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Committee for Nonviolent Action Records

Identifier: SCPC-DG-017

Scope and Contents

CNVA records span the years from 1957 when this organization began as Non-Violent Action Against Nuclear Weapons until 1967 when the decision was made to merge with War Resisters League [January 1968]. The New England Committee for Nonviolent Action [NECNVA] records continue until 1972 when it became the Community for Nonviolent Action, whose records continue into 1973. As the name suggests, the Committee for Nonviolent Action directed its resources against war-related activities by organizing and participating in nonviolent demonstrations including the attempted voyage of the Golden Rule and the sailings of Everyman into atomic test sites, the San Francisco to Moscow and Quebec- Washington-Guantanamo Walks for Peace, and Polaris Action against nuclear submarines. The bulk of CNVA material pertains to these projects, found especially in Series VI where releases, correspondence, and accounts document these activities, and in Series VII, which is a collection of original scrapbooks containing newsclippings, logs, and printed releases.

There are incomplete minutes of the CNVA executive committee as well as NECNVA, other branches, and sub-committees. Releases printed by CNVA include flyers, mailings for fund solicitation or to people of prominence, and news releases. There are memoranda used for inter-office, inter-branch, and inter-organization communication, both printed for wide distribution or drafted in typed or handwritten form.

There is correspondence throughout these records which is found mostly in Series V. Of importance are letters written by A.J. Muste, Neil Haworth, Bradford Lyttle, and Lawrence Scott, leaders of CNVA. NECNVA records contain correspondence of Marjorie and Robert Swann, a file on Polaris Action which it directed, and the papers of David Brown, a staff member. There is also material from other branches, particularly from CNVA-West which had many active members involved in various protests.

There are complete series of the periodicals CNVA Bulletin, Polaris Action Bulletin, and Direct Action. These records also contain photographs, correspondence and mailings with other peace organizations including the World Peace Brigade, a subject file and CNVA reference material.

Besides those mentioned above, correspondents include Barbara Deming, Scott Herrick, Gene Keyes, Ed Lazar, Barbara Lehmann, Jerry Lehmann, Barnaby Martin, Theodore W. Olson, Barbara Reynolds, Earle Reynolds, Bayard Rustin, F. Paul Salstrom, Jack Smith, John Stephens, Eric Weinberger, Jerry Wheeler, and George Willoughby.


  • Creation: 1958-1968


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Physical Access Note

All or part of this collection is stored off-site. Contact Swarthmore College Peace Collection staff at at least two weeks in advance of visit to request boxes.

Conditions Governing Use



18.75 linear ft. (18.75 linear ft.)


CNVA was one of the first American peace groups to focus on nonviolentdirect action including civil disobedience. Its purpose of organizing imaginative and dramatic protest demonstrations on both land and sea attracted radical pacifists and called the attention of the American public to the atrocities of nuclear warfare. CNVA's first protest action was a vigil held outside the atomic weapons test grounds in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 1957. In the second half of its existence CNVA efforts began to focus on Vietnam. The organization allied its resources with other American peace groups. As other American peace groups adopted CNVA's methods of dramatic and nonviolent demonstrations, its own numbers and support waned. In the fall of 1967, CNVA voted to merge with the War Resisters League, which became reality in January 1968.


The meeting minutes of CNVA are organized in Series I in chronological order. Sub-committee minutes are found in Series IX. Financial reports for CNVA are sometimes appended to the minutes or are found in chronological order in Series II. Branch minutes and financial material is found in Series VIII.

Material printed by CNVA for wide distribution, such as flyers, fund appeals, and news releases, are called printed releases. The bulk is found in Series III, but there are also many in Series VI where they were left with a particular CNVA project, and in Series VIII, if they were produced by a branch of CNVA.

Correspondence is found primarily in Series V. The first original file, which is mixed with reference material, is in alphabetical order, while the General Correspondence file is in chronological order. There is also a considerable amount of correspondence in Series V, VI, VII to XII, where it is kept with the original source.

Folders about CNVA projects in Series VI contain printed releases, memoranda, drafts, and correspondence of importance to that event. Photos have been removed from these records, identified insofar as possible, and placed in the photograph collection.

Periodicals are divided into those published by CNVA and those that CNVA received from other organizations. The first are housed with other retired periodicals in SCPC stacks. Lists of both CNVA and non-CNVA periodicals and their disposition can be found in Series XIII.

LATER ACCESSIONS Acc. 01A-056: New England Committee for Nonviolent Action Acc. 10A-051

Custodial History

The Swarthmore College Peace Collection is the official repository for these records.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of / deposited by: Bradford Lyttle, Gene Keyes (NECNVA), War Resisters League, David Brown (NECNVA), Mark Morris (CNVA-West). Received: 1968, 1969, 1976, 1979, 1984.

Related Materials

For the catalog record for this collection and to find materials on similar topics, search the library's online catalog.

Separated Materials

  1. Photographs (4"x5", 5"x7", 8"x10")
  2. Periodicals

Legal Status

Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendents, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Processing Information

Processed by Peace Collection staff, 1984, 1995, 2007.

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2018: The file list was standardized in Summer 2017 by Mary Olesnavich in preparation for importing into ArchivesSpace. Tessa Chambers added the notes in Fall 2017. This finding aid updated by Wendy E. Chmielewski, November 2018.

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