Persistent Peacemakers: SPC at 75 of the Syracuse Peace Council


“In 1935, at a time when pacifists were becoming increasingly concerned about the drift towards war, a group had begun meeting at The Tea Kettle, a basement coffee shop on East Genesee Street in downtown Syracuse. There they would gather at a round table in the corner and talk about war, and peace.”

Against the Odds: The Story of the Syracuse Peace Council, Ruth Geller, 1986 (unpublished)

The story of the Syracuse Peace Council—the oldest local peace organization in the US—is a story of movements, of people, of the Syracuse community. It is a story of peace and war, and of global solidarity at the grassroots.

Located in Central NY, we have been uniquely positioned to learn from the Haudenosaunee and the early movements of the abolitionists and the suffragists. Over the years, SPC activists have also travelled to Colombia, Cuba, El Salvador, Haiti, Hiroshima, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Mexico, Palestine, South Africa, Venezuela and elsewhere, listening to people’s stories of struggle, joy and resistance. In remembering and telling our story, we participate in and contribute to this global conversation on social justice and social change.

What we have assembled here is in no way a summary or representative sample of SPC’s history. We offer snapshots, highlighting the breadth and depth of our work. But so much is missing.

What struck us most deeply, is the incredible passion and commitment of so many people who worked through the Peace Council. SPC has truly served as a gathering place to amplify the voices and actions of individuals into movements.

We urge readers to peruse the previous three historic PNL’s at, which have a more detailed history. Contact SPC to host a viewing and discussion of the SPC documentary in your neighborhood or classroom.

In this time of upheaval and global uncertainties, let us gather to celebrate and learn from the resiliency of our Syracuse Peace Council.
– Jessica Maxwell



Staffing booths at the State Fair was a major
outreach effort in the early years. Photo: SPC

SOME OF THE PEOPLE: Emily Eaton, Horace Eaton, Florence Fowler, Luther Wesley Smith, Mildred Whitney, Morton Adkins, Norman Whitney...

ISSUES IN THE PNL:  nonviolence, WWII prevention, conscientious objection, Peace Bonds

TACTICS:  conferences, weekly radio program, speakers, pamphlets

WERE YOU THERE?:  Early activists diligently staff tables at the New York State Fair.

1935: The National Campaign for the Prevention of War begins its Peace Bond Campaign—Syracuse and SPC will go on to sell the second largest number of bonds of any city in the country
1936: SPC weekly radio show begins
1937: SPC sets up an office in the Hills building in downtown Syracuse

QUOTABLE:  “Remember, there is no hope for world peace other than on the basis of peace education and organization that is done in local communities.” Norman Whitney

SOME OF THE PEOPLE:  Adelaide Webster, M. Leslie West, Jean Whitney...

ISSUES IN THE PNL:  WWII, refugee support, conscientious objection, civil liberties, hunger, poverty, atomic bomb

TACTICS:  material aid, speakers, statewide organizing, conferences, lobbying Congress, forums, pamphlets

WERE YOU THERE?:  SPC organizes yearly “Institutes” in conjuction with the American Friends Service Committee and the NYS Peace Council from 1940-1968 that are attended by activists from around the state and beyond.

1946: Swarthmore College requests a complete file of Peace Newsletters for their historical library. To this day, Swarthmore maintains a peace collection in their library.

QUOTABLE:  “America is scanning the headlines; listening to the broadcasts; laying odds on when ‘it will be over’... demobilization is a campaign issue. But it is tragically significant that no one is talking about peace.” September 1944 PNL
The Syracuse Peace Council is, “One of the outstanding world relief agencies.” The Syracuse Post-Standard, 1947
Jean Young of the Friends Meeting, Emil S. Evertz, of the German-American Relief Society, and Ray Fuller of the Peace Council, prepare clothing for shipment to Germany in 1947.
Photo: Post-Standard


Some members of the Peace Council Executive Committee at the 20th SPC birthday dinner in 1956. Photo: SPC Archives

SOME OF THE PEOPLE:  Lena Gray, Alan Peabody, Adelaide Webster, M. Leslie West, Norman Whitney...

ISSUES IN THE PNL:  Nuclear Disarmament, Korea, S. Africa, US-USSR relations, Famine, Poverty, the UN

TACTICS:  education, speakers, statements, regional and state-wide organizing

WERE YOU THERE?: SPC’s 20th birthday dinner features greetings from around the world, including a Japanese journalist: “My experiences with your Peace Council have been a great help in explaining America is not necessarily a war mongering country before Japanese people.”

1951: July PNL announces that the PNL will now serve the NYS Peace Council as well as the Syracuse Peace Council
1959: PNL annual subscription price increases from $.50 to $1

QUOTABLE:  “For 20 years the SPC has set an example of leadership at the community level...It has not only succeeded in making the peace-minded citizens of Syracuse articulate, but by example and active guidance has helped other communities throughout the undertake similar programs.” M. Lesley West (an SPC founder)

SOME OF THE PEOPLE: Norman Balabanian, Sam Feld, Bill Griffen, Angus MacDonald, Raj Nanavati...

ISSUES IN THE PNL: Viet Nam, Prison Solidarity, Draft Resistance, Nuclear Power/People’s Energy, Labor Rights, Native American Sovereignty,

TACTICS:  neighborhood groups, bus trips, street outreach/canvassing, direct action, large demonstrations, press conferences, film showings, peace mobile

WERE YOU THERE?:  In 1970 over 4,000 people gather in downtown Syracuse to protest the Viet Nam war—the largest local antiwar demonstration to date.

