Swarthmore College Peace Collection

Continental Walk for Disarmament and Social Justice Records,

Collection: DG 135

Contact Information
Swarthmore College Peace Collection
500 College Avenue
Swarthmore, PA 19081-1399
Telephone: (610) 328-8557 (Curator)
Fax: (610) 328-8544
Email: wchmiel1@swarthmore.edu (Curator)
URL: http://www.swarthmore.edu/Library/peace/

Descriptive Summary
Swarthmore College Peace Collection
Continental Walk for Disarmament and Social Justice
Continental Walk for Disarmament and Social Justice Collected Records
Inclusive Dates
Call Number
DG 135

Language of Materials
Materials in English
4.55 linear feet [papers only]
The Continental Walk for Disarmament and Social Justice was initated by the War Resisters League in 1974 with additional sponsorship of other peace organizations, including the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the American Friends Service Committee, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Catholic Peace Fellowship, Clergy and Laity Concerned, SANE/A Citizen's Organization for a Sane World, and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom; its purposes were "a call for disarmament, a simultaneous shift of economic priorities away from militarism and toward meeting domestic and global human needs, and removal of the causes of war"; the Walk began in Ukiah, California on January 23, 1976; including "feeder" walks, the marchers covered 8000 miles through 34 states; the Walk ended on October 18, 1976 at the Pentagon in Washington D.C., where 53 marchers were arrested for failure to disperse. A book was published in 1977 titled The Continental Walk for Disarmament and Social Justice

Administrative Information
Restrictions to Access
Usage Restrictions
Alternate Form of Material
Acquisitions Information
Received 1979, 1986
Processing Information
Processed by Martha Shane, 1983; updated by Wendy E. Chmielewski, June 2006; updated by Eleanor A. Fulvio, July 2009
These records were processed under NEH Grant No. 20111-81-1655
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Continental Walk for Disarmament and Social Justice Records (DG 135), Swarthmore College Peace Collection
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendents, as stipulated by United States copyright law

Online Catalog Headings
These and related materials may be found under the following headings in online library/archival catalogs.
See tripod record

Historical Background
Following the Vietnam conflict, at its 1974 conference, the War Resisters Leauge established a task force to create a major project on disarmament and militarism.  Joined by other organizations, the task force developed the idea of a Continental Walk which would leave San Franciso in January 1976 and reach Washington, D.C., in October 1976.  Sponsoring organizations of the Walk, in addition to WRL, included the Fellowship of Reconciliation, American Friends Service Committee, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Catholic Peace Fellowship, Clergy and Laity Concerned, SANE, and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.

Walk headquarters were established at 339 Lafayette Street in New York at the WRL offices.  The Steering committee (or Coordinating Committee) was composed of representatives from sponsoring organizations and Walk staff people including Ed Hedemann, Larry Erickson, and Vickie Leonard.  Acting as coordinators, the Walk staff contacted regional peace organizations or individuals who made local arrangements for the walkers or organized their own feeder walks and fund-raising support events.   In August 1975, before the Walk began, a call was sent out to well-known peace leaders throughout the country, asking for their support and endorsement of the Walk.  The prupose of the Walk, as described in the call, was "to raise the issue of disarmament through unilateral action . . . to educate about non-violent resistance as a means superior to armament . . . and to demonstrate how global and domestic and economic problems are inerconnected with militarism and the causes of war . . . ." Among those who signed the call were Daniel and Philip Berrigan, Dave Dellinger, Benjamin Spock, Joan Baez, David McReynolds, and Dorothy Day.

The first walkers left Ukiah, California, on January 23, 1976.  They joined with others in San Francisco, and 800 strong, left on January 31 to begin the main cross-country route.  The large number proved problematic, and a week's halt was called in Indio, California, while Joanne Sheehan and David McReynolds of the Walk Coordination Committee evaluated the situation. This resulted in a more careful screening of walkers and establishing clearer lines of authority.  As the walkers progressed across the country, they were joined by others from feeder routes.  Japanese peace groups sent 16 monks and nuns, some of whom accompanied the Americans from coast to coast.  Walkers were sometimes arrested, often on charges of "walking in the roadway" or "failure to obey lawful commands of police officials".

