The Archives of the American Friends Service Committee holds the records of the organization, its work, and involvement around the world. Housed in AFSC’s central office in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the collection is carefully maintained for easy access. Since its establishment in 1929, thousands of researchers have utilized this collection in the development of dissertations, articles, books and documentaries.
More than just a collection of records pertaining to one organization’s history, the AFSC’s archive provides a unique and singular view of the social, political, and economic movements that shaped the 20th Century and are still relevant today.
1917 – 1930s
AFSC was founded to enable Quakers and other young pacifists to serve during World War I, while being faithful to their commitment to nonviolence. After the war, AFSC volunteers engaged in reconstruction projects, feeding programs and medical assistance in Germany, Russia, and Poland. At home in the U.S., AFSC worked to advance race relations, socio-economic equality and peace education.
• Photographs, letters and reports from young aid workers in France during and after the war
• An extensive collection of children’s art work (first gathered after WWI and which extends through nearly every major conflict of the 20th Century)
• Haunting accounts of famine relief in eastern and northern Europe
• Personal stories from young participants in programs to promote peace issues and peace education during the 1920s and 1930s
• Moving reports of hunger and relief in the coal fields of Appalachia in the 1930s
1930s – 1950s
With the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, AFSC provided food and clothing to civilians on both sides of the conflict. During WWII, AFSC assisted refugees in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. After the war, Quaker volunteers contributed to the massive effort to provide relief and reconstruction in countries devastated by the war. For these efforts, AFSC, along with the British Friends Service Council, accepted the Noble Peace Prize awarded to Quakers worldwide in 1947.
• Documents detailing assistance to refugees before, during and after WWII, including; Spain, France, Portugal, Finland, Hungary, Germany, China, Palestine and North Africa.
• Support to interned Japanese Americans during WWII
• Reports and photos of post-war feeding and reconstruction efforts in Europe, Asia, and Africa.
• Self-help housing and job skills for out of work coal miners in Appalachia
1940s – 1960s
As post-war reconstruction gave way to the Cold War, AFSC worked to promote peace and understanding between peoples and ideologies in conflict. Institutes, exchanges, and seminars brought together youth, educators, scientists, and political leaders from many different countries and backgrounds. Relief work continued.
• Accounts of dialogues between representatives from Communist bloc and Western countries
• Photos and participant accounts of workcamps and youth exchanges between U.S., Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America
• Records of Quiet/Citizen Diplomacy
• Records of the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO)
The AFSC was a ubiquitous ally throughout the Civil Rights movement. From the organization’s relationship with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to programs in the areas of integrated housing communities, employment on merit, training in non-violent protest, voter education, and school desegregation and integration, the AFSC provided leadership and support.
• Legal and financial assistance to those unjustly accused of disloyalty and subversive activities during the era of McCarthyism
• Support to students during the unconstitutional closing of schools in Prince Edward County, Virginia.
• Organizing against the war in Viet Nam
• Nuclear disarmament and Nuclear Freeze movement
While work in the areas of international development and relations continued, the AFSC began to work more actively with marginalized groups in U.S. society developing programs designed to raise the voices of women and peoples of color.
• Lobbying and production of resources against the death penalty, solitary confinement, and inhumane treatment in U.S. prisons
• Anti-apartheid activism and divestment from South Africa
• Research and exposure into the role of the Military Industrial Complex in U.S. society.
• Investigation into US government surveillance programs and violation of personal privacy.
• Mexico/U.S. Border work and lobbying for reform of U.S. immigration policy
• Support to Native American rights, issues and communities.
The Brochure of the AFSC Archives offers a look into the historical documents of the organization.
Archives Sampler -
View a sample of the material cataloged in the AFSC Archives.