In the summer of 1960, peace activists from around the country came to New London, CT, where some of the world’s first nuclear-armed submarines were being designed and built. Polaris Action, as the activists called it, was a summer-long public action and education campaign to raise awareness of the dangers and unethical nature of nuclear weapons and the entire US nuclear strategy. While the Committee for Nonviolent Action (CNVA) was the primary organizer of Polaris Action, other peace groups also participated in the project that summer including the Peacemakers, who held their annual intensive two-week orientation and training program on nonviolent action in New London that summer for anyone who wished to join.
Early members of the Peacemakers included World War II resisters, including Wally Nelson and Ernest Bromley. Those two men also participated in the Journey of Reconciliation, the first freedom rides in 1947. Peacemakers projects were varied and included such initiatives as the formation of a short-lived interracial intentional community in Cincinatti called “Gano Peacemakers.” Wally and Juanita Nelson were both principal participants of the Gano Peacemakers community. Wally also became the first nonviolence trainer for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and he and Juanita were organizers for Peacemakers training programs, including the ones in 1960 New London.
In the info sheet below, the Peacemakers explain how they formed, how they are different from other peace organizations, how they aspire to “a positive way of living for peace,” and the reasoning behind those aspirations. While the Peacemakers values and methods may at first seem to limit the behaviors and actions of activists, that perceived limitation is only a matter of perspective. As Barbara Deming, a writer who attended the Peacemakers training in New London and whose life was changed because of it, commented on exactly this perception of nonviolent action in her December 17, 1960 article for The Nation:
“Many in the group had chosen to be poor because of a wish to identify their lives with those of a majority of the world’s people. But also they had chosen to be poor to fit themselves for battle — lest anxiety about losing what they had should make them hesitate. What soon became apparent about these people was that they were above all people ready to act. Somewhere in the history of nonviolent resistance, the term “passive resistance” has been picked up. This term should be discarded. The “pacifists” are the only freely active people I have met in a long time. Coming face to face with them was, in fact, like entering a new world.”
(Click the image below to download the PDF version of the original clipping)
The CT Committee on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons organizes pro-disarmament demonstrations throughout the year. To participate in these demonstrations against nuclear arms and in support of the UN’s Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, please get in touch with us on Facebook at facebook.com/voluntownpeacetrust or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Deming, Barbara. “The Peacemakers.” We Are All Part of One Another: A Barbara Deming Reader.
“What is Peacemakers?"
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