This essay illuminates the process by which the idea of pacifism—a notion rooted in the Quaker religious tradition—evolved into a legible political philosophy of nonviolence with broad appeal for activists in the Black freedom struggle. It does this by analyzing the “interracial and interchurch” workshops held in communities across the United States beginning in 1943. These workshops—borne from collaboration between the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and the March on Washington Movement (MOWM)—sparked an important moment of interracial collaboration, an intentional movement strategy designed to bolster local efforts to develop nonviolence into a political weapon used in cities across the United States to erode Jim Crow segregation. Within these nonviolent institutes, local movement activists engaged in a process of what social theorist Sean Chabot has called “collective learning.” Collective learning outcomes included increased clarification about the ideas that best motivated activists to take personal risks, which nonviolent tactics are most readily learned and practiced, and which sites might be most effectively targeted by nonviolent tactics. This paper concludes by suggesting that these nonviolent institutes were critical to harnessing the political potential as well as understanding the limitations of interracial nonviolent action in the struggle against Jim Crow segregation.

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