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date: 24 March 2017

The Peace Movement since 1945

Summary and Keywords

Peace activism in the United States between 1945 and the 2010s focused mostly on opposition to U.S. foreign policy, efforts to strengthen and foster international cooperation, and support for nuclear nonproliferation and arms control. The onset of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union marginalized a reviving postwar American peace movement emerging from concerns about atomic and nuclear power and worldwide nationalist politics that everywhere seemed to foster conflict, not peace. Still, peace activism continued to evolve in dynamic ways and to influence domestic politics and international relations.

Most significantly, peace activists pioneered the use of Gandhian nonviolence in the United States and provided critical assistance to the African American civil rights movement, led the postwar antinuclear campaign, played a major role in the movement against the war in Vietnam, helped to move the liberal establishment (briefly) toward a more dovish foreign policy in the early 1970s, and helped to shape the political culture of American radicalism. Despite these achievements, the peace movement never regained the political legitimacy and prestige it held in the years before World War II, and it struggled with internal divisions about ideology, priorities, and tactics.

Peace activist histories in the 20th century tended to emphasize organizational or biographical approaches that sometimes carried hagiographic overtones. More recently, historians have applied the methods of cultural history, examining the role of religion, gender, and race in structuring peace activism. The transnational and global turn in the historical discipline has also begun to make inroads in peace scholarship. These are promising new directions because they situate peace activism within larger historical and cultural developments and relate peace history to broader historiographical debates and trends.

Keywords: peace movement, antiwar movement, transnationalism, nuclear arms race, pacifism, feminism, civil rights movement, Vietnam War, Cold War, nonviolence


The history of the American peace movement since 1945 encompasses not only the organized pacifist movement and its leaders, but also antinuclear and disarmament campaigns, antiwar movements, social justice movements that employed nonviolence as a method of social change, and efforts to address what were seen as the causes and/or consequences of war, such as poverty, racism, sexism, imperialism, and environmental degradation. These various expressions of peace and antiwar sentiment often intersected with one another to produce powerful social formations that, at times, significantly shaped public opinion and influenced social and foreign policy, although not always in the ways that activists intended.

Beyond its impact on policy, the peace movement itself underwent significant shifts in ideology and methodology from 1945 to the present. Four are especially important: first, the often contested relationship between pacifists and nonpacifists, between moderates and radicals in the movement, and between those who viewed nonviolence as a way of life and those who viewed it primarily as a method of social change; second, the impact of anticommunism both internally and externally upon the movement; third, the role of culture, religion, race, and gender in shaping the contours and evolution of American peace activism; and fourth, the history of the movement’s transnational networks and solidarities.

The peace movement offers rich subject matter for those interested in the history of social movements and American political culture. Its transnational thrust also suggests promising directions for future scholarship, as American peace activists participated in networks, movements, and organizations that transcended national boundaries. To realize these possibilities, historians of the modern peace movement must continue to move beyond the boundaries of utilitarianism and empiricism that have shaped the field toward a more critical examination of the structural and cultural processes involved in peace movement formation, consciousness, and action.

Historical Origins and Impact of World War II

In 1945, the organized peace movement was tiny and discredited. At its center were pacifist groups that had been formed during or immediately after World War I: the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the American Friends’ Service Committee (AFSC), and the War Resisters’ League (WRL). Despite differences in emphasis, all groups had moved beyond the nonresistant tradition of the historic peace churches (Church of the Brethren, Society of Friends, and the Mennonites) and the stale legalism of prewar peace societies in stressing the importance of social reform as a prerequisite of peace. They also shared a strong civil libertarian orientation, based on their experience of repression during World War I, as well as optimism about the power of reason, law, and moral suasion to prevent war. Most members were white, middle-class Protestants.

Pacifism had gained a large following during the interwar period because of the widespread disillusionment that followed the Great War. Millions of Americans vowed that they would “never again” support an American war overseas, and they united behind disarmament and neutrality legislation.1 But the rise of fascism in Europe and militarism in Japan, combined with the inadequacies of the response by Western powers, gradually eroded the appeal of pacifism. The WILPF, which had a more diverse membership base than either the FOR or the AFSC, was hit particularly hard. Jewish members, for example, increasingly viewed the organization’s insistence on mandatory neutrality and opposition to American intervention as evidence of indifference, and they felt compelled to privilege “the survival of Jews and Judaism” above other commitments.2

Perhaps the most devastating critique came from Protestant clergyman Reinhold Niebuhr. “Whatever may be the moral ambiguities of the so-called democratic nations,” Niebuhr wrote in 1940, “it is sheer moral perversity to equate the inconsistencies of a democratic civilization with the brutalities which modern tyrannical States practise. If we cannot make a distinction here, there are no historical distinctions which have any value.”3 As a result, pacifism shifted from the center of mainline Protestantism to its margins.4

With the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the peace movement utterly collapsed, leaving a small, dedicated group of absolute pacifists who focused on traditional concerns like conscientious objection and humanitarian aid. This rather cautious and conservative approach “might well have provided the coup de grace to this once-flourishing social cause,” except for the creative interventions of more radical pacifists eager to respond to their critics.5 A key figure in this pacifist “renaissance” was A. J. Muste, a former labor organizer and Marxist. As head of the FOR, he urged pacifists to adopt Gandhian nonviolence as a method of social change.6

In FOR study groups, conscientious objector camps, and the newly formed Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), a new generation of pacifists, such as Bayard Rustin, Glenn Smiley, James Farmer, and Dave Dellinger, experimented with nonviolence. The main target of their efforts was racial discrimination. One of their most ambitious projects was the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation in which they sent an all-male interracial team across the upper South to test compliance with a recent Supreme Court decision declaring segregation in interstate travel illegal. The journey would serve as a model for the more famous Freedom Rides of 1961.7

Thus, despite their marginal status, pacifists developed an innovative method of social change that would significantly shape American protest culture in the postwar era. They also forged a distinct subculture. As the work of Patricia Appelbaum and Kip Kosek has shown, they separated themselves from mainline Protestantism and adopted a sharp critique of modernity, while retaining liberal optimism and utilizing modern forms of communication, including media spectacle, to persuade others of their “truth.”8

Resurgence, 1945–1947

Pacifism may have been profoundly undermined by World War II, but the peace movement experienced a brief revival in 1945–1947, as diverse groups of internationalists mobilized to realize the possibilities for peace represented by new international institutions, most notably the United Nations. Two main groups were found within this movement, both of which often overlapped and intersected with each other. The first were the internationalists eager to create “a New Deal for the World” by embedding human rights and economic security within a strengthened global security system.9 This group included New Dealers, liberal economists and lawyers, civil rights activists, proponents of world government, moderate pacifists, and Popular Front figures such as Secretary of Commerce Henry Wallace. With varying degrees of emphasis, they all hoped to secure American participation in the United Nations and to create strong multilateral institutions that would ensure collective security, facilitate trade, promote national self-determination, and defend human rights.

