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From India to Birmingham: Martin Luther King, Jr.'s connections with AFSC

Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King in India 1959

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King sit on a couch, in conversation.

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, 1959.

A brief history of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s involvement with the Quaker organization, the American Friends Service Committee.

Quaker support of Indian independence from Britain: AFSC's early history in India

Before the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) had programs in India, it had several contacts with people in that country. None was more interesting and colorful than with the poet and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore, first made through British Quakers.

Lifting the Curtain: Crystal Bird Fauset

As the European relief effort of the American Friends Service Committee concluded in 1924, questions were raised whether the Service Committee should continue to exist at all. In September of that year, a group of concerned Friends met to consider the future direction of the AFSC. It was decided that the Service Committee still had an important mission to carry out and, therefore, should continue to function.

AFSC's Civil Rights Efforts, 1925-1950

Long before the Civil Rights Movement, the AFSC identified interracial tensions as an underlying injustice in U.S. culture, causing immense suffering and potentially leading to violence. That is why the AFSC set to work on this issue as early as 1925 and continues to this day. Intervening decades have proved how right this assessment was, with internment of Japanese American citizens during World War II, intentional disenfranchisement of Native Americans resulting in widespread poverty and cultural annihilation, and the heavy-handed treatment of Latino immigrants at the Mexico-U.S.

Prince Edward County School Closings

In 1959 Shirley turned 6 years old. Her excitement grew as fall approached because she would be going to school for the first time. What she didn't understand was that 1959 was to be different. The US Federal Court had ordered Prince Edward County, Virginia, where Shirley lived, to desegregate its schools. And the county school board, rather than integrate their system as ordered, closed all the public schools.

Taken Prisoners by the Viet Cong

At 28, Marjorie Nelson was a doctor on the staff of AFSC's Quang Ngai Rehabilitation Center in Vietnam. After months of working for long hours with little free time and constant reminders of the human tragedy of the war, Marge was pleased to take a vacation to the city of Hué during the Tet holidays. On January 29, 1968, she set off for a week's visit with Sandra Johnson, a friend at a volunteer agency in Hué. However, both women disappeared shortly after Marge arrived. On February 9, a secretary from the U.S.

Undaunted spirits: 1949 relief efforts in Gaza

AFSC has a long history of work in Gaza, including relief efforts in 1949 and 1950.

"Who Save One Life."

The Email message read, "Can you help me by locating in your records the name of a monastery in France where I was hidden?" It explained that Quakers in the South of France had helped the writer during World War II.

They served without weapons: World War II conscientious objectors service as "human guinea pigs"

In 1940, an act of the U.S. Congress created Civilian Public Service for men who were conscientiously opposed to serving in the military. The intent was to organize "work of national importance under civilian direction," so conscientious objectors (COs) could give meaningful alternative service. Initially, "work of national importance" included road building and reforestation projects. As the war continued, an opportunity was offered to conscientious objectors to participate in scientific experiments as "human guinea pigs." This gave COs the opportunity to prove themselves ready to serve in dangerous situations that would not require taking human life. 

Our Day in the German Gestapo

Sixty-two years ago, three Quakers, Rufus Jones, George Walton, and Robert Yarnall, representatives of the American Friends Service Committee, traveled to Germany in response to the Day of Broken Glass. On November 10, 1938, Jews in Germany were attacked, beaten, arrested, and their businesses and synagogues vandalized and burned. The shattered glass gave its name to the event.

Who we are

AFSC is a Quaker organization devoted to service, development, and peace programs throughout the world. Our work is based on the belief in the worth of every person, and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice. Learn more

Where we work

AFSC has offices around the world. To see a complete list see the Where We Work page.

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