WRL Peace Awards

WRL Peace Award, Grace Paley Lifetime Achievement Award and Ralph DiGia Award Recipients and Annual Dinner Speakers

Since 1958, WRL has awarded almost annually its War Resisters League Peace Award to a person or organization whose work represents the League's commitment to radical nonviolent action. In 2007, WRL posthumously granted a Lifetime Achievement award to poet and activist Grace Paley, initiating the Grace Paley Lifetime Achievement Award.  In 2013, in honor of beloved longtime WRL staffperson Ralph DiGia, WRL began to award the Ralph DiGia Award.

1941 WRL 18th Anniversary dinner

1947 Dinner
Speakers: John Howland Lathrop, Deryck Siven, Evan Thomas

1948 Dinner
Speakers: Mrs. Alexander Steward, Rev. Donald Harrington

1949 25th Dinner
Speaker: Pearl Buck

1952 Dinner
Speakers: William Neumann, Lyle Tatum

1954 Dinner
Speaker: Richard Gregg

1955 Dinner
Speakers: Tom Wardle, Bayard Rustin

1956 Speakers: Dave Dellinger, William Worthy, Dorothy Day

1957 Dinner
Speakers: Rev. Thomas Kilgore, James Avery Joyce

1958 First Peace Award: Jeannette Rankin 
Jeanette, the recipient of the very first WRL peace award, was a feminist and consistently anti-war politician. In 1914, she led a successful drive for women's voting rights in her native state of Montana. Two years later, she became the first woman elected to congress. While in congress, she voted against entry into both World War I in 1917, and World War II in 1941. She later became active against the Vietnam war as well. For more information on Rankin's life and work, visit www.rankinfoundation.org

1959 36th Dinner Honoring AJ Muste presented by Norman Thomas
Speaker:  Martin Luther King Jr.

1960 Featured Speaker: Fenner Brockway; Bayard Rustin speaks on Sahara

1961 Peace Award: Tracy Mygatt, Frances Witherspoon
Speakers: Murray Kempton, Bayard Rustin
on India.
Awardees  were among the founders of WRL. They were active in the women's suffrage movement early in the century, and were committed peace activists beginning with their opposition to World War I. Between the two World Wars, both worked with the Women's Peace Union. They each also wrote extensively, including books, plays and articles, frequently on anti-war themes.

1962 Peace Award: Jim Peck, presented by AJ Muste
Speakers: Douglas Campbell, Rustin on Tanganyika.
A pacifist, anti-racist activist, and radical journalist, Jim was a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Congress on Racial Equality. In 1947, Peck participated in the Journey of Reconciliation, an early attempt to test segregation laws in the south. He later helped organize and participated in the Freedom Rides of 1961.

1963 Peace Award: Dorothy Day
Speakers: Evan Thomas, AJ Muste.

Dorothy was the founder of the Catholic Worker movement. She founded the Catholic Worker newspaper in 1933, and began a national movement of "Houses of Hospitality" for the poor. A pacifist, she opposed World War II, and worked for most of her life in the struggle for peace and social justice. For more information on Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement, visit www.catholicworker.org