The second group consisted of atomic scientists, world federalists, and pacifists largely motivated by fears of atomic catastrophe. Atomic scientists had become concerned about the intersection of American power and atomic energy as soon as it became clear that Japan was on the verge of surrender. Physicists such as Leo Szilard appealed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and then President Harry S. Truman to forego use of the bomb on moral grounds. When their advice went unheeded, they felt an enormous “sense of responsibility, not to say guilt,” as Albert Einstein put it at a December 1945 Nobel anniversary dinner in New York.10

Atomic scientists and many of their allies viewed world government as the ultimate solution to the threat of atomic war. One of the best-known world federalists was Norman Cousins, literary editor of the Saturday Review. Upon news of Hiroshima, he wrote an editorial entitled “Modern Man Is Obsolete” that was later revised into a bestselling book. The “need for world government was clear long before August 6, 1945,” he wrote. But the atomic bombing of Japan had “raised the need to such dimensions that it cannot be ignored.” He and other world federalists organized groups throughout the country; the largest, the United World Federalists, had 720 chapters and nearly 50,000 members in 1947.11

Not all opponents of atomic weapons supported world government. The Communist-led peace movement, weak in the United States but influential in the Soviet sphere and in western Europe, criticized it as a “bourgeois” scheme that would serve as a cover for American power.12 Pacifists offered a similar appraisal, albeit from a more libertarian perspective. As the FOR put it, they feared that the UN would likely “prove . . . a camouflage for the continuation of imperialist policies and the exercise of arbitrary power by the Big Three.”13 The more radical among them grew ever more committed to nonviolent revolution and channeled their energies into civil disobedience campaigns, including nonregistration for the draft and tax resistance. In 1948, these activities were consolidated into a new organization called the Peacemakers, led by A. J. Muste.

For most American peace activists, however, world government remained the long-term goal. In the immediate postwar period, they focused on securing civilian control of atomic energy. When they successfully defeated President Truman’s plans for military control, they turned their attention to supporting the 1946 Acheson-Lilienthal Plan for an international body that would have a monopoly on fissionable material, oversee a system of international inspection, and destroy existing nuclear weapons. Yet Truman quickly undermined these efforts by insisting that the United States would retain its monopoly until the plan reached its final stage of implementation. Thus, rather predictably, when the Acheson-Lilienthal Plan was presented to the newly created UN Atomic Energy Commission, the Soviet Union vetoed it.

Indeed, the intensifying superpower rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union complicated peace progress and possibilities. In 1947, Truman fully committed the United States to the policy of containing the Soviet Union with “adroit and vigilant application of counterforce.”14 Over the next several years, he presided over the massive expansion of U.S. military capacity, including the development of hydrogen bombs, the formation of a new military alliance system, and the implementation of a peacetime draft.

Still, internationalists and peace activists could boast of some achievements. The United States had bound itself, at least theoretically, to multilateralism. And, despite many concessions and controversies, a set of international institutions—the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank—established mechanisms to protect human rights, promote collective security, and stabilize trade. Arms control and disarmament remained official American objectives and the use of nuclear weapons had acquired a moral stigma that would prove difficult to shake.

Nadir, 1950–1954

By 1950, the U.S. peace movement had all but collapsed. Conflicts between Western and Communist powers, including the start of the Korean War in mid-1950, scared the American public, including most liberals, who became strongly committed to national security, including a large nuclear arsenal. Soon a full-fledged Red Scare swept the country. Government officials and politicians attacked atomic scientists, pacifists, and world government supporters as unpatriotic and placed many of them under government surveillance. Hardest hit were those connected to Communist-led peace organizations. In 1951, the prominent African American intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois was among five members of the Peace Information Center arrested for failing to register their organization as an agent of a foreign power.

As a result, the peace movement declined precipitously, at times turning upon itself. Popular Front liberalism disintegrated with its calls for peaceful coexistence mocked by “realist” liberals who demanded a tough stance against the Soviet Union. Peace organizations experienced a sharp drop in membership even as they adopted more moderate policy positions in an effort to remain politically viable. Meanwhile, Socialists and other radicals increasingly made their peace with American foreign policy.

Despite their more conservative approach to peacemaking, pacifists launched a vigorous defense of civil liberties, including members of the Communist Party. They called for the repeal of legislation that curtailed rights of free speech and free assembly and for the abolition of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). According to the FOR, the demand for “repeated professions of loyalty to the State” and the “test of a man’s ‘recanting of past associations by a willingness to ‘inform’” were similar to the tactics employed by “totalitarian regimes.”15

Still, pacifist opposition to the Red Scare was complicated by their deeply felt and longstanding hostility to communism as a political ideology. “We recognize that in dealing with totalitarian Communism, we are not simply dealing with a political party,” conceded the FOR.16 Pacifists thus attempted to walk a fine of defending the civil liberties of Communists and refusing to participate in “front’ organizations themselves. Thus the FOR, the WILPF, and the WRL all refused to join the World Peace Committee on the grounds that it was dominated by Communists, while allowing members to participate in their conferences as individuals.

This rather ambiguous approach created tensions with their pacifist allies in Europe and elsewhere, who often had a more positive assessment of Communist-led peace initiatives.17 It also led to internal dissension and ultimately proved quite destructive to peace activism and dissent more broadly. The WILPF, for example, maintained its open membership policy, while asserting that the best way to prevent Communist infiltration was through nonviolent methods of free discussion and consensus decision making. This policy proved difficult to enact in practice, in part because local chapters enjoyed considerable autonomy. Local branches in Denver, Chicago, and metropolitan New York, among others, became wracked with conflict when some members called for excluding Communists from membership. In the end, few were appeased by the WILPF’s equivocal guidelines and resignations followed.18

Revival, 1955–1968: The Civil Rights Movement

Peace activists dismayed at the sorry state of their movement drew some hope and inspiration from events in the mid-1950s that presaged a thaw in the domestic Cold War. The Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 suggested that nonviolence might appeal to large numbers of people, while growing concern over the effects of nuclear fallout suggested that there was nascent opposition to nuclear weapons and U.S. foreign policy. Meanwhile, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev’s denunciation of Josef Stalin and comments about the destructiveness of nuclear warfare offered some possibility that tensions between the two superpowers might be eased. As peace activists organized to take advantage of these political and ideological openings, they would experience some important victories, even as the politics of anti-communism continued to hinder their efforts and political elites attempted to co-opt their movement.

Although CORE activism had diminished considerably by the 1950s, pacifists still hoped that Gandhian nonviolence would appeal to African Americans as a means of challenging Jim Crow. Thus they responded with enthusiasm to news of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the language of nonviolence employed by its young leader, Martin Luther King Jr. King’s journey to nonviolence was both theological and experiential. He had learned about Gandhian nonviolence as a seminary student, but it was the experience of the Montgomery protest that solidified his commitment to it as a method of social change. Pacifist organizations rushed in to provide support; FOR staff member Glenn Smiley and the WRL’s Bayard Rustin went to Montgomery, where they developed a close working relationship with King and assisted him in forming the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957.19

Meanwhile, CORE mushroomed in size. Although it was located primarily in the North, it benefited both financially and organizationally from the Montgomery Bus Boycott. As a result, it was able to open new chapters in the South and was in a position to lend support and popularize nonviolence when the sit-in movement began in February 1960. CORE also became an important institution in the civil rights movement in its own right. Its national director, James Farmer, served as one of the movement’s most charismatic leaders and its “Freedom Ride” in May of 1961 inspired greater militancy in the movement as a whole.

Pacifist involvement in the civil rights movement was complicated by the growing realization that most black activists had adopted nonviolence as a strategy but not as a way of life. These tensions came to the fore in the mid-1960s. With the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, civil rights activists began to explore other methods of black empowerment, such as community organizing, cultural nationalism, and armed self-defense. Many pacifists, both black and white, experienced these changes as traumatic, yet recent scholarship has offered a more positive assessment of the Black Power movement. Historian Peniel Joseph, among others, argues that it reflected the growing political sophistication of civil rights activists and emphasizes the ways in which it led to community empowerment and cultural rebirth.20

Revival, 1955–1963: The Antinuclear Movement

The other source of the peace revival was public concern about nuclear fallout. Concerns first emerged in 1954, when radioactive ash from the first test of a hydrogen bomb in the Bikini Atoll fell on the inhabitants of the Marshall Islands and the crew of a Japanese fishing boat. Many of these individuals developed radiation-linked illnesses and one of the Japanese fishermen died. Despite international outcry, President Dwight Eisenhower continued to support the production and testing of hydrogen bombs and, most alarmingly to peace activists, called for using them “just exactly as you would use a bullet.”21 Pacifists, atomic scientists, and liberal intellectuals mobilized in response; scientists such as Linus Pauling issued manifestos calling for a moratorium on nuclear testing, while pacifists refused to take shelter during civil defense tests.

