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There are not enough days in February for honoring the contributions of African Americans to our country’s history. You could fill up months just noting achievements in the creative disciplines, literature, art, and music, not to mention accomplishments in math, science, and medicine.

In the field of applied nonviolence, African Americans have an outsized representation. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. immediately comes to mind. Yet he was only one among many black strategists- Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Bernard Lafayette, and Bayard Ruskin, to name a few – whose nonviolent experiments in the civil rights struggle revealed new possibilities in people power.

The leaders tell part of the story. This month our peer mediators at Claremont are learning about the nearly three thousand black children who filled the jails in Birmingham to challenge the city’s entrenched system of segregation. https://www.zinnedproject.org/materials/childrens-march

And how about the movement for environmental justice? I confess I am late in learning that it originated with communities of color. Its roots trace back to the 1968 Sanitation Workers Strike in Memphis, TN and the 1982 sit-in in Warren County, North Carolina where residents protested the dumping of contaminated soil in a local landfill. The campaign failed. The soil was dumped, but the protests, which gained national attention, prompted a congressional study that lead to new policies. Most significantly, Warren’s community of color exposed the injustice and racism behind toxic dumping and changed national awareness. You can learn more here:


We live in a time that calls for more people power, so it’s good to study nonviolent movements of the past and to highlight emerging new ones. Have you heard about the growing global campaign to abolish nuclear weapons? You’ll have a chance to learn more this spring with WARHEADS to WINDMILLS:

Timmon Wallis of Nuclear Ban US, along with Representative Jim McGovern speak on how to abolish nuclear weapons and pay for the New Green Deal. April 14, 7:00 p.m. Worcester State University, Blue Lounge.

Those of you who haven’t seen our dramatic presentation about the women involved in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee can catch our next performance of:

We Grow into Courage, Friday, February 28, 7:00 p.m. Levi Reading Room, Dinand Library, Holy Cross College. Free and open to the public.


Claire Schaeffer-Duffy

Program Director, Center for Nonviolent Solutions