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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, the collection has been utilized by thousands of researchers in developing articles, books, documentaries, exhibits, and dissertations.

More than just a collection of records pertaining to one organization’s history, the AFSC Archives provide a unique and singular view of the social, political, and economic movements that shaped the 20th century and are still relevant today.

Browse highlights from our Archives online.

 

 

1917 - 1930s

Feeding program for children in Germany during World War I. 

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, socioeconomic equality, and peace education.

Highlights include: 

  • 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 World War I 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

Efforts to assist people displaced in Spain during World War II.

With the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, AFSC provided food and clothing to civilians on both sides of the conflict. During World War II, 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. 

Highlights include:

  • Documents detailing assistance to refugees before, during and after World War I, including; Spain, France, Portugal, Finland, Hungary, Germany, China, Palestine, and North Africa
  • Support to Japanese Americans interned during World War II 
  • 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

A workcamp in Germany in the 1950s.

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.

Highlights include:

  • 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 diplomacy
  • Records of the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO)

 

1950s - 1970s

1969 vigil in front of the White House, calling for an end to the war in Vietnam

AFSC was a ubiquitous ally throughout the Civil Rights Movement. From the organization’s relationship with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to programs in the areas of integrated housing communities, employment on merit, training in nonviolent protest, voter education, and school desegregation and integration, AFSC provided leadership and support.

Highlights include:

  • 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 Vietnam
  • Nuclear disarmament and Nuclear Freeze movement

 

1970s - 2000s

Third World Coalition members demonstrate for liberation and an end to apartheid in South Africa.

While work in the areas of international development and relations continued, AFSC began to work more actively with groups that had been marginalized in U.S. society, developing programs designed to raise the voices of women and people of color.

Highlights include:

  • 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 U.S. government surveillance programs and violation of personal privacy
  •  U.S.-Mexico border work and lobbying for reform of U.S. immigration policy
  •  Support for Native American rights, issues, and communities.

News and updates

Video

Archives: Friends Relief Mission in Russia

Silent, black and white footage of horse- and camel-drawn sleighs delivering food in snowy Russia during  the third year of a famine there, brought on by war, drought and outmoded farming practices