Source, Story: History
: Teaching U.S. History in the Archives

Draft Help! Organizing Against the Vietnam War, 1967-1973

Valley Peace Center document

The Valley Peace Center was founded in 1967 in Amherst, Massachusetts. An early brochure described the Valley Peace Center 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.” In practice, however, a significant portion of the Center's activities were focused on providing services for young men of draft age in the surrounding communities.

The Valley Peace Center Records at the University of Massachusetts Amherst give a local glimpse of grassroots, community-supported anti-war activism. The Center, however, did not operate in isolation: these records include pamphlets published by other groups and correspondence with other activists. Selected documents covers three possible responses to the draft: applying for status as a conscientious objector; refusing to register for the draft; and immigrating to another country. Other documents demonstrate the complexity and changeable nature of the draft law, and the challenge of running a volunteer-led organization on contribution and membership fees.

Above all, these documents add detail and texture to any discussion of the draft and anti-Vietnam activism in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Finding aid for the Valley Peace Center Collection

Lesson plan (pdf)

Responses to the Draft: Conscientious Objection

“The Conscientious Objector and the Personal Appearance [Before the Draft Board],” May 1970. 1970 May digital object
This account of a personal appearance before a local draft board in 1952 was published and distributed by the National Service Board for Religious Objectors. ca.1970 digital object
This detailed document outlined the Center's seminar for young men who were considering becoming a conscientious object. Fall 1970. 1970 digital object

Responses to the Draft: Refusing to Register

“Thinking About Noncooperation with the Draft,” undated. undated digital object
“Why I Refuse to Register,” January 1971. 1971 Jan. digital object

Responses to the Draft: Immigration

The Center counseled some young men who eventually chose to immigrate to Canada. Two letters from such young men illustrate the practical challenges they faced, as well as the way the Center gathered information on resistance to the draft. 1968 April-May digital object
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“Immigration to Canada” frequently asked questions, undated. digital object
“Toronto Anti-Draft Programme Newsletter,” November 1974. 1974 Nov. digital object
While many young men immigrated to Canada to avoid the draft, others moved further afield to countries including Sweden and Portugal. 1972 May digital object
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“We also need a coffee pot”: Running a Community-Based Anti-War Organization

The June 24, 1970 issue of “Notes from the Valley Peace Center” gives an amusing account of a typical day at the center. 1970 June 24 digital object
The Center kept draft number charts like this one, published by the University of Massachusetts on hand to help young men determine their draft lottery number. A frequently asked questions sheet on the Draft Lottery answered common questions about the lottery and the importance of a young man's lottery number. ca.1970 digital object
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The Center's draft counseling program was run by volunteers from the Amherst community. This February 1970 memo gives a sense of the kind of training these volunteers received. 1970 Feb. digital object

Government Publications and Draft Law

This copy of the June 1967 draft law suggests the legal and bureaucratic complexity facing young men as they registered with the Selective Service. To help draft counselors and young men make informed decisions about new laws, organizations like the American Friends Service Committee distributed documents like this “Temporary Memo on the New Draft Law.” 1967-1971 digital object
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The Selective Service System published and distributed “Curriculum Guide to the Draft” that contained information for teachers about how young men were drafted. This letter to a local principal suggests such a curriculum was in need of frequent updating. 1971 summer digital object
Selective Service System Classification Questionnaire ca.1971 digital object
Government-published pamphlet on hardship deferments, undated. undated digital object