Black opposition to the U.S. war on Iraq, already stronger than among whites, appears to have spawned an anti-war movement of grass-roots and national organizations motivated as much by perceptions of racial injustice at home as by concern about the Persian Gulf conflict.

While a recent public opinion poll shows blacks evenly split on the use of force, black support remains dramatically lower than that of whites, who support the war by almost 7 to 1.

Black opposition to the war has not given rise to a mass movement, but has energized traditional civil rights leaders and activists and has prompted the creation of several groups.

The National African American Network Against U.S. Intervention in the Gulf, for example, was formed in December and operates in nine cities, including Washington. It has conducted forums and marches and is holding a conference in March to map out a national anti-war strategy, said Damu Smith, a coordinator for the group.

In addition to urging opposition to the war, some members of the loosely knit network also advocate that blacks in the service resist duty in the gulf.

Also, local groups -- some church-based, others led by prominent figures -- have organized on smaller scale in cities such as Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Calif., Atlanta, Selma, Ala., and New York. And on college campuses, new black student groups and existing ones have embraced the anti-war cause.

Several prominent black civil rights figures are taking part in the anti-war movement. Coretta Scott King, widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Jesse L. Jackson each have led rallies, marches and church services for peace.

And leaders of a wide variety of national and local African-American organizations are planning to hold a "summit meeting" on the gulf war next week to devise a peace proposal, according to a spokeswoman for the Rev. Benjamin Chavis of the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice, one of the organiz- ers.

Dissent among blacks was also reflected in the House vote on Jan. 12 to authorize the war when, with one exception, the 26-member Congressional Black Caucus voted against that measure and in favor of continued sanctions and negotiations. And yesterday Rep. Ronald V. Dellums (D-Calif.), who is black, began circulating a statement among members of Congress urging President Bush not to escalate the war. Eight of the first 21 signers are black.

These signs of a black anti-war movement indicate "that the administration has a serious problem in the black community," said Rev. Marshall Hatch, pastor of Commonwealth Baptist Church on Chicago's west side and leader of Citizens Against Operation Desert Storm, which was formed because the 100 members of Hatch's congregation, whom he described as "common people," have a large number of relatives deployed in the gulf.

"If this is a long drawn out ground war and the bodies trickle back, I would just give this warning," said Hatch. "Funerals become, by nature, political events, similar to what has happened in South Africa, and there would be tremendous growth in this movement in the black community."

In another indication of black concern about the war, the American Friends Service Committee, a longtime peace and social justice organization, and the War Resisters League both report that in the avalanche of inquiries they are getting about the war, most come from blacks -- either those who are concerned about a renewed military draft or those who are in the service and want to resist deployment to the gulf.

In the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, conducted Feb. 1-5, 43 percent of black respondents said they were opposed to the war while 48 percent said they supported it. Among white poll respondents, support was at 84 percent.

Hispanic sentiment on the war appears similar to that of whites as a whole. In a Los Angeles Times poll, conducted Jan. 26-29 in California, 66 percent of Hispanics surveyed said they support Bush's decision to go to war and 26 percent opposed it.

According to several analysts, political and religious leaders and other blacks interviewed, black opposition to the war appears to be rooted not only in the belief that sanctions against Iraq and negotiations were not given enough time, but also in specific concerns about racial inconsistencies, hypocrisies and double standards that many believe are inherent in U.S. policy.

One of the central issues in the debate continues to be the disproportionate numbers of blacks in the armed forces, and thus the potential for heavy black casualties.

Blacks are 12 percent of the U.S. population, but 20 percent of the military. In the Persian Gulf, blacks are 30 percent of the Army, 21 percent of the navy, 17 percent of the Marines and 13 percent of the Air Force, according to the Defense Department.

Some argue that the disproportionate risk borne by blacks in the military is irrelevant because all volunteered for the service. Many blacks, however, say young black men and women are often forced by poverty to join the military.

"We do have a draft," said Chavis, of the United Church of Christ. "Poverty drafts African Americans into the military. Unemployment drafts African Americans. Sociologically, we are drafted for the military."

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Fred Cherry, who was the longest-held black POW of the Vietnam War, said that he agrees but sees it as evidence of opportunity. Cherry said he "absolutely" supports the war and does not accept any of the anti-war arguments being made by other blacks, although he said he feels some pressure from other blacks to embrace the anti-war line.

"Many people will disagree but I can assure you that people like the Tuskegee air men {black pilots of World War II} and the rest will not disagree," said Cherry.

Included among them would be Gen. Colin L. Powell, who is black, and, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, plays a leading role in running the war.

"I'm proud of the fact that African Americans have seen fit to volunteer to join the armed forces, even if it is a higher percentage" than in the general population, Powell said in an interview last fall. "It annoys me when value judgments are put on it, that somehow it's bad."

Blacks opposed to the war also cite domestic issues, which they say show that a nation that expects blacks to fight and die abroad does not treat them justly at home.

These include: Bush's veto of the Civil Rights Act of 1990; the Department of Education's suggestion that colleges that offer race-based scholarships could lose federal funding; and the allegedly short shrift given to programs that could benefit the poor, who are disproportionately black.

All of the issues are linked, said, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).

Many blacks, she said, are saying, "It's not fair. Something is wrong. It is not fair for me to maybe have to volunteer {for the military} to be educated, to get trained, to have a job, to have a roof over my head. Something's wrong in an America that does not provide me an opportunity for a better quality of life. And there is certainly something wrong when it appears that the people in charge of the debate, particularly the president of the United States, use their power to foster racism and discrimination rather than eliminate it."

The National Urban League, in a statement released after the start of the war, said, "We urge a nation willing to go to war for its principles to make the equivalent effort to end the inequality that subverts those same principles at home."

In addition to domestic concerns, some activists point to what they call a double standard in the way the United States has acted toward Iraq compared to the way it has acted toward South Africa. A Post/ABC News poll conducted in the District after the war started found that a vast majority of respondents felt that human rights for black South Africans should be as much a goal of U.S. policy as human rights for displaced Kuwaitis.

While the war in the gulf provides the backdrop for these questions of fairness, the questions are not new.

"It's not simply an opposition to this particular policy," said Edwin Dorn, an analyst at the Brookings Institution. "It's a sincere desire to see that this policy is based on a principle that we have applied consistently. People have been raising those questions for years now. The problem is that the questions are only heard clearly when we're confronting a crisis."

As the crisis drags on, said Waters, activism among blacks will continue to grow. "Oh, it's just begun," she said. "The debate has just started."