New Anti-Vietnam War, Nonviolence archive open for research: Robert P. J. Cooney, Jr. papers on the Institute for the Study of Nonviolence, 1965-1987

May 2, 2018
Benjamin Lee Stone
Bob Cooney participating in 1973 demonstration, U.S. Federal Building, San Francisco; Journal of the Institute for the Study of Non-Violence, March-April, 1973

In the wake of a number of anniversaries marking fifty years since the Vietnam War, including last October’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Stop the Draft Week, the largest militant anti-Vietnam War demonstration up to that time, the Stanford Libraries are pleased to announce the acquisition and opening of the papers of activist, author, and graphic designer Robert P.J. Cooney, Jr., including a substantial amount of archival material from the Institute for the Study of Nonviolence during the 1970s.

A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Bob Cooney has been active in Bay Area movements for peace, nonviolence, and social justice since his involvement in the draft resistance movement in the early 1970s. During that time, Cooney served as a staff member at the Palo Alto-based Institute for the Study of Nonviolence and his archive provides a rich window into the many programs and initiatives of the center, founded in 1965 in Carmel Valley by Joan Baez and Ira Sandperl.

Cooney’s archive focuses mainly on the Palo Alto period of the Institute in the 1970s, when it was located at 667 Lytton Street. Cooney edited the Institute Journal and designed many of the Institute’s promotional materials and posters, including a number for events held at Stanford University. Activist photographer Bob Fitch, a personal friend whose archive Stanford acquired in 2014, contributed a number of images for the Institute’s use. Included in the archive are more than 500 photographs Cooney himself took at the Institute during this period.

The collection also includes material on local anti-war leaders Roy Kepler and David Harris. There are pamphlets, broadsides, posters, and original material from the draft resistance movement during the Vietnam War, and personal papers from Cooney’s two federal trials.

In 1977, Cooney, in conjunction with the late Helen Michalowski, edited and produced an important illustrated history on the American tradition of nonviolence, titled The Power of the People: Active Nonviolence in the United States. Their cooperative publishing effort was sponsored by 35 nonviolent activist groups including the Institute, American Friends Service Committee(s), War Resisters League(s) and a host of others. Cooney’s archive contains the working files, detailed correspondence, and manuscript material for the book.

The collection also contains material from three Institute-related organizations: Agape Foundation, Fund for Nonviolent Social Change, which provided seed grants to Bay Area groups starting in the mid-1970s, Frog in the Well pamphlet literature distributor, and People’s Union, founded by David Harris after he was released from prison.

Among his more recent projects, Cooney began the Woman Suffrage Media Project in 1993, in order to familiarize more Americans with the women’s rights movement. He is the author of Winning the Vote: The Triumph of the American Woman Suffrage Movement (2005), which details the many actions and nonviolent campaigns women organized to win the right to vote before 1920. Cooney also edited a tribute collection titled Remembering Inez: The Last Campaign of Inez Milholland, Suffrage Martyr (2015). He is currently on the Advisory Team for the documentary film, The Boys Who Said NO!: Draft Resistance and the Vietnam War, scheduled for 2018 release.

Cooney is the principal of Robert Cooney Graphic Design in the San Francisco Bay Area and serves as Chair of the Advisory Board of the National Women's History Project, which presented him with its "Write Women Back Into History Award" in 2005.

Cooney’s archive is available to researchers in the Department of Special Collections, Green Library; a finding aid is available online