In early 1957 pacifist leaders gathered to discuss how they might channel recent concern over hydrogen bomb tests into support for disarmament. By 1958, they had formed two organizations: the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) and the Committee on Non-Violent Action (CNVA). SANE represented a coalition of pacifists and “nuclear” pacifists (men and women who believed that nuclear war had rendered the notion of a just war obsolete) and focused on raising public awareness of the dangers of nuclear testing through education and lobbying campaigns. By late 1958, SANE had 130 chapters representing some 25,000 Americans and had attained a significant public presence in and influence on the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.22

CNVA, by contrast, was formed by those who were committed to direct action. As its first chairman, the Quaker Lawrence Scott, explained, “Speaking words has become so cheap in this age that only the literal act has much meaning.”23 Among CNVA’s most successful “actions” was the 1958 voyage of the Golden Rule into the area of the Marshall Islands where the United States intended to conduct more nuclear tests. When the crew was arrested, “Picket lines sprang up around federal buildings and [Atomic Energy Commission] offices across the nation with signs proclaiming: ‘Stop the Tests, not the Golden Rule.’”24

Pacifists carefully packaged their use of civil disobedience to appeal to the values of Cold War America. Historians have shown how containment abroad led to containment at home with the family serving as the bulwark against communism and as a place of safety and security in a threatening world. The result was growing emphasis on the key role of mothers in raising strong sons able resist the dangers of communism and a heightened fear of homosexuals as weaklings vulnerable to Communist manipulation.25 In this context, pacifists deliberately presented themselves in the domestic ideal, even as they engaged in radical political acts. Marjorie Swann of the Peacemakers and CORE, for example, showed up for a 1959 civil disobedience campaign at the Mead missile base near Omaha, Nebraska, wearing a dress and pearls.26

This emphasis on domesticity could be a “double-edged sword,” as historian Marian Mollin has argued. Sympathizers may have praised Swann for her “maternal sacrifice,” but others castigated her as a “bad mother.”27 The movement’s heightened heteronormativity was particularly oppressive for homosexuals in the movement. Pacifists had long ascribed to normative gender and sexual mores, but the repressive climate of the Cold War made them more rigid and inflexible. Thus, in 1954, when Bayard Rustin was arrested and then jailed for sixty days on a morals charge, the FOR immediately fired him. Rustin would find that his homosexuality would continue to serve as a political liability in the civil rights movement, where he was often marginalized and humiliated despite his impressive record of achievements, including the organization of the 1963 March on Washington.28

As the treatment of Rustin suggests, the Eisenhower administration initially responded to this upsurge of peace activism by employing the red-baiting tactics of earlier years in an effort to discredit the movement. But the persistence of popular support, along with pressure from the Soviet Union, forced Eisenhower’s hand.29 In 1958, he announced that the United States would temporarily suspend nuclear testing and that he was willing to negotiate with other nations for a universal test ban. Yet, much to the dismay of peace activists, the test ban proved to be short-lived and the arms race proceeded apace. The 1962 Cuban missile crisis, which almost led to a nuclear war, increased activists’ sense of urgency and the antinuclear movement continued to expand.

Among the movement’s most dynamic new elements was the Women’s Strike for Peace (WSP), a loose network of approximately 50,000 women that formed in the fall of 1961 to protest the U.S. government’s resumption of nuclear testing. According to historian Harriet Hyman Alonso, WSP “was born directly out of the discontent with WILPF’s hierarchical structure and anti-Communist stance, as well as from a concern that red-baiting had harmed the organization’s credibility and effectiveness.”30 Still, there was a considerable overlap in membership between the two groups. WSP shared the WILPF’s ethos of maternalism and middle-class respectability, which obscured the fact that many of its members were highly educated and veteran political activists. Its first major demonstration occurred on November 1, 1961, as women in sixty cities across the United States went on “strike,” leaving their kitchens and taking their children to city halls and federal buildings where they called for an end to nuclear testing.

Despite its efforts to overcome the political culture of anti-communism, HUAC charged WSP with harboring Communists. WSP responded proactively by affirming their unity and accusing HUAC of trying to “intimidate women who become active.”31 WSP’s success in deflecting government scrutiny contrasts with SANE’s experience. In the summer of 1960, at the same moment when the organization was posed to become a mass movement, Senator Thomas J. Dodd of Connecticut called upon the organization’s leaders “to purge their ranks ruthlessly” of Communists. Outwardly, SANE leaders challenged Senator Dodd’s insinuation, but inwardly they conducted a purge of the organization and adopted a resolution that banned Communists from membership. The decision to cooperate angered many of SANE’s members who resigned in protest against what they viewed as “McCarthyite tactics.”32

These setbacks did not prove fatal. Although SANE lost some of its standing in liberal and radical circles, the peace movement retained its momentum. The influx of college students into its ranks gave it a new energy and public presence that helped to persuade President John F. Kennedy’s administration to pursue an atmospheric test ban treaty with the Soviet Union in August 1963. Convinced that this was but the first stage in a larger process of disarmament, SANE and other liberal peace activists shifted from protest to lobbying, eventually merging “into the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.” The truth, however, as historian Lawrence Wittner has observed, was that “the peace movement had less cause for rejoicing than it believed. By focusing on the issue of thermonuclear warfare, as it had done since 1957, it was peculiarly vulnerable to a shift in military strategy taking place during the 1960s.” That shift involved decreasing the risk of nuclear war while at the same time increasing the country’s ability to wage “conventional” warfare. “H-bombs were out, napalm was in.” Thus, by the fall of 1963, the peace movement lost “the momentum that it had briefly gained at the turn of the decade.”33

The Vietnam War Era

As liberal peace activists moved closer into the orbit of the Democratic Party, radical pacifists and New Left student groups viewed the growing American presence in Vietnam with alarm. Indeed, President Kennedy may have called for making the “world safe for diversity,” but he was quite determined to extend American influence into the Global South. During his years in office, he significantly increased the military’s conventional capacity and provided aid to counterinsurgency forces in places like Vietnam. The same was true of his successor; although he ran as a “peace candidate” against Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential campaign, Lyndon B. Johnson was determined not to “lose” South Vietnam. He gradually escalated American involvement until, by the end of 1965, more than 200,000 troops had been mobilized to fight the North Vietnamese.34

As pacifists and other dissenters organized to build a movement against the war, they would face many of the same obstacles that had hampered their efforts in the past. In contrast to previous decades, however, they would manage to build a broad and sustained antiwar coalition. Movement culture reflected its diverse constituencies. Pacifist tactics such as draft resistance and tax refusal became popular forms of protest, while young people infused it with an egalitarian spirit. The movement continued to expand as the war dragged on into the 1970s, but a sense of desperation crept in, giving rise to ever more militant tactics. Like the civil rights movement and the New Left, moreover, issues of class, race, and gender gave rise to new possibilities while also serving as sources of fracture.

