference in New York to discuss their trip and to promote the planned "Days of Rage" or "National Action" scheduled to take place in Chicago October 8-11, 1969. Although there is no information to indicate that Boudin traveled to Cuba with fellow WUO members, she joined with Bernardine Dohrn, Dionne Donghi, Ted Gold, Eleanor Raskin and Howard Jefferson Melish in the press conference.[27]


  • A Century of Juvenile Justice (2002) - author & co-editor
  • Resisting Zero Tolerance: A Handbook for parents, Teachers and Students (2001) - author & co-editor
  • Somethin’s Happening Here: Children and Human Rights Jurisprudence in Two International Courts - author



  1. 1.0 1.1
  2. FBI Weatherman Underground Summary Dated 8/20/76, Part 2
  3. Senate, Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws, The Weather Underground, Committee Print, January 1975, 126-7
  4. Senate, Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws, The Weather Underground, Committee Print, January 1975, 127
  5. Liberation News Service cited in “The Weather Underground Organization,” Information Digest, Vol. XIV, #22, November 13, 1981, 340
  6. Senate, Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws, The Weather Underground, Committee Print, January 1975, 22.
  7. Extent of subversion in the new left-testimony of Marjorie King and Mike Soto 91st congress, second session part 3, March 31, 1970 page 224
  9. Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights Bicentennial Celebration Program, Nov. 10, 1991
  10. Chicago CoC "Membership, Subscription and Mailing List" 10.14.94
  12. Open Letter to the Colombian People, Press and Government: Stop the Bloodshed in Uraba, Due Process for Jose Antonio Lopez, Nelson Campo and others, and an End to Faceless Justice and Political Repression, August 1996
  22. Cube Circuits Winter 2008 page 1
  23. In These Times website: About
  24. Signers of Campaign to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, Now
  26. New Ground, 128, Jan./Feb. 2010
  27. FBI Weatherman Underground Summary Dated 8/20/76, Part 2