1970: 2500 people picket in downtown Syracuse to obstruct the Syracuse Induction Center in opposition to the draft

QUOTABLE:“Although the Peace Council is primarily devoted to the cause of peace, it realizes peace cannot be achieved while a significant minority of our citizens must endure racial oppression.” SPC Statement on Race Relations in Syracuse

 SPC was heavily involved in organizing against the construction of nuclear reactors in the 1970s and early 1980s. Photo: SPC Archives

SOME OF THE PEOPLE:  John Brule, Sally Brule, Dik Cool, Pat Durgin, David Easter, Barb Kobritz, Lois Levitan, Glenda Neff, Jean Whitney...

ISSUES IN THE PNL: Viet Nam, Prison Solidarity, Draft Resistance, Nuclear Power, Native American Sovereignty, 3rd World Liberation Movements

TACTICS: neighborhood groups, bus trips, street outreach/canvassing, direct action, large demonstrations, press conferences, weekly film showings

WERE YOU THERE?: Peace Council activists greet Henry Kissinger at SU in 1977 with a “War Criminal” banner.

1971: 1st Plowshares Craftsfair is  held at Plymouth Church and raises $376
1972: IRS revokes SPC’s tax exempt status; SPC moves to Burnet Ave.; SPC activists distribute over 100,000 leaflets door to door in Onondaga County

QUOTABLE:“I’d go on my hands and knees if it would stop this stupid war!” 70 year-old Lillian Reiner responds to reporter who asked if she’d risk arrest in DC again after being inside the jail


When Alexander Haig spoke at SUís 1981 commencement, activists organized a dramatic re-enactment of the four nuns killed by US-trained Salvadoran military. The photo appeared around the world. Photo: SPC Archives

SOME OF THE PEOPLE:  Carol Baum, Karen Beetle, Brent Bleier, Kath Buffington, Ed Griffin-Nolan, Pat Hoffman, Karen Kerney, Corinne Kinane, Andy Mager, Liam Mahoney, Marge Rusk, William Sunderlin, Diane Swords, Gary Weinstein, Rich Zalewski...

ISSUES IN THE PNL:  Nuclear Weapons, Energy, Draft Resistance, Gender, Cooperative Economics, Alternative Media, Contra War, El Salvador, South Africa

TACTICS: street theater (ladies against women), puppets, delegations, direct action, building alternative institutions

WERE YOU THERE?: In 1983, over 12,000 women come to the Seneca Women’s Encampment for Future of Peace and Justice. SPC provides support. 

1982: SPC activists form the Syracuse Cultural Workers

QUOTABLE:  “As important as any ‘vision of peace’ we hold, we need a vision of organization, a vision of development and a vision of power.” Gary Weinstein

SOME OF THE PEOPLE: Kathy Barry, Brian Caufield, Brian Dominick, Karen Hall, Duane Hardy, Howie Hawkins, Tim Judson, Elana Levy, Bill Mazza, Andy Molloy, Beth Mosley, Paul Pearce, Jolie Christine Rickman, Val Singer...

ISSUES IN THE PNL:  Nuclear Power, Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Iraq (End the Sanctions), Gulf War, Somalia, Cooperative Economics, Death Penalty, School of the Americas Watch, Animal Rights

TACTICS:  street theater, demonstrations, education, lobbying Congress, info tables, speakers, film showings

WERE YOU THERE?: On September 25, 1993, SPC activists join in coalition with others to organize a massive counter presence to a neo-nazi gathering in nearby Auburn.

The New Leaf (newsletter of the Syracuse Real Food Cooperative) is sometimes published inside the PNL (see October 1993 issue for an example); Howie Hawkins writes a regular PNL column on cooperative economics

QUOTABLE:“It isn’t radical to resettle a refugee; What’s radical is to listen to a refugee.” Pinyoun, local activist writing for the PNL on refugee issues

Many local youth were involved in marches and demonstrations against the US-led NATO bombing of Serbia. Photo: SPC Archives

SPC organized a regional demonstration with Iraq Veterans Against the War in 2007óthe largest since Viet Nam. Photo: Chris Sauter

SOME OF THE PEOPLE: Jessica Azulay, Magda Bayoumi, Ed Kinane, Rae Kramer, Jessica Maxwell, Kimberley McCoy, Carole Resnick, Ursula Rozum, Ann Tiffany, Richard Vallejo, Rose Viviano, Aly Wane...

ISSUES IN THE PNL: Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Colombia, Onondaga Land Rights, Hydrofracking, Civil Liberties, Globalization, Reaper Drones

TACTICS: national marches, street corner Peace Outreach, raging grannies and radical cheerleaders, civil disobedience, info tables, marches, education

WERE YOU THERE?:  In 2002 four marches converge in downtown Syracuse for a 1,000-person rally against war on Iraq. SPC sends six buses to the Feb. 2003 NYC peace rally—the biggest day of global demonstrations ever.

2008: SPC moves to E. Genesee St.
2010: over 75 people donate their time for our 40th Plowshares Craftsfair, which raises $25,000

QUOTABLE:  “Considering alternatives to capitalism is the second most dangerous undertaking in the world. The most dangerous is to do nothing.” Angus MacDonald

Compiled by Joe Marusa, Jessica Maxwell, Donna Mühs-McCarten, Amelia Ramsey-Lefevre, and Sara Watrous.