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Papers of the European Organiser of the American-European Peace March from San Francisco to Moscow

Archive reference: Cwl NVA

One of the group of Commonweal Archives which give an incredibly rich and detailed picture of non-violent direct action movements in the early 1960s.

The March

In 1960, the Committee for Non-Violent Action (CNVA) set up the San Francisco to Moscow Walk for Peace, to publicise unilateral nuclear disarmament, The CNVA was a direct action group based in New York whose leaders included AJ Muste and Bayard Rustin. CNVA secretary Bradford Lyttle was one of the core team of marchers. After walking 4000 miles across America, the team flew to London and were welcomed by a rally in Trafalgar Square on 4 June 1961.

April Carter, formerly secretary of the Direct Action Committee, organised the European phase of the March. She was assisted by Bayard Rustin, by Helga Stolle in Hamburg and Inge Oskarsson in Stockholm. Oskarsson and fellow activist Jill Brealt had begun to plan a European March for Disarmament around the same time, which merged with the San Francisco to Moscow Walk as the the American-European March.

The marchers encountered many obstacles in their progress across Europe. They were refused entry to France, then under a state of emergency following an attempted military coup in Algeria. Negotiating the journey between a divided Germany and into Eastern Europe was difficult and involved working with the state-sponsored Peace Councils: in a rapidly deteriorating political climate caused by the construction of the Berlin Wall, the marchers were eventually deported. The march was better received in Poland, and in the Soviet Union, where a silent picket was held in Red Square. The team obtained audiences with senior politicians, and, in defiance of the authorities, addressed a meeting of students at Moscow University. The marchers left the Soviet Union on 8 October.

The Archive

The collection includes correspondence between April Carter/Bayard Rustin and the CNVA office in New York, and with contacts in the European peace, direct action and nuclear disarmament movements. There are applications and correspondence received from volunteer marchers and supporters, and progress reports from the marchers. The huge organisational effort involved in the March is covered in administrative and fundraising files. The Archive also contains publicity and press cuttings showing how the March was seen in the countries it visited.

The Archive was catalogued as part of the PaxCat Project, with support from the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives.

Cwl NVA Papers of the European Organiser Catalogue

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