The Hiroshima/Nagasaki Peace Committee of the National Capital Area
The Hiroshima/Nagasaki Peace Committee of the National Capital Area (H/N Peace Committee) was established in 1982 to remember the anniversary of the atomic bombings each August, to support the Hibakusha (living survivors of Hiroshima & Nagasaki) and radiation survivors worldwide, and to work to abolish nuclear weapons for the benefit of future generations. The committee emphasizes the deadly connection between nuclearism and militarism, and the importance of linking disarmament struggle for economic and social justice.
Today the H/N Peace Committee organizes the nation’s oldest and largest commemoration of the atomic bombings, and is respected around the world for its uncompromising support for radiation survivors and commitment to nuclear abolition.
The H/N Peace committee had its roots in the women’s disarmament movement of the late 1950s and 1960s, especially Women Strike for Peace, which organized the first large national protest against atmospheric testing and for nuclear disarmament on November 1, 1961. Louise Franklin-Ramirez, a long-time peace and justice activist, and an organizer and participant in the first “Women’s Strike,” joined with activists from the Washington Peace Center, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Clergy & Laity Concerned and other DC area groups to organize ad-hoc Hiroshima/Nagasaki commemorations throughout the 1960s and 1970s, often linking them with opposition to the Viet-Nam war.
In the late 1970s, the a-bomb commemorations, increasingly organized by Louise, became an annual affair. In 1981, Louise and her companion, John Steinbach, with the support of Josephine Butler, Bob Auerbach and others formed the ad-hoc Hiroshima/Nagasaki Peace Committee and organized the first National Hiroshima/Nagasaki Commemoration at the Lincoln Memorial. On August 9, 1981, more than 500 activists gathered to put ‘Nuclear War & Weapons On Trial,” with Louise leading the successful prosecution. Among the speakers was Arjun Makhijani, who read his moving poem, “Hiroshima Mirror.” In the aftermath of the successful commemoration, a consensus among peace and justice organizations was reached that a permanent H/N Peace Committee be established.
That December, delegates to the Gray Panthers National Convention unanimously approved a resolution drafted by Louise, Jo, Arjun and John which read in part, “Resolved that each local chapter of the Gray Panthers create a chapter of a committee to be called the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Committee, the purpose of which shall be to research plan and initiate, either singly or in collaboration with other organizations, dramatic, instructive protest actions against the employment of nuclear weapons, against the arms race and for the cleansing and maintenance of our home, the earth, for the benefit of future generations.” Thus was born the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Peace Committee of the National Capitol Area.
Arjun, Louise & John organized a successful Hiroshima/Nagasaki Study Group that met monthly during the first half of 1982 and addressed issues relating to the atomic bombings & the nuclear crisis. John & Louise organized bi-weekly meetings to plan the 1982 Hiroshima/Nagasaki Commemoration which culminated in the U.S. Premiere showing of “Prophesy” at N.Y. Avenue Presbyterian Church, attended by over 500 persons. Prophesy is a graphic film based on the color film footage of Hiroshima & Nagasaki, shot by the U.S. army, including particularly gruesome footage of Hibakusha being paraded before the cameras. The featured speaker that year was Professor Michio Kaku.
Some of the highlights over the years were the U.S. premiere showing of “If You Love This Planet”, a Canadian film about Helen Caldicott and banned by the Reagan Administration.