Our Origins

In 2009, Vincent Harding, James and Phil Lawson founded the National Council of Elders to engage leaders of 20th century civil rights movements to share what they have learned with young leaders of the 21st century and to promote the theory and practice of nonviolence.  The founders shared a sense of urgency caused by the escalation of all forms of violence and the rise of anti-democratic forces. Their intent was to increase and deepen important story-based dialogue with younger activists who are currently on the frontlines of activism across the U.S.  Still active themselves, the Elders would play their part on current frontlines, sharing what they learned from the successes and failures of 20th century civil rights efforts.

From these origins, NCOE has become a council of 35 elders/activists who meet twice annually to analyze the current political landscape and to advance its work.  Elders join with younger leaders to confront the escalation of all forms of violence and the rise of anti-democratic forces, using a framework that spans civil and human rights.   NCOE embraces co-mentorship that shares analysis, strategies and skills across generations.

The National Council of Elders, as a whole or small groups or individuals, welcomes invitations from younger 21st century leaders to join in dialogue or action. These interactions combine an analysis of what has worked and what has not with the creation of new ideas to advance the work of today.  These exchanges can be in person or face to face or through using current video technology.  No one among the Elders is retired because of the shared belief that there is no retirement from the freedom movement, which lives in voice and deed.

Statement of Mission and Purpose

We are 20th century organizers committed to the theory and practice of nonviolence, united to engage with organizers of the 21st century.

We are urgently called to this mission by the escalation of all forms of violence and the rise of anti-democratic forces.

We are working toward a United States free of the domination of racism, sexism, militarism, materialism, economic inequality, and the destruction of the natural world.

Statements from the Elders

Detroit Is Not a Movie

‘Detroit’ is a case study of the limits of the white gaze.

By Frank Joyce / AlterNet

Still from the movie Detroit.
Photo Credit: Screenshot / YouTube

Are you thinking of seeing Kathryn Bigelow’s movie Detroit? Don’t.

Read John Hersey’s book The Algiers Motel Incident instead. It is one of the most remarkable books about race ever written by a white man. And it’s as accurate an account of the massacre at the Algiers Motel as currently exists.

Oh, never mind. By all means, see the movie if the marketing campaign has persuaded you it’s the kind of entertainment you like. But please don’t think you are going to gain any deep insight into what happened in Detroit in 1967. Or what’s happening now. Or most importantly what you could do to reduce the destructive grip of white power on our society going forward.

Detroit, the movie version of the torture and brutal killing of teenagers Carl Cooper, Aubrey Pollard and Fred Temple in 1967, will not engender any significant criticism from the so-called alt-right or any other division of the white power structure. Neither have any previous Bigelow movies. That’s because they reinforce the prevailing white way of thinking about the perpetual U.S. wars on people of color both foreign and domestic.

Rebel, Activist, Feminist & Mother: Farmworker Organizer Dolores Huerta Profiled in New Documentary

A remarkable new film chronicles one of the greatest civil rights leaders in United States history. It’s called “Dolores,” about Dolores Huerta, the legendary co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association, which went on to become the United Farm Workers of America.

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