Small groups of peace activists and leftists began to express opposition to American intervention in Vietnam as early as 1963. But the indefatigable A. J. Muste was determined to expand the movement’s base and build a liberal-left coalition that included not only pacifists, but also student activists, civil rights organizations, and religious groups. Initially, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was reluctant to prioritize opposition to the war because of fears that it would take energy away from its community organizing projects. But the rapid escalation of the conflict over the course of 1965 persuaded its members that ending the war was a moral imperative. In April 1965, in cooperation with traditional peace groups, SDS brought 20,000 people to Washington, DC, for the largest peace demonstration in the city’s history.

From then on, the New Left served as a powerful element in the emerging antiwar coalition. Together with pacifists, such as Muste and Dellinger, and antiwar faculty, such as Robert Greenblatt and Sidney Peck, they established the nonexclusionary National Committee to End the War in Vietnam, which organized the International Days of Protest in October 1966. Soon thereafter, the committee changed its name to the Spring Mobilization against the War in Vietnam (a.k.a. “the MOBE”) and poured its energies into organizing a massive antiwar rally in New York City and San Francisco on April 15, 1967. With the rally’s success, the MOBE renamed itself the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam and went on to serve a central role organizing and coordinating the antiwar activities of the next five years, including the memorable October 21, 1967, March on the Pentagon.

Civil rights activists also overcame their apprehension about joining the fledgling antiwar movement. At first, movement leaders tried to keep race and peace separate issues because they feared alienating the Johnson administration at a time when the movement was on the verge of obtaining civil rights legislation. Activists in SNCC and CORE were the first to break ranks. By 1966, both organizations had adopted antiwar planks and joined the MOBE. Soon thereafter, Martin Luther King Jr. began to break his silence about the war in Vietnam and agreed to participate in the Spring Mobilization. On April 15, 1967, before the demonstration began, King gave a speech at the famous Riverside Church in Manhattan in which he accused the American government of being the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” Afterward, he linked arms with Dave Dellinger, Harry Belafonte, Benjamin Spock, James Bevel, and Stokely Carmichael, among others, and led the crowd in a twenty-block march to the United Nations plaza.35

Dr. King was not the only minister who had joined the antiwar coalition. Prominent clergy such as John C. Bennett and William Sloane Coffin revived the spirit of the Social Gospel and became openly critical of U.S. foreign policy. In late 1965, reflecting the pluralist turn in American religion, they joined Rabbi Abraham Heschel and Roman Catholic priest Daniel Berrigan, among others, in founding the ecumenical National Emergency Committee of Clergy Concerned about Vietnam, which evolved into an organization of clergymen and laymen known as Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam (CALCAV).36

As the war continued to escalate and as a sense of ineffectiveness permeated the movement, antiwar activists increasingly spoke of moving “from protest to resistance.” Their militancy was reinforced by personal contacts with the North Vietnamese, who provided evidence of American attacks on civilians and who rejected proposals for a negotiated withdrawal as an assault on their right to self-determination. Draft resistance proved an especially popular tactic because it combined personal commitment and political action. With the help of groups such as the Resistance, thousands of young men went to jail rather than serve in the armed forces. These actions often functioned as religious rituals, utilizing churches and religious symbols of blood and fire to give them a powerful moral resonance.37

The religiosity of antiwar resistance was most evident in Catholic peace activism. With the notable exception of Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker movement, American Catholics had been zealous Cold Warriors. But the combination of Vatican II and the example set by Catholic Workers inspired a new Catholic peace movement. Among the most dedicated were the priest brothers Daniel and Philip Berrigan, who in May 1968 led a raid on a draft board near Catonsville, Maryland, during which they confiscated and burned 400 draft files with napalm. At their trial, Daniel Berrigan justified their destruction of personal property in a powerful elegy: “Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order. The burning of paper instead of children. We could not, so help us God, do otherwise.”38

The explosive growth of the antiwar movement shook the centers of power and led to the “unraveling” of Cold War liberalism.39 J. William Fulbright, the powerful chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, held a series of televised hearings on the war, including one in 1971 that featured testimony by John Kerry of Vietnam Veterans against the War. In 1968, Senators Eugene McCarthy and Robert F. Kennedy ran as peace candidates in the presidential primary against President Johnson’s anointed successor Hubert Humphrey. A majority of the primary votes having been cast for peace candidates, antiwar delegates arrived at the 1968 National Democratic Convention in Chicago with high hopes for passing an antiwar plank and securing McCarthy’s nomination (Kennedy had recently been assassinated) only to be outmaneuvered by the hawks. Televised images showed a deeply divided Democratic Party, while outside the convention angry antiwar protesters confronted hostile police, who attacked them with clubs and mace. The disorder became associated with the Democratic Party and helped to provide a political opening for Republican Richard Nixon to win the presidency on a law-and-order platform.40

The 1968 National Democratic Convention exposed the fault lines within the antiwar movement. Despite its explosive growth that lasted well into the 1970s, the movement never fully coalesced. Sharp disagreements emerged between those who wanted to work within the system and those who wanted to overthrow it; between those who advocated nonviolent resistance and those who called for more confrontational tactics, including the use of violence; between those who identified with the nation-state and those who allied with Black Power and Third World liberation struggles.

Despite these fissures, the movement reshaped American political culture in important ways. Even though President Nixon did not end the war for another five years, he was forced to conduct military operations in secret. When revelations emerged about his bombing campaigns in Cambodia, Congress responded by passing the War Powers Act of 1973, which restrained executive power. Meanwhile, antiwar organizers managed to take over the Democratic Party. In 1972, they secured George McGovern’s nomination for president. A leading “dove,” McGovern ran on a platform that called for withdrawal from Vietnam, amnesty for draft resisters, and a 37 percent reduction in defense spending. McGovern’s humiliating defeat cast a pall over the Democratic Party for many years, but his candidacy reflected the high level of antiwar sentiment in the 1970s.41

A Broader Movement, 1968–1985

The antiwar movement disintegrated when U.S. forces withdrew from Vietnam in 1973. The end of the draft, rising sectarianism, exhaustion, and a desire to explore countercultural promises of personal growth had all combined to undermine the movement’s cohesion. The pull of other dynamic movements, such as feminism and environmentalism, also sapped its momentum. Still, traditional peace groups such as the FOR, WRL, WILPF, and the AFSC remained active, albeit much transformed by their intersection with the New Left over the previous decade. More democratic and more radical, the movement also became more feminist as women’s liberationists challenged the patriarchal assumptions that often undergirded peace organization, theory, and action.

Women’s peace activism had a long and distinguished history that preceded the “second-wave” feminism of the late 1960s and 1970s. Suffragists Jane Addams and Carrie Chapman Catt had founded the Woman’s Peace Party in 1915 on the belief that women’s freedom was contingent upon a world without war. The WILPF (which grew out of the Woman’s Peace Party) and other women’s peace organizations active from 1920 to 1968 tended to minimize feminism, but they did insist on the need for women to have a separate power structure from men and often used a maternalist language to justify their public presence. The emergence of the women’s liberation movement in the late 1960s helped to reignite peace movement feminism. The new dynamic came from younger women who resented the sexist structure and language of their male comrades in the New Left, civil rights, and antiwar movements. Antiwar slogans such as “Girls say yes to boys who say no” combined with a personal politics of liberation to create an incisive critique of the male-dominated culture of dissent.42

According to historian Harriet Hyman Alonso, “the new feminism officially burst onto the peace movement scene in January 1968” when approximately 4,000 women calling themselves the Jeannette Rankin Brigade marched in Washington, DC, in opposition to the war in Vietnam. When the group reached the Capitol, Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin and Coretta Scott King presented a petition to Congress that expressed their outrage at “the ruthless slaughter in Vietnam, and the persistent neglect of human needs at home.” With its maternalist appeal to men in power, the event epitomized traditional women’s peace activism, a fact that was not lost on younger, more militant women who organized a separate march on Arlington Ceremony to ritualistically bury “traditional womanhood.” Hyman has emphasized the continuity of the counterprotests with earlier women’s peace activism, but here the break with patriarchy was sharper and more unequivocal, as the young radicals accused their elders of complicity in a culture of militarism and war: Women had also “sinned, acquiescing to an order that indulges peaceful pleas and writes them off as female logic saying peace is womanly . . . We sinned today if we indulge our hearts and leave thought and action to men.”43

