“Call to a 3-Week Walk for Peace” (1961)
In September 1960, three peace activists met at Hygienic Restaurant in New London, Connecticut and started to form a plan for their next big action: the San Francisco to Moscow Walk for Peace. No other group had ever attempted a peace walk across the entire continental United States, and they only knew of one other peace group that had ever attempted to cross into the Soviet Union. And yet, working with the Committee for Nonviolent Action (CNVA), the three activists not only successfully organized the longest and most dramatic peace walk ever, but spawned several more peace walks in solidarity.
(See our previous post: “Organizing the San Francisco to Moscow Walk for Peace (1960-1961)”)
One such companion peace walk was organized in eastern Connecticut. Inspired by the San Francisco to Moscow Walk for Peace, as well as the UK’s Aldermaston to London “ban the bomb” marches that had been held every Easter since 1952, the New England CNVA (based at VPT in Voluntown, Connecticut) organized a peace walk from Kittery, Maine to the UN Headquarters in New York City. Named the “3-Week Walk for Peace,” the initial call was put out on February 2, 1961 in the Polaris Action Bulletin, about two months after the San Francisco to Moscow Walk for Peace began.
Protest marches and peace walks had been held in the past, but none of the scale of the San Francisco to Moscow Walk. Thus, this was a relatively new tactic of the progressive left at the time, and one with several appealing factors. It was fast enough to cover a lot of ground, but slow enough to make real connections between people. It brought participants directly into communities to discuss the arms race face-to-face with folks and through the local media. It reminded some of the old religious itinerant holy people or pilgrims journeying to sacred sites. It reminded others of Gandhi and the success of the Salt March.
Supporters were invited to participate in a number of ways. Those who could not walk the route themselves could put walkers up for a night and provide other hospitality. Volunteers were encouraged to contact their local media to arrange interviews or public discussions. Direct financial support was always useful to fund the whole operation. And, of course, one could sign up to walk. Although most walkers only committed themselves to just a portion of the full 340-mile, 3-week walk, it was often still a significant sacrifice of time and energy, even considering that the CNVA paid for food and other expenses for the participants. But in the comparatively more religious 1960s, such sacrifice during the Easter season was part of the point; like Dr. King in the civil rights movement around the same time, using the popular religious language and imagery allowed these activists to communicate their message on multiple levels.
(Click the images below to download the PDF version of the original clippings)
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“Call to a 3-Week Walk for Peace.” Polaris Action Bulletin. 2 February 1961 (Bulletin #19), page 3.
“Details of 3-Week Walk for Peace.” Polaris Action Bulletin. 2 February 1961 (Bulletin #19), page 4.
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