Including feeder walks, the Walk covered a total of 8000 miles and passed through 34 states.  Press coverage was sporadic, but the Walk issued its own newspaper, The Continental Walk News and received excellent coverage in the publications of sponsoring peace organizations, such as WIN Magazine.  On October 18, the final days of the Walk, 700 made their way to the Pentagon where 53 where arrested for failing to disperse.  A contingent went on to the White House where they met with Presidnet Gerald Ford's national security advisor.  The President refused to meet with the walkers, and in a speech the next day, denounced those who urged cutting military expenditures.

David McReynolds wrote in the book The Continental Walk for Disarmament and Social Justice (Edited by Vicki Leonard and Tom MacLean, 1977):  "We never believed that by walking from Ukiah to Washington we could end the arms race.  We did believed that by the process of walking we would learn something of the patience we need . . . . The Walk was the beginning of confronting the issue of the arms race - and of the massive social injustice in our world." (p. 7)

Collection Overview
The records of the Continental Walk for Disarmament and Social Justice, hereafter called the Walk, were part of the War Resisters League records, accessioned by the Swarthmore College Peace Collection in 1979.  Included in the Walk records are minutes (May 1975-October 1976) of the Steering committee (later called the Coordinating Committee) and correspondence (1975-1978).  There are leaflets and publicity issued by the Walk both From its main office in Hew York and by regional peace groups supporting the Walk.  Questionnaires completed by walkers as well as their letters and narrative accounts provide description of the Walk.  Its periodical The Continental Walk News (October 1975-October 1976) and a regional file of newspaper clippings are part of the Walk records.  The folders in the Series III organizing file are titled by region and contain minutes, memos, reports, correspondence, publicity, and newsletters from that region.  There are also several sound reels. Correspondents include Larry Ericson, Larry Gara, ED Hedemann, Steve Ladd, Vickie Leonard, Brad Lyttle, David McReynolds, India Owen, and Joanne Sheehan.

Items removed:
sound reels

Arrangement of Collection
The records of the Continental Walk for Disarmament and Social Justice were found together within the War Resisters League's records, Accession 79A-8.  The decision to make the Walk a separate document group of SCPC, (DG 135), was made in May 1983.  Little rearrangement was necessary.  Folder contents are those of the Walk staff, except for some loose material that was either added to an appropriate folder or placed together in a separate folder.  The Continental Walk News, this group's periodical, was left with its records.  Sound reels were removed for storage with SCPC audio-visual materials.

Detailed Description of the Collection


Box 1 [stored off-site]
Minutes of Steering (Coordinating) Committee 1975 (May) - 1976 (October)/ Memos
Miscellaneous Finance



Walk Organizers Manual
Leaflet Drafts/Designs/Logos
Lists of Partipants
Routes and Timetables

Box 2 [stored off-site]
Organizing Files (by region)

Box 3 [stored off-site]
Coordination and Speakers - Washington, D.C.
March 1976 Evaluation by Joanne Sheehan and David McReynolds

SERIES IV: CORRESPONDENCE 1975 (February) - 1978 (July)

1975 (February - November)

Box 4 [stored off-site]
1975 (December) - 1976 (March)

Box 5 [stored off-site]
1976 (April) -1978 (July )

Box 6 [stored off-site]
Correspondence - Buddhist Monks"Internal Org." Correspondence 1975 (September) - 1976 (October)


Long-distance Walkers' Accounts
Descrpitive Letters from India Owen
Other Accounts of Walk

Box 6a [stored off-site]
Questionnaires for Long Distance Walkers

Box 7 [stored off-site]
Continental Walk Questionnaire


Released by Walk
Support-request Letters
Background Papers

Box 8 [stored off-site]
Local Releases (by region)
Released by other Organizations
Articles about Walk


Box 9 [stored off-site]
(Periodical Removed to SCPC Retired Periodicals)


SERIES IX: SOUND REELS (Stored  in SCPC Audio-Visual Collection)

Peace Songs
Book: The Continental Walk for Disarmament and Social Justice,   Edited by Vickie Leonard and Tom MacLean.  1977.  (With pictures)   SCPC:  HM278 .C66
Scrapbook (Acc. 86A-43) donated by Ed Hedemann (filed with SCPC Scrapbooks). The scrapbook contains mostly autograph comments by marchers as well as some photographs and memorabilia. (1976)  

This page was last updated on August 28, 2009.