While some peace activists, both women and men, responded defensively to the feminist challenge, others viewed it as a source of dynamism and revival. WILPF, for example, became more explicitly feminist, though it continued to make antiwar appeals based upon women’s difference from men. But the momentum was with the younger generation, whose combination of energy and intelligence helped to made 1975 the United Nations’s International Women’s Year and 1975–1985 the Decade of Women. With a history of activism on behalf of black civil rights and Vietnamese self-determination, second-wave feminist-peace activists were particularly eager to break down barriers of class, race, culture, and nation. The result was an unprecedented level of interaction between white women and women of color in the United States and between Western and non-Western women. Although more research needs to be done on the history of the transnational feminist movement, it clearly promoted greater global awareness of women’s issues, as well as a more sophisticated understanding of the differences between women and the links between war, patriarchy, imperialism, and racism.

Within the United States, women’s peace activism continued to evolve in relation to the broader feminist movement. The personal and political journey of long-time pacifist Barbara Deming is instructive. Like many female pacifists, involvement in the women’s liberation movement had persuaded her that violence was rooted in patriarchy. But it was her turn toward a separatist, lesbian feminism that alienated her from the broader peace movement. Together with other self-identified radical, cultural, lesbian, or eco-feminists, she participated in demonstrations such as the Seneca Women’s Peace Encampment of 1983 that combined a commitment to nonviolent direct action with a feminist-separatist-environmentalist ethos of inclusion, consensus, and respect for “mother earth.”44 The question of homophobia would continue to divide pacifists until a combination of cultural and political factors, including the use of nonviolent tactics by HIV/AIDS activists in the 1980s, helped to make the affirmation and protection of lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender (LGBT) communities a central part of the peacemaking agenda.

The internationalization and radicalization of women’s peace activism mirrored larger trends in the history of the peace movement. The 1960s had broken the Cold War’s grip on U.S. peace organizations, which gave rise to new solidarities and a broader agenda. The AFSC, for example, had long opposed the apartheid regime in South Africa, but its tactics had been rather moderate, centering on humanitarian relief and friendly persuasion. With the rise of “liberation pacifism” in the 1960s, however, the AFSC’s efforts intensified, most notably in pioneering the divestment campaign that played a key role in bringing down the apartheid government in the early 1990s.45

American peace activists also developed transnational networks of solidarity with liberation movements in Central and South America. For example, reflecting the movement’s long-standing religious base, the interfaith movement Witness for Peace formed in 1983 to oppose President Ronald Reagan’s policy of aiding the counterrevolutionary “contras” in Nicaragua. Their efforts, including civil disobedience campaigns and lobbying, helped to bring an end to U.S. interventions in Central America.46

The peace movement’s more expansive agenda can also be seen in its involvement with the environmental movement, including the widespread grassroots citizens’ activism against nuclear waste in the 1970s. In 1976, for example, a group of New Englanders organized to halt the construction of a nuclear power plant in Seabrook, New Hampshire. Calling themselves the Clamshell Alliance, they held a series of civil disobedience campaigns that culminated in the largest antinuclear demonstration yet held in U.S. history. The nascent movement was vindicated when an accident occurred at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in March 1979. Since then, the nuclear power plant industry has struggled to regain its legitimacy with a wary American public.47

The Antinuclear Movement Revived, 1981–1992

Concerns about the environmental consequences of nuclear waste helped to revive the antinuclear movement, which had been on the decline for the previous fifteen years. The main factor, however, was rising militarism and nationalism, represented by the ascendancy of Ronald Reagan to the presidency in 1980. Since 1963, public perception had been of arms control and détente. Certainly, the SALT I treaty of 1972 and the SALT II treaty of 1979 (the latter was never ratified by Congress) were major achievements. But events such as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iran hostage crisis heightened the anxieties of an American public already deeply divided over cultural issues and suffering the effects of stagflation, an economic phenomenon characterized by rising prices, slow economic growth, and high unemployment. Reagan promised to heal the public’s bruised pride by launching a crusade against the Soviet Union, an “evil empire” that he claimed was solely responsible for domestic and international unrest. But instead of calming public fears, his bellicose rhetoric and militaristic policies frightened the public and gave rise to a powerful antinuclear movement that became a major force in world politics.

Upon entering office, President Reagan launched the largest peacetime military buildup in U.S. history. A central feature of his rearmament program was the Strategic Arms Defense Initiative (a.k.a. Star Wars), which was to be a space-based defense system that would form a shield over the United States and its allies against incoming missiles. These plans threatened to destroy the limits set up by the SALT treaties. They also persuaded the Soviet leadership that the United States was planning a “first-strike” nuclear war, leading to a precipitous decline in relations between the two superpowers. Reagan further intensified the Cold War by directing the CIA to provide secret assistance to anticommunist governments and insurgencies throughout the Third World.48

The revival of the nuclear arms race helped to mobilize millions of people throughout the world, leading to an unprecedented level of protest and pressure on public officials. Within the United States, activism was diverse, consisting of educational and lobbying campaigns, as well as increasingly confrontational tactics by religious pacifists and their allies. Long-standing peace groups experienced a revival and new groups sprang up; SANE experienced an 800 percent growth in membership from 1980 to 1984 under the dynamic leadership of David Cortright, while the Australian doctor Helen Caldicott helped to revive the long-dormant Physicians for Social Responsibility and founded Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament.49

This peace activism coalesced around the idea of a “nuclear freeze” in which the United States and the Soviet Union would adopt a mutual ban on the testing, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons. The “Freeze” took on a life of its own; when a coalition of peace groups organized a demonstration in New York City on June 12, 1982, almost 1 million people showed up. The movement was soon endorsed by 12 state legislatures, 321 city councils, 140 Catholic bishops, and 109 national and international organizations. Despite the vehement opposition of the Reagan administration, a Gallup poll found that 71 percent of Americans favored the Nuclear Freeze. In May 1983, the House of Representatives passed a resolution calling for a Freeze by a vote of 278 to 149.50

In response to this popular movement, Reagan gradually began to soften his rhetoric and to express a willingness to meet with Soviet leaders. But even more critical in pushing him to the negotiating table was pressure from international allies and Mikhail Gorbachev’s rise to leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in March 1985.51 Gorbachev represented the reform wing of the party, which was genuinely committed to disarmament and openness to the West. His aggressive overtures forced Reagan’s hand and ultimately led to the Intermediate-Force Treaty (INF) of December 1987, a historic agreement that, for the first time, actually reduced the number of nuclear weapons and led to the dismantlement of an entire class of arms. Soon thereafter, Gorbachev pulled Soviet troops out of Afghanistan and eastern Europe, which eventually led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Cold War was over, with a major reduction in the nuclear capabilities of the United States and Russia, as well as of other nations.

The antinuclear movement thus played a key role in lessening the nuclear threat that had hovered over international consciousness since Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It would continue to make progress until the mid-1990s when the Republican-dominated Congress managed to defeat the test ban treaty that had been signed by President William Clinton and the leaders of 150 other countries. Since then, the movement has continued its spiral downward, undermined by the public perception that, with the end of the Cold War, nuclear proliferation no longer poses a threat to humankind. A concern for peace has been directed elsewhere in the wake of a resurgent right at home, combined with globalization and resistance to American hegemony.

