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Peace Action Timeline

Browse the decades below for a glimpse into the events and accomplishments that Peace Action has been a part of over the last 50 years, from the time of our founding as the Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy to SANE's merger with the Nuclear Freeze campaign to the transformation from SANE/FREEZE to today's Peace Action network.








The 1950s


The Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy is founded and launches its first advertisement calling for a ban on nuclear testing in the New York.


The Soviet Union announces a unilateral halt to atmospheric nuclear tests and the US responds with a one year testing moratorium. The National Student Council for a SANE Nuclear Policy is organized.


Steve Allen hosts the founding meeting of Hollywood SANE. Members included Marlon Brando, Henry Fonda, Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Miller, Harry Belafonte and Ossie Davis.

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The 1960s


SANE Rally in Madison Square Garden, New York City, attracts 20,000 to hear Eleanor Roosevelt, Norman Cousins, Norman Thomas, A. Philip Randolph, Walter Reuther, Harry Belafonte call for an end to the arms race.


SANE hosts an eight day, 109-mile march from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey to United Nations Plaza. It is the largest of SANE’s April Peace Mobilizations, which are attended by more than 25,000 people. International sponsors of SANE (including Martin Buber, Pablo Casals, Bertrand Russell and Albert Schweitzer) petition President Kennedy to maintain a moratorium on testing in the atmosphere.


Pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock is recruited as a national sponsor; a “Dr. Spock is worried” ad appears in the New York Times, and is reprinted in 700 papers worldwide. Graphic Artists for SANE is organized, including Jules Feiffer, Ben Shahn, and Edward Sorel. SANE organizes a rally of over 10,000 on “Cuba Sunday” to express concern and outrage over the Cuban Missile Crisis. SANE works for the first time to elect congressional candidates “who come close to (SANE’s) reasoned position.”


Dentists for SANE launch ad campaign — “Your children’s teeth contain Strontium 90.” SANE’s Norman Cousins acts as an unofficial liaison between President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Khrushchev on test ban negotiations. The Limited Test Ban Treaty is signed in Moscow on July 25; President Kennedy sends personal thanks to Mr. Cousins and SANE.


President-elect Lyndon Johnson sends a personal greeting to SANE’s Seventh Annual Conference, delivered by the Deputy Director of the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.


The Vietnam War escalates: an early critic of armed intervention, SANE organizes an Emergency Rally on Vietnam which attracts 18,000 to Madison Square Garden, while a march on Washington in November draws 35,000. Vice-president Hubert Humphrey meets with SANE leaders Dr. Spock, Sanford Gottlieb and Homer Jack three days after march “to openly, responsibly, and frankly discuss their proposals” to end the war. Senator George McGovern receives SANE’s Eleanor Rooveselt Peace Award from Co- Chairman Dr. Benjamin Spock.


Rev. William Sloane Coffin and Norman Thomas co-chair SANE’s “Voter’s Peace Pledge Campaign” to urge Congressional candidates to work for peace in Vietnam.


Dr. Spock helps organize the Spring Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam. SANE becomes the first national organization to advocate removal of President Johnson from office, helping launch the “Dump Johnson” movement.


SANE endorses Senator Eugene McCarthy for President. President Johnson announces he “would not seek, nor accept the nomination of (his) party for another term.”


SANE produces ads attacking anti-ballistic missiles (ABM): “From the people who brought you Vietnam.” SANE national conference on ABMs in Washington features Nobel Prize winner George Wald, Yale psychiatrist Dr. Robert J. Lifton, and Rep. George Brown (D-CA). The SANE Board changes its policy on the war, and urges the US government to withdraw unilaterally from Vietnam. SANE helps to coordinate a November march on D.C.

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The 1970s


SANE helps to organize an April war protest attended by an estimated more than 200,000 people.


SANE criticizes the ABM Treaty and SALT agreements for ignoring offensive strategic weapons. Following Richard Nixon’s reelection, SANE advocates Congressional cut-off of funds for the Vietnam War.


U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War ends on April 30. SANE lobbies to have Congress end the bombing in Cambodia, and leads a successful effort to pass
the War Powers Act. SANE takes on the military budget, and produces the “America Has a Tapeworm” ad.


SANE alerts the public to the dangers of “limited” nuclear war plans and the connections between military spending and inflation.


SANE’s conference on “The Arms Race and the Economic Crisis” features Seymour Melman, Senator Dick Clark (IA), and George Rathjens. SANE’s Sanford Gottlieb testifies before the Democratic Platform Committee and wins insertion of an economic conversion plank in the party platform.


SANE works with the National Campaign to Stop the B-1 Bomber, helping achieve a 10 vote margin to suspend production and deployment of the weapon; also winning an amendment barring funds for the Neutron bomb. SANE produces “The Race Nobody Wins,” a documentary narrated by Tony Randall.