1964 Peace Award: James and Diane Bevel
Speakers: A. Philip Randolph

1965 Peace Award: Bayard Rustin from AJ Muste; Milton Mayer

1966 Peace Award: Norman Thomas; Speaker: Mulford Sibley

1967 Peace Award: Barbara Deming, presented by Ralph DiGia

1968 Peace Award: The Resistance

1969 Ammon Hennacy chosen but things got too busy for dinner

1970 12th Annual Peace Award:
People Resisting within the Military

1971 Peace Award: Majorie Swann; Speaker: Lanzo Del Vasto

1972 “Non-award” to Ann Upshure

1973 No dinner

1974 Peace Award: Daniel Berrigan; Presented by Allen Ginsberg

1975 Peace Award: Dave Dellinger

1976 Peace Award: Julius Eichel

1977 Peace Award: Marion and Ernest Bromley

1978 Peace Award: David Berkingoff and Prafulla Mukerj

1979 Peace Award: Igal Roodenko

1980 Peace Award: Grace Paley

1981 Dinner honoring Ralph DiGia (not a Peace Award)

1982 Peace Award: Bent Andreson

1983 Peace Award:
Virginia Eggleston, Thomas Grabell, Ashley King

1984 Peace Award: Larry Gara

1985 Peace Award: Barbara Reynolds

1986 Peace Award: Plowshares Disarmament Community .
This community engages in nonviolent direct action against military and weapons facilities to symbolically protest, and sometimes physically disarm, nuclear and non-nuclear weapons. This movement began in 1980 when eight people hammered and poured blood on two nose cones for nuclear warheads. Since then, individuals and groups have taken similar actions around the US as well as in many other countries. For more information on the history and philosophy of the Plowshares movement, visit www.plowsharesactions.org

1987 Peace Award: : Dorie Bunting.
Dorie has been a lifelong activist in the Peace and Justice movement. Following World War II, she went to Europe with the American Friends Service Committee to assist with relief and reconstruction efforts. In the 1960s, she became active against nuclear testing in her home state of New Mexico, and later became involved in the movement against the Vietnam War. In 1983, Dorie and others founded the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice, and throughout the 1980s. Dorie has also worked with the Inter-hemispheric Resource Center to promote progressive foreign policy alternatives.

1988 Peace Award: : Those who have continued to focus peace work on Vietnam post-war: Don Luce, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, John McAuliff, David Truong, Bob Eaton and Lady Borton.
VVAW was founded in 1967 after six Vietnam veterans marched together in a peace demonstration. It organized the growing opposition to the war among returned veterans as well as active duty soldiers, and also took up the struggle for veterans' rights. Since the end of the Vietnam war, VVAW has continued to organize against the unjust wars the US wages around the world, and to fight for better health, education and job programs for veterans. For more information, visit www.vvaw.org

1989 Peace Award: Children of War

1990 Peace Award: Esther Pank and Riley Bostrom

1991 Peace Award: Gulf War Resisters

1992 Peace Award:
War Tax Resisters and Colrain, MA, war tax resistance activists

1993 WRL’s 70th Anniversary

1994 no dinner/award

1995 no dinner/award

1996 34th Peace Award: Living Theatre
Founded in 1947 as an imaginative alternative to the commercial theater by Judith Malina, and Julian Beck, a political and artistic iconoclast, pacifist, anarchist, feminist and vegetarian. The Living Theatre has staged more than 80 productions performed in eight languages in 25 countries on four continents - a unique body of work that has influenced theater the world over. Without benefit of a building, rather a firm commitment to social and political change through an embodiment of Grotowski's "poor" theater (Henderson 288), Beck and Malina inspired the off-Broadway movement in the 40's and 50's and the radical theatre in to 60's and 70's ("The Living Theater"). The mission statement which appears at the website for the Living Theatre presents a poetic framework for the company. ...To call into question who we are to each other in the social environment of the theater, to undo the knots that lead to misery, …to insist that what happens in the jails matters, to cry "Not in my name!" at the hour of execution, to move from the theater to the street and from the street to the theater. This is what The Living Theater does today. It is what it has always done ("Historical Notes"). Throughout the 1950s and 1960s The Living Theatre was the most radical, uncompromising and experimental group in American theatrical history. Combining ritual, spectacle, and political confrontation into various unconventional events. The various venues for the company ranged from basement to dedicated theatre to street corner. The Living Theatre was far more concerned with an audience that was somehow forced to act upon a situation (social and political) rather than entertainment. Upon enlightenment, the cast would call for the revelations to be carried through the streets. The Living Theatre's focus, as originally, is to change the world through a political agenda. For more information, visit their website at www.livingtheatre.org

