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On this week's Peace of History:
Bob and Marjorie Swann were among the co-founders of the New England Community for Nonviolent Action and the Voluntown Peace Trust (first created in 1962). As a young man, Bob Swann (1918-2003) was a conscientious objector who had spent over two years in prison during World War II. With other conscientious objectors he put together a “sort of post graduate course for ourselves on economics, with a heavy emphasis on the kinds of things that Gandhi was doing in India, things related to nonviolence and the peace movement.” (Interview in “Community Economics,” Summer 1992). After Gandhi’s death, one of his followers, Vinoba Bhave, began a movement in India called Gramdan (“Land/Village Gift Movement”) in which land is held in common for the members of the village. Bhave’s work in India became the theoretical roots of the community land trust movement in the United States that Bob pioneered and developed. When Bob and Marj Swann and their four children moved to the farm in Voluntown, Bob put the land into a “Voluntown Peace Trust” to be used as a base for peace and justice work. That work included opposition to the use of nuclear weapons in foreign policy, opposition to racist domestic policies like segregation, and the development of affordable housing on land trusts, decentralized community economics, local currencies, and peace conversions. Throughout his life as a conscientious objector, land justice reformer, social justice advocate, builder, thinker, and friend to so many, all of Bob’s work was always rooted in his commitment to nonviolence and opposition to war. This week, we here at VPT honor this founding member, and we will continue to commemorate his work in the weeks ahead.
Next week: We will explore Bob Swann's work in New Communities Inc. in Albany, Georgia (established in 1969 out of the Civil Rights Movement, and widely considered the first community land trust in the United States). We will also examine how he helped spread the principles and practices of community land trusts beyond Albany, including to our home here in Voluntown.
(For a brief overview of Bob Swann's pioneering work in the community land trust movement, check out this article from cltroots.org: http://www.cltroots.org/hall-of-fame/Bob-Swann)