The Peace Movement since the End of the Cold War

The history of the Nuclear Freeze reflects a pattern in peace activism that continues to the present day. The movement was held together by a small, dedicated core of activists who were able to mobilize broad sections of the American public because of connections that they had patiently cultivated over several decades. Indeed, since the 1960s, the peace movement had developed a more sophisticated understanding of the multiple causes of war and violence. Its solidarity campaigns with liberation struggles in the Global South and efforts on behalf of human rights, women’s equality, and the environment had created a wide and diverse network that its members were able to bring together to oppose President Reagan’s militaristic policies. Yet, time and again, these coalitions proved short-lived.

An example of this pattern can be seen in the antiwar campaigns against the wars waged by the United States in Iraq. Months before Operation Desert Storm began in January 1991 to end Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait, peace activists had managed to organize sizable and wide-ranging protests. The largest demonstration occurred in Washington, DC, on January 26, 1991, with approximately 250,000 protesters gathered in the nation’s capital. Yet, when the war ended a month later, the nascent movement collapsed.

A similar pattern, albeit on a much larger scale, occurred in response to President George W. Bush’s unilateral, preventive war in Iraq that began on March 20, 2003, and which lasted until December 2011. Even before the invasion began, peace groups in the United States and throughout the world had mobilized diverse allies to oppose the war, culminating in a massive, global demonstration on February 15, 2003, that involved an estimated 10 million people. The antiwar movement sustained its momentum even after the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime, feeding off of public anger at the Bush administration’s deceit about the existence of weapons of mass destruction and because an insurgency against the U.S. occupation kept American forces in Iraq for another eight years. Also responsible for the movement’s endurance was its creative use of global communication networks and media spectacle. But as the Iraqi conflict dragged on, along with the war in Afghanistan and a seemingly endless war against global “terrorism,” antiwar forces grew increasingly disillusioned and the movement declined. Peace seemed as impossible and unrealistic an ideal as it had when Reinhold Niebuhr began his assault on organized pacifism in the 1930s.


The peace movement since 1945 thus experienced major setbacks as well as victories. It pioneered the use of Gandhian nonviolence for American conditions and provided crucial support to the civil rights movement. It also proved adaptable, moving beyond the political culture of anticommunism to forge new understandings and alliances that helped to give rise to new, often quite influential social formations, most notably the movement against the war in Vietnam, the UN’s Decade of Women, and the antinuclear campaign, which reached its apogee of public influence in the mid-1980s when the United States and the Soviet Union hammered out unprecedented arms control agreements.

At the same time, however, the peace movement has been unable to transcend its marginal status. Despite a commitment to “justice” as well as peace, it has largely functioned as a “new social movement” in which activism centers on a single issue and that at times merges with other movements to form broad but usually temporary coalitions. Some view this approach as a source of authenticity and flexibility, while others argue that it facilitates rather shallow commitments and a culture of antiauthoritarianism that has precluded institutionalization. Indeed, a strong argument can be made that the fractured political culture of the post-1960s has fostered incoherency and weakness, thereby opening a space for reactionary elements to gain power. Even after the disastrous defeat in Vietnam, the political right managed to rebuild an American empire and restructure the global order in ways that have given rise to vast inequalities in wealth and power, irreversible environmental degradation, and narrow chauvinisms that perpetuate the exploitation of women, among others.

Discussion of the Literature

Historians have provided a rich record of the various organizations and leaders that played a major role in the historical narrative outlined above. Lawrence Wittner, Scott Bennett, and Kip Kosek, among others, have demonstrated the key role of pacifists in making nonviolence a central feature of American protest culture. At the same time, black history scholars have shown that African Americans mediated and adapted nonviolence within their cultural traditions and institutions. They have also suggested that, for black Americans, the rise of the Black Power movement was less a break from the past than a continuation of an ongoing struggle for freedom that long predated the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

The political history of the peace movement has also been well documented. Robbie Lieberman, for example, has shown how anticommunism shaped the political culture of peace activism in the early years of the Cold War. Others have focused on the ideological differences between pacifists, showing how liberal pacifists preferred to work within the system, while radical pacifists liked to use more confrontational tactics. Either way, pacifists frequently faced criticism from nonpacifist opponents of war, who charged them with having simplistic understandings of the origins and prevention of war and violence. In his study of the draft resistance movement during the Vietnam War, for example, Michael Foley documents both the collaborations and the conflicts that emerged between pacifists and New Leftists over questions of ideology and tactics.

Still, “peace history” remains marginal, much like the movement whose story it seeks to tell. This may reflect the determination of its practitioners to define it as a separate field of study, comparable to “military history” or “African American history.”52 It might be more fruitful, however, to situate it within larger structural processes and historical and cultural developments. For example, the history of the peace movement since the 1970s can be fully understood only in the context of the collapse of socialism, the rise of postcolonialism, globalization, and a consumerist ethos of personal choice and lifestyle.

Historians might also reconceptualize the study of peace as the study of power. Recent scholarship has begun this process. Lawrence Wittner, for example, has demonstrated how the world disarmament movement shaped public perceptions of nuclear weapons and placed constraints on nuclear proliferation and war. Other historians have interrogated the role of gender, race, and religion in structuring peace culture and concerns. Marian Mollin, for example, examines the history of radical pacifism as a case study in gender and political culture. Similarly, Kip Kosek and Patricia Appelbaum have approached the history of pacifism as religious historians, showing how it relates to a larger process of secularization.

The transnational and global turn in the historical discipline also suggests promising directions for future scholarship, since American peace activists cultivated international connections and built transnational networks. For example, Witness for Peace’s activities in solidarity with the Sandinista government in Nicaragua represents only one of many alliances between North American and Latin American anti-imperialists that formed during the 1970s and 1980s, yet historical research on the topic has been scant. The same can be said of the UN Decade of Women, which calls out for a comparative and transnational analysis.

Finally, research needs to move beyond the confines of the pacifist community. Indeed, peace historians have tended to neglect nonpacifist peace advocates based on the assumption that they could not really be for peace if they were not absolute pacifists. As a consequence, peace movement historiography has failed to represent the diversity of peace aspiration. For example, it has downplayed the vision of collective security and human rights that animated liberals (and many pacifists) for the brief yet momentous period between the end of World War II and the onset of the Cold War. By moving beyond the terms set by their subjects, historians will be able to provide a broader and more diverse understanding of peace aspiration and meaning.

Primary Sources

There are a number of bibliographies and edited volumes with selections of pertinent primary sources related to the history of peace activism since 1945. These include: D. Barash, ed., Approaches to Peace: A Reader in Peace Studies; Charles Howlett and Robbie Lieberman, eds., For the People: A Documentary History of the Struggle for Peace and Justice in the United States; Judith Porter Adams, ed., Peacework: Oral Histories of Women Peace Activists; Alexander Bloom and Wini Breines, eds., Takin’ It to the Streets: A Sixties Reader; Ken Booth and Moorehead Wright, eds., American Thinking about Peace and War; Dennis Merrill and Thomas G. Paterson, eds. Major Problems in American Foreign Relations, Vol. 2, Since 1914; Charles F. Howlett, The American Peace Movement: References and Resources; Anne Klejment, The Berrigans: A Bibliography of Published Works by Daniel, Philip, and Elizabeth McAlister Berrigan; Staughton Lynd and Alice Lynd, eds., Nonviolence in America: A Documentary History; Timothy Patrick McCarthy and John McMillian, eds., The Radical Reader: A Documentary History of the American Radical Tradition; Arthur Weinberg and Lila Shaffer Weinberg, eds., Instead of Violence: Writings by the Great Advocates of Peace and Nonviolence throughout History).53

The most extensive archival collection related to the history of the peace movement is held at the Swarthmore College Peace Collection in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. Other relevant archival collections can be found at the American Folklife Research Center at the Library of Congress, Washington DC; the Dorothy Day-Catholic Worker Collection at Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI; the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA; manuscript collections at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison; the Social Protest Project Collection at the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, CA; manuscript collections at the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University, New York, NY; Columbia University Oral History Archives, New York, NY; the Joseph A. Labadie Collection at the University of Michigan Libraries, Ann Arbor, MI; the Martin Luther King Jr. Archive at the King Center, Atlanta, GA; and the Walter Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI.