1997 Peace Award:  Bob Moses
Pivotal Civil Rights Movement organizer and math educator Bob Moses founded The Algebra Project in the 1980s, bringing crucial math skills to poor communities to help kids get a shot at workforce equality for the 21st century. During the 1960s he was an integral participant in the civil rights movement, organizing voter registration drives, sit-ins and Freedom Schools for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. The Algebra Project is a national mathematics literacy effort aimed at helping low income students and students of color - particularly African American and Latino/a students - successfully achieve mathematical skills that are a prerequisite for a college preparatory mathematics sequence in high school and full citizenship in today's technological society. Author of The Algebra Project's Transition Curriculum-Book I, Robert continues to develop curriculum.

Of The Algebra Project, Bob says, "I believe that the kind of organizing we have been doing for years in the Algebra Project represents a radically different and new approach to the problem of how to create system changes of our schools. Indeed, I think the idea of systemic change of our schools is itself a radical idea. And some of the most important lessons for how to continue this effort lie in the history of those remarkable years of Black civil rights transformation." For more on Bob Moses, visit www.algebra.org

1998 Peace Award: Movement Musicians:
Odetta, Charlie King, People's Voice Cafe, Pete Seeger

1999 Peace Award: David McReynolds
at celebratory retirement dinner.

David McReynolds a well-known peace activist, worked as field secretary for the War Resisters' League until his retirement in 1999. He was actively involved with the radical movement in 1957, where he worked as the editorial secretary of Liberation magazine. Over the years, he worked closely with older radicals - AJ Muste, Bayard Rustin, Dave Dellinger, Sid Lens, Roy Finch, Paul Goodman, Norman Thomas. In 1960, David refused induction into the army during the Korean War, was arrested and very narrowly avoided a prison term. During the Vietnam War he was active in mass movements against the war. He did a great deal of international travel to rally opposition to US policy, visiting Saigon in 1969, Hanoi in 1971, and both Hanoi and Saigon in 1981 after the liberation of Vietnam. He was caught in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1968 when the Soviet Union invaded. He was in Libya on a tour led by the Fellowship of Reconciliation in 1990 and in Iraq in a similar delegation in 1991. He has been in Japan several times, working to build better ties between the Japanese and American peace movements. David was former Presidential candidate for the Socialist Party US, in 1980 and in 2000. To read more about David, visit www.thesocialistparty.org/spo/archive/McR/

2000 Peace Award:
Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques.

Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques is a non-governmental organization in Vieques working diligently to stop the bombing of their populated island. Until recently, the US Navy owned over two-thirds of Vieques. When the US bought this land in the 1940s, many families and farmers were forced out of their homes and off their lands to make way for military exercises, which began in 1947. Puerto Ricans of Vieques objected to the US Navy's presence across many other ideologically divisive issues regarding the US. Bush announced that the Navy would leave Vieques in June 2001, and it is widely accepted that it was the success of the protest movement that led to this decision and to the US Navy's withdrawal. On May 1, the citizens of Vieques celebrated the first day in over 60 years without a US Navy bombing run. For more information on the Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques, you can visit their website directly at www.viequeslibre.org.

2001 Peace Award: Kate Donnelly and Clay Colt.
Clay Colt and Kate Donnelly of Progressive Resources, one of the oldest suppliers of peace paraphernalia in the country, began channeling their social activism into bumper stickers and buttons 27 years ago. They began by printing bumper stickers on a proof press in their basement in New Jersey in 1975. Kate and Clay are active in the Northeast Coalition for Peace and Justice, which holds peace vigils every week in Willimantic. Donnelly/Colt has chugged along for years on products promoting social justice, diversity and human rights. Kate's social change work has evolved from organizing protests and preparing people to participate in nonviolent civil disobedience actions, to doing conflict resolution and diversity work in schools. Clay goes to various events and conferences, to bring their resources to more activists, early childhood educators, social studies teachers, gay and lesbian activists, college events, music festivals and so on. He also spends a lot of time in schools, training kids to become peer mediators, talking about diversity and anti-bias, teaching conflict resolution skills and talking about being an activist. To read more about Clay Colt and Kate Donnelly, visit their website at www.donnellycolt.com.