The Three Mile Island nuclear reactor suffers a partial meltdown.


SANE builds a labor/peace alliance on reduced military spending and economic conversion with Machinists Union President William Winpinsinger. SANE lays the groundwork for a national STOP-MX Missile Campaign. SANE members demonstrate their support of President Jimmy Carter’s announced goal of reducing nuclear weapons programs.

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The 1980s


The first of dozens of nuclear freeze resolutions are approved in Western Massachusetts. A referenda against MX missiles is approved in Nevada.


President Reagan unveils plans for a record $200 billion military budget along with unprecedented cutbacks in social programs. SANE sponsors a major conference opposing the spread of Pershing II cruise missiles in Europe. The Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign is founded in Washington, D.C. SANE wins the cancellation of plans for MX missiles in Utah and Nevada.


The Kennedy-Hatfield freeze resolution is introduced in the US Senate. One million gather in New York City on June 12 - the largest peace and disarmament march in US history. A sister rally draws 100,000 to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. The SANE Political Action Committee is formed; 16 of 32 SANE supported candidates win. More than 10 million voters approve nuclear freeze referenda in 8 states.


The Nuclear Freeze resolution passes the US House of Representatives. SANE, working to link peace and civil rights, participates in the 20th Anniversary Mobilization commemorating the historic civil rights march on Washington DC. Hollywood for SANE is revitalized, and publishes an ad in Variety magazine signed by over 250 celebrities including Jack Lemmon, Burt Lancaster, James Earl Jones, Sally Field, Jean Stapleton, Shirley MacLaine, Anne Bancroft and Ed Asner.


SANE’s door-to-door canvass reaches over 250,000 households and recruits 10,000 new activists by early 1984; overall membership tops 100,000. President Reagan announces that Washington is ready for “mutual compromises” with the Soviets to resume arms control negotiations. SANE’s weekly radio program, “Consider the Alternatives,” is on 140 stations. Despite a Reagan landslide, 106 of the 167 House and Senate candidates endorsed by SANE PAC go on to win. The MX missile program is halted.


SANE and Freeze activists intensify participation in nonviolent direct action protests at the Nevada nuclear test site.


SANE/FREEZE opens its International Office in New York City. The US House of Representatives votes to limit nuclear testing, reduce funding for Star Wars and other weapons programs. Jesse Jackson, a member of SANE’s Board of Directors leads a delegation to the 1st Reagan/Gorbachev summit in Geneva, meeting with Gorbachev and presenting the US and Soviet delegations with over 1 million signatures in support of a nuclear test ban treaty.


The Reagan/Gorbachev summit marks the signing of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. SANE/FREEZE holds its founding National Congress in Cleveland OH; Jesse Jackson’s speech draws more than 1,000. SANE/FREEZE joins the International Peace Bureau, a Nobel Peace Prize winning coalition for disarmament organizations. The Reverend William Sloane Coffin Jr. is chosen as President of SANE/FREEZE.


Massive radioactive contamination causes Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons sites to close; SANE/FREEZE launches the “Keep Them Shut!” campaign.

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The 1990s


SANE/FREEZE helps lead an historic public resistance to US military buildup in the Persian Gulf.


SANE/FREEZE coordinates anti-Gulf War marches in Washington, DC, helping to mobilize 500,000 protesters. SANE/FREEZE launches campaign to end weapons sale to dictators with an International Conference on the Weapons Trade in New York, attended by representatives of over 100 countries, co-hosted by the Riverside Church Disarmament Program.


SANE/FREEZE becomes Peace Action.


Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) and Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-OR) introduce Peace Action-crafted legislation - the Arms Trade Code of Conduct - to restrict US weapons sales to dictators and human rights abusers.


Peace Action presses for completion of a nuclear test ban at the 25th anniversary review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and leads a national dialogue about the 50th Anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.


Peace Action wages Peace Voter ’96, the organization’s largest nationally coordinated campaign since the mid-eighties; over one million Peace Voter Guides are distributed. President Clinton signs the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Peace Action joins human rights groups to stop major weapons sales to Indonesia and Turkey.


The US Senate ratifies the Chemical Weapons Convention. Indonesia withdraws its request for US fighter jets due to “unwarranted criticism” of its human rights record. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (of which Peace Action is a member) wins the Nobel Peace Prize. Peace Action celebrates its 40th Anniversary with gala events in Boston, New York and Washington DC; honorees and speakers include Rep. Donald V. Dellums, Sen. Tom Harkin, Judy Collins, Peter Yarrow, Randall Forsberg, Jane Alexander, William Sloane Coffin and Rep. Cynthia McKinney


Peace Action expands its fledgling Student Peace Action Network to over 100 campuses across the nation. Peace Voter ’98 reaches 4 million voters.


