Working for peace & justice through nonviolence since 1915.
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Strategic nonviolent movements are one of the most potent forces in the world. They oust dictators, change policy and realize the hopes of communities. For over 100 years FOR has strengthened the movements that reshape society through our work in Black Lives Matter, training in Nonviolent Civil Disobedience, training in Jail Support and Fiscal Sponsorship.
Relationships established through strong communities are the glue of our work. We ground ourselves in relationships of accountability and a spirituality that spans faith traditions. We help build communities that reflect our vision of Beloved Community through our Chapters, Networks & Affiliates, Interreligious Engagement & Understanding, Intentional Communities and Retreats for Movement Leaders & Activists.
We see nonviolence as a way of life, a moral commitment, and a social tool. As a branch of IFOR's international network we work with partners around the world to end militarism in all of its forms, working through the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, United Nations Advocacy, Demilitarizing Communities, Boycott Divestment and Sanctions, Anti-drone Initiatives and #GiveRefugeesRest.
In April 1947, Bayard Rustin and George Houser of FOR traveled with 14 other passengers—seven black, seven white—throughout North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia in order to challenge Jim Crow. The year before, the Supreme Court decided in a 7-1 decision in Morgan v. Virginia that drivers and police officers could not enforce state Jim Crow laws on people who had interstate bus and train tickets. Rustin and Houser, working through the Racial Industrial Department of FOR and the executive committee of the Congress of Racial Equality, decided to test this decision.
Traveling on Trailways trains and Greyhound buses, the eight white men sat in the rear, while the eight black men sat in the front. Predictably, the drivers questioned the men on each trip. Police officers made 12 arrests.
The Journey of Reconciliation is an important moment in FOR’s history. It’s an example of this organization’s commitment to combatting injustice with nonviolent direct action. For this reason alone, it makes sense to name a blog depicting moments in FOR’s history after these two weeks in 1947.
But this blog’s purpose is about more than simply discussing the past. It’s also about discussing the present and the future. This blog depicts moments in history, but its focus isn’t the moments themselves. It’s as much about the journey from the past to where we are now.
In name, the Journey of Reconciliation fulfills that idea. It suggests that we are on a journey to speak out against injustice. That reconciling differences takes time and movement. As a name, “Journey of Reconciliation” places history not in isolation but as points in a winding path.
The actual Journey of Reconciliation was also more than just a moment. It was the direct consequence of another moment (a Supreme Court Decision) and the predecessor of the Civil Rights Movement. The Fellowship of Reconciliation’s 1947 Journey of Reconciliation only happened because of Irene Morgan, a black woman who defied a driver’s order to give up her seat in the back of a bus to a white couple. She went on to become the plaintiff in Morgan v. Virginia. The Journey of Reconciliation was a forerunner to the Freedom Rides, a series of nonviolent actions in which an integrated group that included Martin Luther King, Jr. and several other FOR members traveled to the Deep South on public transit in order to challenge Jim Crow laws.
The techniques of nonviolent direct action that were the basis of the Journey of Reconciliation continue on in FOR’s work today. Whether opposing Islamophobia in their recent #GiveRefugeesRest campaign or speaking out against the state-sanctioned killing of Black people in the United States, the actions of Bayard Rustin and George Houser continue to influence this organization.
This blog is about the stories of FOR’s past— the F.B.I. surveillance on the organization, the forced resignation of Bayard Rustin, the campaign for more friendly U.S.-U.S.S.R. relations. It’s about the past, the present, and the future of FOR. It’s about our path and our journey.
Max B. Lee is a recent graduate of Wesleyan University and is currently serving as an archival and communications intern at FOR. The above article is the first in a weekly series of blog posts inspired by Max’s archival work, titled The Journey of Reconciliation.
Images: 1. Members of the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation, from the FOR Archives: The Freedom Rides. 2. Glenn Smiley and Martin Luther King, Jr. participating in the Montgomery Bus Boycotts. Fellowship Magazine, 1957. 3. Recent Bayard Rustin Fellow Rev. Osagyefo Sekou (front) at a Clergy March in Ferguson, Missouri.
We focus on building movements and peace networks by acting as a resource hub for activists, organizers and communities. Through our network of chapters and affiliates we connect movements at the grassroots level.
We provide workshops, educational resources, strategic consulting, and speaking engagements for diverse audiences. We run young adult leadership development programs and nonviolent direct action trainings for front line movements.
We're part of a global Fellowship growing a vibrant, creative, international and intergenerational peace and justice movement. More than 70,000 consituents in the US participate in our base-building work. Join us!
For over 100 years FOR members have led the strategic application of nonviolence to political and social change movements worldwide. We honor and count among our number Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King, Thich Nhat Hanh, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Muriel Lester, Sulak Sivaraksa, James Lawson, Jean and Hildegard Goss-Mayr, Andre and Magda Trocme and many more.
FOR recognizes individuals and organizations who make exceptional contributions to peace, justice and reconciliation. We honor unsung grassroots activists with the Local Hero Award, US justice leaders with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award, and international peacemakers with the Pfeffer Peace Award.
Since 1918 FOR has produced publications and a national journal to shape and reflect learning on the power of nonviolent social change. Since 1934 that award-winning journal has appeared under the title Fellowship, now issued twice yearly in summer and winter. FOR's national newsletter, Witness, is produced in spring and fall and provides highlights of campaigns and projects led by grassroots FOR chapters and affiliates.