2002 Peace Award: Christian Peacemaker Teams.
Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) was conceived in the mid 1980s when peace church people were seeking new ways to express their faith. It offers an organized, nonviolent alternative to war and other forms of lethal inter-group conflict. CPT provides organizational support to persons committed to faith-based nonviolent alternatives in situations where lethal conflict is an immediate reality or is supported by public policy. The vision is to enlist the response of the whole church in conscientious objection to war, and the development of nonviolent institutions, skills and training for intervention in conflict situations. To read more about CPT, visit their website at http://www.cpt.org.

2003 Peace Award: September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.
Peaceful Tomorrows is an advocacy organization founded by family members of September 11th victims who have united to turn their grief into action for peace. Their mission is to seek effective, nonviolent solutions to terrorism, and to acknowledge the common experience that they have with all people similarly affected by violence throughout the world. To read more about Peaceful Tomorrows, visit their website at http://www.peacefultomorrows.org.

2004 Fernando Suarez del Solar of Military Families Speak Out. Founder of Proyecto Guerrero Azteca (guerreroazteca.org) in memory of his son, Jesus Suarez del Solar, who was killed in Iraq on March 27, 2003.

2005 Karl Bissinger and Ralph DiGia

2006 Peace Award: Women Resisting War from within the Military.
The awards were presented to Diedra Cobb, Anita Cole, Kelly Dougherty and Katherine Jashinski by Lt. Col. Ann Wright (ret.) who resigned her command in protest of the Bush war-making.

2007 Peace Award: Taking on the Torturers. The awards were presented to the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and The Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (TASSC) for their leading roles in defense of human rights. Initiated the Grace Paley Lifetime Achievement Award, giving it to Grace Paley posthumously. Erika Weihs got special recognition for the many years she did calligraphy for the Peace Award.

2008 Peace Award: Make Levees Not War: Shana Griffin and Kali Akuno representing grassroots groups working to rebuild New Orleans. A concert with Steve Earle, Allison Moorer, Stephanie McKay, Red Baraat Festival, and Jan Bell and the Cheap Dates.

2009 Peace Award: South African Poet and Freedom Fighter Dennis Brutus, Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), and Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ)
Grace Paley Lifetime Achievement Award to Pan-Africanist and WWII Conscientious Objector Bill Sutherland.

2010 Peace Award: Kathy Kelly, Founder of Voices for Creative Nonviolence.
She was given the award at a small event in NYC during the weekend of May 2, 2010, when many people came to protest and have an alternative conference to the Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty happening at the UN. WRL had a large action and civil disobedience at Grand Central Station.

2011 Peace Award: WRL decided to give the 2011 Peace Award to  Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, an Afghan grassroots peace group.The award was declined and they sent us a moving letter explaining that they didn’t want to be exceptionalized by an award, as awards can distract from the masses of people in Afghanistan needing support and a voice.

2012 Peace Award: Suez Port Worker and Labor Leader Asma Mohammed:  U.S.-made tear gas has continued to rain down on protesters in Egypt calling for Morsi to reverse his decision as well as on those who filled Mohamed Mahmoud Street to call for justice and accountability for those who were gassed, beaten and murdered there exactly one year ago. Much of the tear gas --- then and now --- was made in Jamestown, Pa., by Combined Systems Incorporated, the same manufacturer whose seven-ton shipment, approved by U.S. government, was refused on November 27, 2011 by Asma Mohammed and her fellow customs workers at the Port of Adabiya in Suez. More on Asma's award here.
2013 Peace Award: Joan Baez, Harry Belafonte, Daniel Ellsberg
First Ralph DiGia Award: Joanne Sheehan, New England WRL

