Joan Baez, the daughter of Quaker parents of Scottish and Mexican descent, began dual careers as a folksinger and political activist in the late 1950s. After her breakthrough appearance at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival, Baez recorded her first album, Joan Baez, which peaked at number three on the national charts. As her singing career took off, she used her newfound celebrity to promote equal rights for women and minorities and to protest the Vietnam War. She was arrested twice in 1967 for her opposition to the draft. She continues to focus public attention on human rights abuses and inequities.
On August 10, 1976, a car chase between IRA and British troops through Belfast, Northern Ireland, led to an accident in which two of Mairead Corrigan Maguire’s nephews and one of her nieces were killed. Her sister, distraught over the death of her children, took her own life several years later. The incident led Maguire, a Catholic, and Betty Williams, a Protestant, along with newspaper reporter Ciaran McKeown, to found Peace People, a pioneering organization in the movement to end sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. They shared the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for their work. Maguire continues to work for global nonviolence as honorary life president of Peace People.
Born in 1934 in Durban, South Africa, Arun Gandhi is the fifth grandson of India’s late spiritual leader Mohandas Karamchand “Mahatma” Gandhi. In 1946, just before India gained independence from Britain, Arun’s parents took him to live with his grandfather for eighteen months. At twenty-three, Arun returned to India, worked as a reporter for The Times of India, and cofounded India’s Center for Social Unity, whose mission is to alleviate poverty and caste discrimination. Arun and his wife, Sunanda, came to the United States in 1987 and in 1991 founded the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence in Memphis, Tennessee.
In 1962, César Chavez founded the National Farm Workers Association, later to become the United Farm Workers (UFW), which under Chavez’s nonviolent leadership effectively unionized the produce industry. In 1965, the UFW called for a boycott of California table grapes, eventually winning a major victory five years later when growers accepted union contracts. During his lifelong tenure as UFW president, Chavez went on three hunger strikes-the longest lasting thirty-six days-and in 1966 marched 340 miles from Delano to Sacramento, California, to focus attention on the farmworkers’ plight. When Chavez died in 1993, fifty thousand mourners attended his funeral. In 2006, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger inducted Chavez into the California Hall of fame in order to honor his work during his lifetime.