David McReynolds Papers
Held at: Swarthmore College Peace Collection [Contact Us]500 College Avenue, Swarthmore 19081-1399
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Swarthmore College Peace Collection. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
David McReynolds (1929-2018), was an activist with the War Resisters League, the Socialist Party USA and the Democratic Socialists of eenAmerica. McReynolds was a leading figure in the U.S. peace movement, best known as a spokesperson for the War Resisters League (WRL). Numerous speaking tours and published articles have established him as an articulate, clear-thinking and persuasive pacifist. He traveled widely in his work with WRL in the U.S., Europe, Japan, and Asia. Throughout his career he has advocate nonviolent direct action in the effort to bring about social and political change.
Born in 1929 in Los Angeles, California, McReynolds' earliest political activity was in the American Youth for Political Action, the youth division of the Prohibition Party. He founded The Blaze, in 1946, the official publication of the AYPA, which he editied until 1951, when he resigned from the Prohibition Party and joined the Socialist Party. McReynolds graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), in 1953, with a B.A. in Political Science. His campus activities included chairing the Christian Committee for Israel and the Student Committee Against Compulsory ROTC. From 1951 to 1954 McREynolds edited FOR-CAST, the youth newsletter of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, in southern California. In 1954 McReynolds was arrested for refusing induction into the U.S. military, but the case was later dropped on technicalities. He was later classified as a conscientious objector without having to state his religious beliefs.
Also in 1954 McReynolds and several other Socialists became concerned about the weakness of the Socialist Party and formed the Committee for a Socialist Program in an attempt to address this problem. Socialist comrades were urged to work through the local branches of the party, build up these groups, and recruit new members whenever possible. McReynolds traveled across the U.S. on a six-week tour visiting party locals, and ending up in New York City. He attended the 1956 Socialist Convention in Chicago that June, where he advocated joining together the Socialist Party with the Social Democratic Federation in order to gain new members and strengthen both organizations. McReynolds was elected to the National Action Committee of the Socialist Party in 1956 and to the National Committee two years later.
In February of 1957 McReynolds became the Editorial Secretary of Liberation magazine, which was supported by the War Resisters League. In the following year, McReynolds ran as a write-in candidate for Congress from the 19th Congressional district (Greenwich Village) on the Socialist Party ticket, gaining a modest portion of the votes. His participation in Civil Defense Drill protests largely directed by the WRL from 1958-1961, earned McReynolds a 25-day jail sentence in 1961, the last year such drills were held in New York City. In 1960 McReynolds joint the staff of the War Resisters League as the Field Secretary, while remaining on the Editorial Board of Liberation magazine, and maintaining an active interest in the Socialist Party.
McReynolds traveled extensively for the WRL in the early 1960s, speaking most frequently on college campuses. He worked closely with young pacifists and directed a gathering of students in Washington, DC, in February, 1962. On November 6, 1965 McReynolds and four other pacifist publicly burned their draft cards; McReynolds was not indicted. The following year he attended the European conference of the International Confederation for Disarmament and Peace, and traveled to Japan to meet with anti-atomic and hydrogen bom activists. Political and ideological differences with Dave Dellinger caused McReynolds to resign from the editorial board of Liberation in 1967. He expressed concern over the "failure of Liberation to push for nonviolent solutions and a tendency to be too much in awe of violent revolution . . it has ceased to be a radical pacifist journal." In December of 1967 he led the demonstration to halt the operation for the Whitehall induction center in New York City, and McReynolds and Dr. Benjamin Spock were among those arrested. Dr. Spock was later accused of conspiracy against the government in connection with this action.
In 1968 McReynolds again ran for Congress in the 19th Congressional District, this time on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket, with Eldridge Cleaver running for U.S. President. In an article that McReynolds wrote for WIN Magazine in November 1969, he wrote openly about his homosexuality, and this piece generated a broad response. The following year this article, along with other writings on pacifism and socialism appeared in McReynolds' book We Have Been Invaded By the Twentieth Century (Praeger, 1970).
In 1970 McReynolds resigned from the Socialist Party in protest over what he perceived as a drift to the extreme right. He later rejoined the party in 1973 when it was reorganized as the Socialist Party USA. McReynolds' work for the WRL in the 1970s consisted of organizing demonstrations and participating in protests. He has been a frequent contributor to WRL News, analyzing current events and summarizing WRL activities. In 1975 he toured the U.S. to publize and gain support for the Continental Walk the following year. He also headed the International Task Force for Mobilization for Survival, which staged a demonstration at the May 1978 United Nations Special Session on Disarmament. In 1980 McReynolds ran for President of the U.S. as the candidate for the Socialist Party USA, becoming the first openly gay man to run for the office. McReynolds ran for President again in 2000 as the Socialist Party USA candidate. In 2004 McReynolds ran for a New York Senate seat on the Green Party ticket, as an anti-war candidate.
McReynolds retired from the War Resisters League in 1999. He died in August of 2018.
The papers of David McReynolds contain personal correspondence, business correspondence, files about McReynolds work with U.S. peace and political organizations. Files concerning his political campaigns for U.S. Congress and the presidency are also included.
Material sent to the Peace Collection between 1969 and 1979 has been processed and organized into several series. Series I contains business correspondence from 1951-1978. This is organized chronologically. Series II. contains personal correspondence, dating from 1948-1978. It should be noted that this series is restricted. Series III. contains from concerning McReynolds work with the Socialist Party between the 1950s and early 1970s. Series IV. contains files of miscellaneous material about other organizations such as the Communist Party and the Youth Fellowship of Reconciliation. In Series V. there are writings by and about McReynolds date from the 1950s through the early 1980s. Series VI. contains personal datebooks and calendars dating from the late 1950s through the late 1970s. Material sent after 1979 is currently unprocessed and is arranged by accession number.
David McReynolds has always been a prolific photographer; and has often used the back of his photographs as "postcards" or notecards for correspondents. These photographs have been left in correspondence files and have been removed to the SCPC photograph collection.
Much of McReynolds' office files from the War Resisters League were sent to the Peace Collection after his retirement in 1999. In many cases it was impossible for WRL and SCPC staff to properly separate WRL files and McReynolds material. Some material McReynolds material remains in the WRL Records and some will be found in the McReynolds Papers.
The Swarthmore College Peace Collection is the official repository for these papers.
Gift of David McReynolds, 1969 [Acc. 69-104, Acc. 69-135]; 1979 [Acc.79A-008]; 1986 [Acc. 86A-022]; 2005 [Acc. 05A-021]; War Resisters League, 1979 [Acc. 79A-008]; 1995 [Acc. 95A-093]; 1996 [Acc. 96A-039]; 1997 [Acc. 97A-037]; 2004 [Acc. 04A-096].
Processed by Peace Collection staff. Parts of this collection remain unprocessed.
Photographs removed to the Photograph Collection.
- Swarthmore College Peace Collection
- Access Restrictions
McReynolds' personal correspondence in Series II is restricted indefinitely. Access is granted by the Peace Collection Curator. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- Copyright to the resources created by David McReynolds C has been transferred to the Swarthmore College Peace Collection. Copyright to all other materials is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
- Use Restrictions