A surprise package from a spaceman to a prisoner on earth

Jim Forest worked for the Fellowship of Reconciliation in the 1960s and ’70s, and later for the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR). In 1969, Forest was in Waupun State Prison in Wisconsin, with 13 other anti-war activists, for burning U.S. military draft records from several draft board offices.

An Apollo 10 photograph of Earth taken May 1969 from 100,000 miles away. Visible are many areas of Europe and Africa. Photo by NASA.

On October 18, 2018, The Guardian newspaper published “A surprise package from a spaceman to a prisoner on earth” — a letter to the editor by Danny Sullivan, a U.K. resident and friend of Forest, in response to a letter published the previous day regarding the iconic NASA photograph of the earth from space almost a half-century ago. Sullivan’s letter reads:

Re the letter from David Nowell (The most iconic photograph of Earth, 18 October), my friend Jim Forest, still a peace activist, was in prison in 1969 during the first manned flight to the moon as he was one of the Milwaukee 14 who had publicly burned thousands of draft cards calling up young men to fight in Vietnam.

Not long after the space flight returned to Earth, Jim received a package from Nasa. At first the prison governor would not let him have it as Nasa was not on Jim’s list of approved correspondents, but Jim succeeded in arguing his right to have it. The package contained a stunning photo of Earth from one of the astronauts (he didn’t name himself), who wrote that he had followed Jim’s trial and was struck by Jim’s statement that we all live at the same address: Earth. Jim received his photo – which he has to this day – about the same time as an identical one was sent to the White House.
Danny Sullivan
Basingstoke, Hampshire

Author-activist Forest provides a more detailed and revealing version of this extraordinary story on his website in an intimate essay titled “The Whole Earth in a Prison Cell.”

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