Norma Becker

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Norma Becker (1930 – 2006) was a founder of the Fifth Avenue Vietnam Peace Parade Committee, which drew tens of thousands to protest the Vietnam War, and of the Mobilization for Survival coalition. She served as chairperson of the pacifist War Resisters League from 1977 to 1983.

Born in the Bronx in 1930, Becker graduated from Hunter College in 1951. She began teaching social studies at a Harlem junior high school and received her master's degree in education from Columbia University in 1961. In 1963, as she said later, she was “recruited into the civil rights movement by Sheriff ‘Bull’ Connor of Birmingham [Alabama].” Appalled by media accounts of Connor’s use of dogs to subdue civil rights demonstrators, Becker went South to teach in the summer Freedom Schools. Over the next years, she rose to leadership in the burgeoning movement against the war in Vietnam. In 1965, she helped to start the Peace Parade Committee.

In 1977, after the Vietnam War ended, Becker helped create the Mobilization for Survival, which linked the emerging movement against nuclear power to opponents of nuclear weapons and the wider antiwar movement. On June 12, 1982, the "Mobe" drew some 700,000 people to Central Park, in what The New York Times later described as "a boisterous and festive call for the end of the nuclear arms race."

She died in 2006 of lung cancer due to a habit of smoking.

References[edit]

  • The New York Times obituary, "Norma Becker, 76, Organizer of Opposition to the Vietnam War," June 27, 2006
  • The Villager, "Norma Becker, 76, fought for peace and civil rights," July 5-11, 2006