Further Reading

Alonso, Harriet Hyman. Peace as a Womens Issue: A History of the U.S. Movement for Peace and Womens Rights. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1993.Find this resource:

Appelbaum, Patricia. Kingdom to Commune: Protestant Pacifist Culture between World War I and the Vietnam Era. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Arsenault, Raymond. Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.Find this resource:

Bennett, Scott. Radical Pacifism: The War ResistersLeague and Gandhian Nonviolence in America. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2004.Find this resource:

Borgwardt, Elizabeth. A New Deal for the World: Americas Vision for Human Rights. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007.Find this resource:

Boyer, Paul. By the Bombs Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age. New York: Pantheon, 1985.Find this resource:

Branch, Taylor. Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954–1963. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989.Find this resource:

Chatfield, Charles. For Peace and Justice: Pacifism in America, 1914–1941. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1971.Find this resource:

Chatfield, Charles, Jackie Smith, and Ron Pagnucco, eds. Transnational Social Movements and Global Politics: Solidarity beyond the State. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1997.Find this resource:

Clayborne, Carson. In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981.Find this resource:

Danielson, Leilah. American Gandhi: A. J. Muste and the History of Radicalism in the Twentieth Century. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014.Find this resource:

DeBenedetti, Charles. The Peace Reform in American History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980.Find this resource:

DeBenedetti, Charles, and Charles Chatfield. An American Ordeal: Antiwar Movement of the Vietnam War Era. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1990.Find this resource:

D’Emilio, John. Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.Find this resource:

Epstein, Barbara. Political Protest and Cultural Revolution: Nonviolent Direct Action in the 1970s and 1980s. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.Find this resource:

Evans, Sara. Personal Politics: The Roots of Womens Liberation in the Civil Rights Movement and the New Left. New York: Viking Books, 1979.Find this resource:

Farrell, James. The Spirit of the Sixties: Making Postwar Radicalism. New York: Routledge, 1997.Find this resource:

Foley, Michael. Confronting the War Machine: Draft Resistance during the Vietnam War. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.Find this resource:

Fox, Richard. Reinhold Niebuhr: A Biography. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987.Find this resource:

Garrow, David. Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. New York: Vintage, 1993.Find this resource:

Gosse, Van. Where the Boys Are: Cuba, Cold War America and the Making of the New Left. New York: Verso, 1993.Find this resource:

Hall, Mitch. Because of Their Faith: CALCAV and Religious Opposition to the Vietnam War. New York: Columbia University Press, 1990.Find this resource:

Hall, Simon. Peace and Freedom: The Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements of the 1960s. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.Find this resource:

Herring, George C. Americas Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950–1975. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996.Find this resource:

Herschberger, Mary. Traveling to Vietnam: American Peace Activists and the War. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1998.Find this resource:

Hostetter, David L. Movement Matters: American Antiapartheid Activism and the Rise of Multicultural Politics. New York: Routledge, 2006.Find this resource:

Howlett, Charles F., and Robbie Lieberman. A History of the American Peace Movement from Colonial Times to the Present. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1993.Find this resource:

Hunt, Andrew. The Turning: A History of Vietnam Veterans against the War. New York: New York University Press, 1999.Find this resource:

Isserman, Maurice. If I Had a Hammer: The Death of the Old Left and the Birth of the New Left. New York: Basic Books, 1987.Find this resource:

Isserman, Maurice, and Michael Kazin. America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.Find this resource:

Joseph, Peniel E. The Black Power Movement: The Civil Rights–Black Power Era. New York: Routledge, 2006.Find this resource:

Joseph, Peniel E. Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America. New York: Holt, 2007.Find this resource:

Katz, Milton. Ban the Bomb: A History of SANE, the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1986.Find this resource:

Klein, Christina. Cold War Orientalism: Asia in the Middlebrow Imagination. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.Find this resource:

Kosek, Kip. Acts of Conscience: Christian Nonviolence and Modern American Democracy. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Lewis, David Levering. W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality in the American Century, 1919–1963. New York: Henry Holt, 2000.Find this resource:

Lieberman, Robbie. The Strangest Dream: Communism, Anti-communism, and the U.S. Peace Movement, 1945–1963. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2000.Find this resource:

May, Elaine Tyler. Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era. New York: Basic Books, 1988.Find this resource:

McNeal, Patricia. American Catholic Peace Movements, 1928–1972. New York: Arno Press, 1978.Find this resource:

McNeal, Patricia. Harder Than War: Catholic Peacemaking in Twentieth-Century America. Rutgers: Rutgers University Press, 1992.Find this resource:

Meier, August, and Elliot Rudwick. CORE: A Study in the Civil Rights Movement, 1942–1968. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1973.Find this resource:

Miroff, Bruce. The Liberals’ Moment: The McGovern Insurgency and the Identity Crisis of the Democratic Party. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2007.Find this resource:

Mollin, Marian. Radical Pacifism in Modern American: Egalitarianism and Protest. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.Find this resource:

Morris, Aldon D. The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement: Black Communities Organizing for Change. New York: Free Press, 1984.Find this resource:

Peace, Roger. A Call to Conscience: The Anti-contra War Campaign. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Piehl, Mel. Breaking Bread: The Catholic Worker and the Origin of Catholic Radicalism in America. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1982.Find this resource:

Plummer, Brenda Gayle. Rising Wind: Black Americans and U.S. Foreign Affairs, 1935–1990. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.Find this resource:

Robinson, Jo Ann O. Abraham Went Out: A Biography of A. J. Muste. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1981.Find this resource:

Rossinow, Doug. Visions of Progress: The Left-Liberal Tradition in America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Rossinow, Doug. “The Legend of Reagan the Peacemaker.” Raritan 32.3 (Winter 2013): 56–76.Find this resource:

Slate, Nico. Colored Cosmopolitanisms: The Shared Struggle for Freedom in the United States and India. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Small, Melvyn. Antiwarriors: Vietnam and the Battle for Americas Hearts and Minds. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002.Find this resource:

Smith, Christian. Resisting Reagan: The U.S. Central America Peace Movement. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.Find this resource:

Stearns, Peter N. Peace in World History. New York: Routledge, 2014.Find this resource:

Stone, Geoffrey. Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.Find this resource:

Summy, Ralph, and Malcolm Saunders, et al. “Why Peace History?” Peace and Change: A Journal of Peace Research 20.1 (January 1995): 7–92.Find this resource:

Swartz, David. Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Swerdlow, Amy. Women Strike for Peace: Traditional Motherhood and Radical Politics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.Find this resource:

Warren, Heather. Theologians of a New World Order: Reinhold Niebuhr and the Christian Realists, 1920–1948. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.Find this resource:

Wittner, Lawrence. Rebels against War: The American Peace Movement, 1933–1983. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1984.Find this resource:

Wittner, Lawrence. Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Young, Marilyn. The Vietnam Wars, 1945–1990. New York: HarperPerennial, 1991.Find this resource:

Zaroulis, Nancy, and Gerald Sullivan. Who Spoke Up? American Protest against the War in Vietnam, 1963–1975. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1984.Find this resource:


(1.) Lawrence Wittner, Rebels against War: The American Peace Movement, 1933–1983 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1984), 3.

