The Emergency Peace Campaign, "a nation-wide program to keep the United States out of war and to promote world peace," was initiated in late 1935 by the American Friends Service Committee and other liberal pacifists, including Devere Allen, Frederick J. Libby, Ray Newton, Kirby Page, John Nevin Sayre, and E. Raymond Wilson. The aim was to promote a vigorous, nation-wide campaign for two years which would enlist the cooperation of leaders from various peace organizations, religious bodies of all faiths, trade unions and labor groups, liberal organizations, student and youth groups, African-American groups, and other agencies interested in keeping the United States out of war and in improving the serious international situation.
The idea of such a campaign was initially proposed by Ray Newton. In December 1935, a three-day conference of over 100 pacifists was held at Buck Hill Falls, Pennsylvania, to consider ways and means of launching a campaign for peace activity and education.
Ray Newton, Secretary of the Peace Section of the American Friends Service Committee, became Executive Director of the Emergency Peace Campaign. The AFSC served as treasurer of the campaign and made office space available at 20 S. Twelfth Street, Philadelphia, for the EPC headquarters. The office of the EPC opened on February 1, 1936.
The purpose of the Emergency Peace Campaign was stated as follows: "To promote a co-operative nation-wide campaign to keep the United States from going to war and to achieve world peace by:
1. Strengthening pacific alternatives to armed conflict;
2. Bringing about such political and economic changes as are essential to a just and peaceable world order;
3. Recruiting and uniting in a dynamic movement all organizations and individuals who are determined not to approve of or participate in war."
After the EPC joined the National Peace Conference in March, 1936, the following statement was added:
4. "Acquainting peace-minded people with the program and policies of the member organizations of the National Peace Conference and other peace groups."
The EPC was officially launched on April 21, 1936, over a national radio broadcast. Mrs. Eleanor D. Roosevelt and George Lansbury, former leader of the British Labor Party, were the speakers.
A major effort of the Emergency Peace Campaign was to arrange public meetings and conferences in cities throughout the country. These were arranged by the EPC Speakers Bureau, headed by Kirby Page and Fred Atkins Moore, with the cooperation of local peace committees. Some of the meetings featured well-known speakers, including several British peace leaders (George Lansbury and Alfred Salter in the spring of 1936 and Maude Royden in early 1937). Other meetings utilized the speaking talents of ministers, educators, and peace leaders from across the country.
The two major cycles of the Emergency Peace Campaign in 1937 were the Neutrality Campaign from January through March and the No-Foreign-War Crusade beginning April 6. Charles P. Taft, II, served as Honorary Chairman of the Neutrality Campaign, which focused on the need for neutrality legislation and the costs of neutrality in the event of a major war abroad. The No-Foreign-War Crusade was designed to increase and make articulate the determination of the American people not to be drawn into a war in Europe or Asia. Admiral Richard E. Byrd served as the Honorary Chairman of this crusade, which called for the restriction of naval and military policy to the defense of the United States, rather than to the protection of investments, commerce and other interests abroad.
The national staff of the EPC was greatly expanded in 1937 and area offices were established in twenty cities. These area offices functioned from January through June 1937. A few succeeded in raising sufficient funds to continue their activities through the summer of 1937.
Several other elements of the Emergency Peace Campaign program should be mentioned. The Youth Section was under the direction of Harold Chance. Youth volunteers were enlisted to promote the Campaign on college campuses and to serve as Peace Volunteers in rural areas during the summers of 1936 and 1937. This work was continued in 1938 as the Student Peace Service, under the sponsorship of the AFSC.
Another element of the EPC was a nation-wide poll of personal attitudes on war and peace conducted during the first cycle of public meetings, and a National Peace Enrollment which continued through the entire campaign. Over 23,000 names of pacifists and near-pacifists were collected and made available to other peace organizations.
The EPC also worked to promote peace education through churches, synagogues, labor and farm groups, and encouraged vigorous legislative measures which would make it difficult for the U.S. to become involved in another war.
The Emergency Peace Campaign was originally planned as a two-year campaign to keep the U.S. out of war and to bring about a more coordinated and united effort within the American peace movement. The movement toward a coalition of peace agencies accelerated in 1937. Joint meetings of the EPC Council and the National Peace Conference were held in the spring of 1937, when it was agreed that the NPC should be given stronger administrative and coordinative functions so that it could formulate and promote a definite peace program. The Campaign for World Economic Cooperation was undertaken by the National Peace Conference. It was expanded to a 15-month program under the direction of Clark Eichelberger.
The EPC was disbanded at the end of 1937.