History of the Nuclear Free World Committee

In Spring 2015, Peace Action CNY became part of the Peace Council and is now called the Nuclear Free World Committee.

For more than fifty years, Peace Action has organized successful campaigns to end the nuclear threat, to create a more peaceful economy, and to support nonviolent resolutions to international conflicts. Peace Action originated in two accomplished disarmament and antiwar organizations, SANE and the Freeze, that were founded during the Cold War and which merged in 1987. Peace Action has become the country’s largest grassroots peace and justice network. Peace Action’s affiliate and chapter network organizes in local communities throughout the nation to educate the public and activate constituents in order to create more responsible U.S. policies.

Peace Action’s efforts are currently focused on building a broad political base for a new U.S. foreign policy based on a commitment to disarmament and resolving international conflict peacefully while upholding international cooperation and human rights. In addition, Peace Action has led successful issue advocacy efforts in congressional districts throughout the nation as part of its Peace Voter Campaign.Peace Action’s membership of over 100,000 has achieved victories in successful campaigns to ban landmines, end nuclear weapons testing, cut funding for Star Wars and new nuclear weapons and stop arms transfers to nations that abuse human rights.


The Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy (SANE) began in 1957. SANE’s founders, inspired by Albert Schweitzer’s Call too Conscience which stirred public action about the dangers of nuclear radiation, included Saturday Review editor Norman Cousins, American Friends Service Committee member Clarence Pickett, and poet Lenore Marshall, among others. The committee’s mission was to “develop public support for a boldly conceived and executed policy which will lead mankind away from war and toward peace and justice.” SANE grew to be an effective national voice for nuclear disarmament.

Spokespeople for SANE include: Dr. Albert Schweitzer, Eleanor Roosevelt, Norman Thomas, Dr. Benjamin Spock, Bertrand Russell, Pablo Casals, Roger Baldwin, Paul Tilich, and Erich Fromm.

From the beginning, SANE linked issues of peace and justice. Supporters like Dr. Martin Luther King, Coretta Scott King, Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee, and Ossie Davis connected SANE with civil and human rights movements across the country. Historically, SANE also forged close alliances with labor organizations such as the International Association of Machinists. SANE led a number of successful public education projects including hard-hitting advertising campaigns that brought nuclear disarmament issues to millions of Americans. SANE’s first major accomplishment was ratification of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

SANE was also an early leader in the movement against the war in Vietnam. In 1978 SANE was at the head of a victory against MX mobile missile deployment, avoiding massive environmental damage in Utah and Nevada.

The Freeze

The Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, initiated by Randall Forsberg’s call to “freeze and reverse the nuclear arms race,” was born in the early 1980s. The Freeze was a grassroots-based confederation of groups spanning the country. Many original Freeze chapters and affiliates that formed in the 1980’s still exist as leaders in the Peace Action Network today. 

Freeze leaders included Randall Forsberg, Pam Solo, and Randy Kehler. Elected officials such as Rep. Patricia Schroeder and Sen. Ted Kennedy helped to lead the movement in Congress. The Freeze’s grassroots network pushed for nuclear reductions through ballot initiatives in towns and cities across the nation.

The Freeze was a prolific grassroots organization as the arms race between the Soviet Union and the United States was heating up. Two significant movements spearheaded by the FREEZE had major impacts on the 1982 election. On June 12, 1982, 750,000 people took to the streets of New York City to march against the use of nuclear weapons, in the largest public mobilization of its time.

Also in 1982 in the run up for the election the FREEZE issued a binding resolution demanding the U.S. stop nuclear testing and proliferation. The resolution was voted on in all 50 states with 30 million people voting to adopt the resolution in their state legislature.

Our work in 2021:

On Aug 6, 2021, we held a banner drop to commemorate the 76th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan.  We seek to remind people of the horrors of nuclear war and engage the public in the Back from the Brink Campaign and other actions to prevent nuclear weapons from ever being used again. We are in a climate and health crisis, yet the U.S. is expected to spend $44 billion dollars in 2021 on these same weapons of mass extinction. 

On August 9, 2021, we held a vigil at the State Office Building at 333 E. Washington St. in Syracuse to remember those lost and share commitment and action to shift our nations priorities from weapons of mass extinction to health care and environment. We urge our state legislators to sign on to a letter to pressure federal representatives to promote nuclear abolition. The letter is available at https://preventnuclearwar.org/us-officials-letter/.

January 22, 2021: Following the ratification of 51 countries, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) went into effect.  We held a press conference that day to celebrate the historic moment, further the understanding of the threat of nuclear weapons, and call for their elimination. We were joined by:

  • Vincent Intondi, Professor of History and Director of the Institute for Race, Justice, and Civic Engagement at Montgomery College in Takoma Park, Maryland. He is the author of the book, “African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement” 
  • Joe Driscoll, Syracuse Common Councilor for district 5, who brought the Back from the Brink resolution to the Common Council (which was passed last August)
  • Yusuf Abdul-Qadir, Senior Strategist for Racial Justice at the NY Civil Liberties Union. Yusuf is an activist & scholar working at the intersections of climate/environmental justice, racial equity and emerging technology.
  • Jim Anderson, President of Peace Action New York State and Vice Chair of National Peace Action 

Speakers addressed the implications of the treaty, the social and economic consequences of nuclear weapons, and how we can push for positive change under the Biden administration. View the recording of the event here.  

Learn more about the treaty here.

Recent events make shockingly clear how dangerously close we are to nuclear confrontation. Even the use of a tiny fraction of the 15,000 nuclear weapons in existence today would cause worldwide climate disruption and global famine. A large-scale nuclear war could lead to our eventual extinction as a species.

The TPNW is the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons with the eventual goal of total elimination of these weapons. So far the treaty has been rejected by the nuclear armed and allied states so it will not be binding on them. However, it serves as a strong political statement by non-nuclear states. The TPNW will also lead non-nuclear state parties to strengthen efforts to abolish nuclear weapons and to address the humanitarian and environmental impact of the nuclear arms race. The treaty exerts pressure on international companies who have produced nuclear weapons components across the globe by banning them in the signatory countries. It is also expected that financial institutions will face increased calls to divest from nuclear weapons now that they are prohibited by international law.

Our work in 2020:

August 2020 marked the 75th anniversaries of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. On Thursday, August 6, we gathered on the steps of Syracuse City Hall to hear stories of people directly affected by nuclear weapons, testing, and misspent budget priorities; honor the activism over the years that has produced safeguards against nuclear war, and learn how we can build on our progress with the Back from the Brink campaign to eliminate nuclear weapons.

Mayor Ben Walsh of Syracuse announced his endorsement of the Back from the Brink campaign, and Syracuse Common Councilor Joe Driscoll announced the forthcoming introduction of a Common Council resolution to endorse the campaign as well.

View the video of our Hiroshima Day 75th anniversary commemoration event here.

One of the last projects local activist Peter Swords worked on was a video with Rashid Mamun and Don Hughes. A little over 8 minutes long, it was part of a world wide internet eventt. You can watch here and share with your organization: https://youtu.be/Gfvo4EiE0I023

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