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ARCHIVE HIGHLIGHTS: Antinuclear Campaigns

AFSC responded immediately to the first use of nuclear weapons, due to our horror at the atrocities and our deep connection to the Japanese people. Within days of Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s decimation, we helped form the National Service Board for Religious Objectors (NSBRO) with eight partners. Internal Service Committee correspondence indicates some initial tension between putting resources behind anti-conscription work versus spending on antinuclear action.  Also, the earliest language in our extensive documentation calls for outlawing the use of nuclear technology “except for peaceful purposes.” This distinction did not last.

By 1977, all internal and external communications emphasize our understanding that “nuclear power and nuclear weapons development are inextricably linked,” thereby impacting alternative energy policies and our ongoing commitment to work for social justice.

Communications in the Archives from this era display a new voice of “active citizen nonviolent resistance” using guerilla tactics, “literally putting our bodies between the arms and their destinations.” Our traditional silent vigils continued (as shown at the end of the film “The Time Has Come”). However, instructions in “Why the People’s Brigade?” detail an elaborate degree of planning, training, public relations and legal assistance for those determined to act as David versus Goliath, using canoes and small craft to stop 93-ton battleships from reaching their destinations. 

Major demonstrations and resistance against the Diablo Canyon and Rocky Flats nuclear facilities engendered unique coalitions of peace, environmental and public health groups in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Archives houses extensive documentation of this movement, including meeting notes and memos, brochures, and even creative publicity such as tags from the Rocky Flats Balloon Project.

By the 1990s with the Cold War seemingly past, several nations had, or were developing nuclear arms, putting nonproliferation at the forefront of our actions. Yet even our 1982 film “The Time Has Come” shows an international outpouring of multifaith and secular demand for an end to the nuclear age.

Nonviolent Resistance to Nukes