(2.) Melissa R. Klapper, Ballots, Babies, and Banners of Peace: American Jewish Women’s Activism, 1890–1940 (New York: New York University Press, 2013), 17. See also Harriet Hyman Alonso, Peace as a Women’s Issue: A History of the U.S. Movement for Peace and Women’s Rights (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1993).

(3.) Larry Rasmussen, ed., Reinhold Niebuhr: Theologian of Public Life (Minneapolis: First Fortress Press, 1991), 245.

(4.) See especially Kip Kosek, Acts of Conscience: Christian Nonviolence and Modern American Democracy (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009); and Patricia Appelbaum, Kingdom to Commune: Protestant Pacifist Culture between World War I and the Vietnam Era (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009).

(5.) Wittner, Rebels against War, 61.

(6.) See Leilah Danielson, American Gandhi: A. J. Muste and the History of Radicalism in the Twentieth Century (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014).

(7.) See especially August Meier and Elliot Rudwick, CORE: A Study in the Civil Rights Movement, 1942–1968 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1973).

(8.) Kosek, Acts of Conscience, 78. See also Appelbaum, Kingdom to Commune.

(9.) See Elizabeth Borgwardt, A New Deal for the World: America’s Vision for Human Rights (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007).

(10.) Wittner, Rebels against War, 147.

(11.) Lawrence Wittner, Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009), 14.

(12.) Ibid., 44.

(13.) See Wittner, Rebels against War, 138.

(14.) George Kennan’s “Long Telegram” (1946), excerpted in Dennis Merrill and Thomas G. Paterson, eds. Major Problems in American Foreign Relations, Vol. 2, Since 1914 (Boston: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, 2009), 192.

(15.) Wittner, Rebels against War, 215.

(16.) Ibid., 216.

(17.) The FOR, WILPF, and the WRL were international organizations. While national branches and affiliates had considerable autonomy, they also worked within an international structure and framework. Thus, when American pacifists attended international conferences during the early years of the Cold War, they were surprised (and rather chagrined) to discover that their reluctance to work with Communists was not uniformly shared by others within their respective organizations.

(18.) Alonso, Peace as a Women’s Issue, 168–188.

(19.) Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954–1963 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989), 180–196, 258–260.

(20.) See Peniel E. Joseph, Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America (New York: Holt, 2007) and Peniel E. Joseph, ed., The Black Power Movement: The Civil Rights–Black Power Era (New York: Routledge, 2006).

(21.) Wittner, Confronting the Bomb, 53.

(22.) Ibid., 91.

(23.) Lawrence Scott, “Words Are Not Enough,” Liberation 2.3 (May 1957): 14–15.

(24.) Wittner, Rebels against War, 249–250.

(25.) The classic in the field is Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era (New York: Basic Books, 1988).

(26.) Marian Mollin, Radical Pacifism in Modern American: Egalitarianism and Protest (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006), 92.

(27.) Ibid., 93.

(28.) See John D’Emilio, Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004).

(29.) In 1959, the Gallup poll announced that 77 percent of the American public wanted an extension on the nuclear testing ban. See Wittner, Confronting the Bomb, 93.

(30.) Alonso , Peace as a Women’s Issue, 202. See also Amy Swerdlow, Women Strike for Peace: Traditional Motherhood and Radical Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).

(31.) Alonso, Peace as a Women’s Issue, 207.

(32.) Wittner, Rebels against War, 260. See also Robbie Lieberman, The Strangest Dream: Communism, Anti-communism, and the U.S. Peace Movement, 1945–1963 (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2000).

(33.) Wittner, Rebels against War, 277–278.

(34.) Marilyn Young, The Vietnam Wars, 1945–1990 (New York: HarperPerennial, 1991), 166.

(35.) See Simon Hall, Peace and Freedom: The Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements of the 1960s (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004).

(36.) Mitch Hall, Because of their Faith: CALCAV and Religious Opposition to the Vietnam War (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990).

(37.) See Michael Foley, Confronting the War Machine: Draft Resistance during the Vietnam War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003).

(38.) Charles DeBenedetti and Charles Chatfield, An American Ordeal: Antiwar Movement of the Vietnam War Era (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1990), 219.

(39.) This turn of phrase borrows from Allen J. Matusow, The Unraveling of America: Liberalism in the 1960s (New York: Harper & Row, 1984).

(40.) Maurice Isserman and Michael Kazin, America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 231–235.

(41.) Wittner, Rebels against War, 291. See also Bruce Miroff, The Liberals’ Moment: The McGovern Insurgency and the Identity Crisis of the Democratic Party (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2007).

(42.) See Alonso, Peace as a Women’s Issue, and Sara Evans’s classic account, Personal Politics: The Roots of Women’s Liberation in the Civil Rights Movement and the New Left (New York: Viking Books, 1979).

(43.) Alonso, Peace as a Women’s Issue, 221–224.

(44.) Ibid., 243–247. See also R. L. Updegrove, “Refusing to Be the Other: Barbara Deming’s Experiments with Nonviolence,” PhD diss., Northern Arizona University, 2014.

(45.) David L. Hostetter, Movement Matters: American Antiapartheid Activism and the Rise of Multicultural Politics (New York: Routledge, 2006).

(46.) Important exceptions are Roger Peace, A Call to Conscience: The Anti-contra War Campaign (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2012); and Christian Smith, Resisting Reagan: The U.S. Central America Peace Movement (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).

(47.) Charles Howlett and Robbie Lieberman, For the People: A Documentary History of the Struggle for Peace and Justice in the United States (Information Age Publishing, 2009), 263.

(48.) Wittner, Confronting the Bomb, 143. See also Doug Rossinow, “The Legend of Reagan the Peacemaker,” Raritan 32.3 (Winter 2013): 56–76.

(49.) Wittner, Confronting the Bomb, 151.

(50.) Ibid., 154.

(51.) See ibid and Rossinow, “The Legend of Reagan the Peacemaker.”

(52.) See the forum “Why Peace History?” Peace and Change: A Journal of Peace Research 20.1 (January 1995): 7–92.

(53.) D. Barash, ed., Approaches to Peace: A Reader in Peace Studies (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999); Charles Howett and Robbie Lieberman, eds., For the People: a Documentary History of the Struggle for Peace and Justice in the United States (Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, 2009); Judith Adams, ed., Peacework: Oral Histories of Peace Activists (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1992); Alexander Bloom and Wini Breines, eds., Takin’ It to the Streets: A Sixties Reader (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995); Ken Booth and Moorehead Wright, eds., American Thinking about Peace and War (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1978); Dennis Merrill and Thomas G. Paterson, eds., Major Problems in American Foreign Relations, Vol. 2, Since 1914 (Boston: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, 2009); Charles F. Howlett, The American Peace Movement: References and Resources (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1991); Anne Klejment, The Berrigans: A Bibliography of Published Works by Daniel, Philip, and Elizabeth McAlister Berrigan (New York: Garland, 1979); Staughton Lynd and Alice Lynd, eds., Nonviolence in America: A Documentary History (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1998); Timothy Patrick McCarthy and John McMillian, eds., The Radical Reader: A Documentary History of the American Radical Tradition (New York: New Press, 2003); Arthur Weinberg and Lila Shaffer Weinberg, eds., Instead of Violence: Writings by the Great Advocates of Peace and Nonviolence throughout History (Boston: Grossman, 1963).