2014  No Peace Award was given this year, but we did give the 2014 Ralph DiGia Award to Ruth Benn.

2015 Peace Award: Mumia Abu Jamal - WRL honors Mumia Abu Jamal's enduring bravery of thought, commitment to racial justice, and continued fight for liberation from tyranny. Internationally celebrated black writer and radio journalist, author of eight books and hundreds of columns and articles - including those published in WRL's own WIN Magazine, organizer and inspiration for the prison lawyers movement, former member of the Black Panther Party and supporter of Philadelphia's radical MOVE organization, Mumia Abu Jamal has spent the last 30 years in prison - almost all of it in solitary confinement on Pennsylvania's Death Row. Known worldwide as a political prisoner, Mumia Abu Jamal's reporting on police brutality and racism exposes the brutal oppression of national and international revolutionary movements. Since federal courts ruled unconstitutional Mumia's death sentence for the shooting of Philadelphia police officer, Daniel Faulkner, Mumia Abu Jamal is serving a Life Without Parole sentence in Pennsylvaniaís general prison population. Systematically denied due process involving prosecutors' withholding evidence, racial bias in juror selection, and a judge's rampant bias, Mumia Abu Jamal's struggle for freedom not only signifies the loss we incur in the face of racist, corrupt, and abusive systems, but reminds us of our collective power to hope, to struggle, and to envision better.

2016 Peace Award: Jannat Al Ghezzi - WRL honors Baghdad-based Jannat Al Ghezzi of the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq. Award text reads: "We stand behind you and carry on our resistance to the rule of the 1% In Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and the entire world." [—Organization for Women's Freedom in Iraq Message to Occupy Wall Street November 3, 2011]. When voices arose in wounded and battered Iraq; Calling for an end to U.S. occupation, the return of its stolen oil; And its own—not a puppet—government; There were women's voices among them, joining the centuries-long and worldwide chorus demanding Women's autonomy and an end to gender violence. Shelters were formed, and in one you found a school, You found out how to share your courage, to nurture other women’s courage, To lead them in their own capacity for leadership. And then you helped that group go further, deeper, To solidarity with the ninety-nine percent everywhere, Because freedom for some must always mean freedom for all." More on the 2016 award here.

2017 Peace Award: Mariame Kaba. Mariame Kaba is a Black feminist, abolitionist and freedom dreamer.  This year, we honor Mariame for her 20 years organizing in Chicago, striving to dismantle the prison industrial complex and dreaming of a world where Black women and girls can be free. 

2017 Grace Paley Lifetime Achievement Award to Rasmea Odeh.  Rasmea Odeh is a Palestinian activist, organizer and force of nature.  This year, we honor Rasmea for embodying “Resistance Lives Forever,” for five decades of resisting Israeli occuplation despite imprisonment, torture, and solitary confinement.

2018 Peace Award: Corinna Gould and The Peace Poets 
The Peace Award was granted to Chochenyo and Karkin Ohlone woman and sacral site land activist, Corinna Gould and to The Peace Poets, a NYC-born collective of artists that celebrate, examine, and advocate for life through music and poetry with WRL's 2018 Peace Award.

2018 Grace Paley Lifetime Achievement Award: Mandy Carter
The Grace Paley Lifetime Achievement Award was granted to  African American LGBT, civil rights and peace activist Mandy Carter for her lifelong commitment to building bridges across communities, struggles, and generations. 

2019 Peace Award: Highlander Research and Education Center.  Since 1932 the Highlander Research and Education Center has served as a catalyst for grassroots organizing and movement building in Appalachia and the U.S. South. Through popular education, participatory research, and cultural work, Highlander helps to create spaces — at Highlander Center and in local communities — where people gain knowledge, hope and courage, expanding their ideas of what is possible.