The majority of this piece was written for the San Jose Peace & Justice Center’s 50th Anniversary in 2007. The last few paragraphs were added to update the piece to represent 10 years later in our 60th Anniversary.
The Peace Center was founded in 1957 by individuals profoundly concerned about peace and justice issues, especially the growth of nuclear arsenals and atmospheric nuclear testing. The Peace Times newsletter began publication in the 1950s and has been published consistently since then.
With the signing of the Limited Test Ban Treaty in 1963 and the expansion of the war in Southeast Asia, the Peace Center spearheaded local efforts to end the war in Vietnam. With seminars, flyers, TV appearances, and op-ed pieces in the newspaper, ads in newspapers, vigils in downtown San Jose and protests at recruitment centers, Peace Center volunteers mobilized public opinion against the war.
A major component of the anti-war work in that era was draft counseling, which was offered at local schools and colleges and at the Peace Center on a regular basis every week. The San Jose Peace Center was also instrumental in assisting peace center start-ups in other communities, such as Berkeley, Modesto, and Santa Cruz.
Before and after the Vietnam war, the Peace Center made nuclear disarmament and the training in nonviolence its primary concerns, with many Peace Center members taking part in protests at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab and at the Nevada nuclear test site. Activists were also involved in the Civil Rights Movement, support work for Native American struggles and support for the Farmworkers Movement. Anti-militarism and environmental concerns converged in the struggle against rocket maker United Technologies, a producer of ozone-depleting rocket motors which was burning waste solid rocket fuels in burn pits. Protesters had he goal of converting the facility to nontoxic, non-military production and succeeded in shutting down several of the burn pits. International issues such as apartheid in South Africa and the U.S. wars in Central America were also a focus.
Meeting first in a living room, next in a basement, then a second-story room, for several years in a rented office at 235 North First St.and then in an office at Grace Baptist Church, the Peace Center was finally able to buy the house at 48 S. 7th St. in 1985 On August 5, 1990, The Peace Poles, donated by the City of San Jose, were installed in front of the Collins House to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and the Peace Center’s dedication to ending war. The house on 7th St. is named after peace activists George “Shorty” Collins and his wife Evelyn, who were among the founding members of the Peace Center.
In 2007, the Center served as an umbrella group and a meeting space for a number of peace and justice groups, and putting an emphasis on ending the war in Iraq and preventing an attack on Iran, the Peace Center continued its efforts to educate and engage the South Bay community around critical issues of peace and justice.
Throughout its 50-year history, the Peace Center has been a consistent voice for alternatives to the ever-increasing violence and militarism in this country and the world. We look forward to continuing that work as long as it is necessary. Please join us in this vital effort.
On our 60th Anniversary, we continue to serve as a resource for progressive activism in the South Bay.We seek to contribute toward building a just and sustainable society in which the gross and obscene concentration of corporate power and personal wealth is overcome by the achievement of basic economic rights for all.