Peace Action organizes against “cruise missile humanitarianism” by opposing the NATO bombing of Kosovo and helps to found the National Coalition for Peace and Justice, a body uniting most of the major peace groups in the country. Also in 1999, Peace Action remembers the bombing of Nagasaki by staging the largest demonstration in the history of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. The demonstration was led by actor Martin Sheen, who was arrested along with dozens of others in a non-violent civil disobedience action.

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The 2000s


Peace Voter 2000 mobilizes voters in 39 House and 10 Senate races to bring peace issues to the elections. Television ads are run in 17 major media markets in 12 states and over 2 million voter guides are distributed throughout the country.


The devastating attacks of September 11, 2001 shake the country. Peace Action responds to the war on terrorism and the bombing of Afghanistan with a call for Justice not War.


Peace Action plays an important role in the movement against war on Iraq.


Iraq War begins in March and Peace Action continues to mobilize national opposition in addition to launching the Campaign for a New Foreign Policy, a major initiative to build grassroots support and congressional pressure for a US foreign policy based on human rights and democracy, nuclear disarmament and international cooperation.


Peace Action initiates the “Voice of Democracy Tour” to utilize the influence of nationally known speakers and performers to encourage citizens to think critically, debate openly, and act decisively to protect our civil liberties and shape a foreign policy that isn’t foreign to our ideals.


Peace Action marks the 60th year anniversary of U.S. atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in addition to mobilizing support for September 24th Mass Mobilizations to End the War in Iraq. The mass mobilization was followed by 3 days of citizen lobbying events involving over 1000 activists visiting their Members of Congress, with Peace Action playing a major role in a day-long training and mobilizing citizen lobbyists.


Peace Voter 2006 plays a key role in helping mobilize the pro-peace vote in the mid-term elections, which delivers a stunning rebuke to Bush and his disastrous war and occupation of Iraq. Peace Action and its affiliate network distributes over a million non-partisan voter guides comparing and contrasting candidates’ positions on peace issues.


Peace Action organized and participated in United for Peace and Justice mass mobilization in Washington DC on January 27 bringing in busloads of members from around the country.  The mobilization was followed by a grassroots lobby day on January 29.  Nationally, PA mobilized effective pressure to defeat the Administration's proposed “Reliable Replacement Warhead" eliminating funds for this dangerous, more "usable" nuclear weapons program. Finally, Peace Action mobilized its grassroots and online activist networks in a campaign to educate Congress, the media and the general public on the threat of a military strike against Iran.


Peace Action mobilized its grassroots network to generate thousands of comments opposing Complex Transformation to the DOE during the formal comment period. In just the first few weeks, our comment campaign produced over 11,000 of the 30,000 comments sent to the Department of Energy opposing Complex Transformation. This flood of comments was followed by Peace Action supporters attending DOE hearings, and also organizing their own “citizens’ hearings”, providing direct testimony opposing Complex Transformation. Throughout the spring and summer our supporters directly engaged policymakers with their opposition to the Bush plan. Peace Action’s Peace Voter Campaign registered voters and supported progressive candidates in several key electoral races.


Peace Action had the honor of co-chairing the United Nations Department of Information Non-Governmental Organizations conference in Mexico City. Over 1,600 international NGO’s accredited by the United Nations attended the conference, which, at the behest of the Mexican government, focused on peace and disarmament. Chuck Hitchcock, a member of Peace Action’s International Committee was chosen the Conference Co-Chair.  Peace Action created and successfully moved legislation for no permanent bases in Iraq and other policy and pressure tactics that turned U.S. policy around regarding Iraq, including the Status of Forces (SOFA) Agreement.  This agreement calls for U.S. troop reduction from about 96,000 to 50,000 by August 2010 and all troops exiting with no bases left behind by the end of 2011.

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The 2010s


Peace Action played a lead role in the organizing for international grassroots action around the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference at the United Nations in May, 2010.  Peace Action served as the repository for petitions gathered in the US as part of the international effort.  During the NPT conference at the UN, Peace Action Executive Director Kevin Martin was invited to make a short speech on the floor of the United Nations General Assembly while delivering a portion of the 6 million petition signatures collected, including those collected by Peace Action’s chapters and affiliates.  Peace Action worked to secure ratification of the new START nuclear arms reduction pact to reduce U.S. and Russian deployed, strategic nuclear weapons by 30%.  Peace Action coordinated visits between its chapter and affiliate leaders and ‘swing’ Senators and their staff, as well as email alerts to hundreds of thousands of supporters, letters to the editor and other media work.  The New START Treaty was ratified in December, 2010.


On March 24, 2011, one million of the petition signatures went on exhibition at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in a ceremony attended by Japanese survivors, Peace Action staff and other representatives from national and international peace organizations.

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