Promoting Enduring Peace was founded in 1952 by Dr. Jerome Davis. Davis was born in Kyoto Japan, was trained as a sociologist, directed YMCA efforts in Russia during World War I, did labor organizing, was Professorship of Practical Philanthropy at Yale Divinity School for a dozen years, and for several years in the 1930’s was national president of the American Federation of Teachers. As Davis saw it, the purpose of Promoting Enduring Peace was resisting the ideology of ceaseless aggression and nuclear terror that characterized the Cold War. Its principal programs have been peace education, citizen diplomacy, and the awarding of the Gandhi Peace Award to recipients such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Cesar Chavez, Daniel Ellsberg, and more recently Amy Goodman (2012), Bill McKibben (2013), and Medea Benjamin(2014) and to Tom Goldtooth and Kathy Kelly in 2015.
The Gandhi Peace Award has always been accepted in person by the recipient during a ceremony held for that purpose in Connecticut or New York City, usually once each year. Since 2011 the Award has come with a cash prize. Nominees are distinguished by having made, over a period of years, a significant contribution to the promotion of an enduring international peace founded on social justice, self-determination, diversity, compassion, and environmental harmony, achieved through cooperative and nonviolent means in the spirit of Gandhi.
Prior to the internet PEP mailed out packets of articles to all who requested them; during the Vietnam War period alone PEP mailed over 10 million articles encouraging peace to educators and organizers in numerous countries. In 1975 PEP presented “Uncloaking the CIA” at Yale University, the first national conference exposing the dangers posed by unregulated CIA activities in 1976, from which a book of the same name was developed and published in 1978 (Ed. Howard Frazier). A principal conference organizer was Dr. Martin Cherniack, then a student at the Yale School of Medicine, who later served as president of the organization for 18 years. A conference is planned on the integration of the peace and environmental movements toward the transition to a sustainable, peaceful civilization.
By organizing groups of Americans to visit the USSR, Cuba, Costa Rica, China, and Mongolia during and after the Cold War, PEP has given ordinary citizens a chance to get to know “the Other,” leaving them with positive, lifelong memories, new friendships and hope for a peaceful world. As an example, in 2002 a PEP citizen diplomacy delegation journeyed to Vietnam to contribute to healing the deep scars left by the 1960-74 U.S. invasion. Its largest and most well-publicized event was the reciprocal tours of the Volga River in Russia and the Mississippi River in 1978 by citizen delegations from the Soviet Union, the United States, and other nations.
Though PEP is a secular organization, its roots are in the Christian Left and it continues to cooperate with members of the progressive religious community. In its early years PEP was led by Davis and Dr. Roland Bainton, both Yale professors (Religion and Divinity School, respectively), and its executive directors were retired Christian ministers. Howard T. Frazier, the first president of the Consumer Federation of America, served as PEP’s longest-serving Executive Director. He developed and conducted the programs and activities from 1978 until his death in 1997, with the assistance of his wife and, later, co-director Alice Zeigler Frazier.