Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Valley Peace Center Records
A community organization staffed largely by volunteer workers and financed by memberships and contributions, the Valley Peace Center was established in October 1967 to oppose the Vietnam War, to counsel young men of draft age, and to support programs directed at related social and political problems. The Center rented space in Amherst, Massachusetts to house its draft counseling program, its library and its literature distribution services, and for planning and carrying out its other programs. The Center was succeeded by the New Valley Peace Center in April 1973.
Historically a center of dissent, the academic community's skepticism toward the Vietnam War was reinforced during this era by military draft laws and regulations that provided deferments for college and graduate students so long as they were pursuing their studies. This provision constrained many draft-age young men to college campuses and served to increase their uneasiness. As the decade of the 1960's progressed, opposition to the War and the draft grew, first on and then off the college campuses; spokespersons emerged; organizations were formed; and activities through which opposition to the war could be expressed were developed. In this milieu, in the summer of 1967, members of campus groups at the University of Massachusetts such as the Faculty Group on War and Peace and the Students for Political Action, together with individuals from other area colleges and from the community at large - representing primarily religiously oriented groups - joined forces to form the Valley Peace Center of Amherst.
According to its October 1967 brochure, the Center was conceived of as an "umbrella organization serving as a resource to all those concerned with current international tensions and domestic conditions associated with a state oriented to war." The founders of the Center defined six central aims: U.S. disengagement from the Vietnam War; reversal of the neglect of the human needs of deprived and minority groups in America; change of the draft law to better accommodate objection to the Vietnam War; elicitation of pledges from the government to avoid first use of nuclear and biological weapons; reduction of the power of the "military-industrial complex"; and strengthening of the United Nations. The first aim predominated and served as the unifying position of the Center over its existence.
The Center was active for more than five and a half years, drawing its financial support largely from the community and the bulk of its work force from student and community volunteers. Most of its resources were devoted to draft counseling and the support of that activity, to its library and its literature distribution programs, and to the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations of the late 1960's and early 1970's, especially the weekly Amherst Common Peace Vigil and the demonstrations at the Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee.
As the United States wound down its activities in Vietnam, changed the military draft law, reduced draft calls and eventually discontinued the draft altogether, the role and future of the Center came into question, and a series of conflicts erupted among its participants, especially between some of those long associated with it and a group of energetic newcomers. The quarrel came to a head in the spring of 1973 when, following a change in the voting membership of the Center's executive board, the views of the newcomers prevailed and the old-timers withdrew. The disruption caused so extensive a reorganization of the Center that it was viewed as discontinued. The succeeding organization renamed itself the New Valley Peace Center.