George Lakey

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George Lakey
George Russell Lakey

(1937-11-02) November 2, 1937 (age 85)
Alma materCheyney University
University of Oslo
OccupationActivist, sociologist, writer
Berit Mathiesen
(m. 1960)

George Russell Lakey (born November 2, 1937) is an activist, sociologist, and writer who added academic underpinning to the concept of nonviolent revolution.[1] He also refined the practice of experiential training for activists which he calls "Direct Education".[2] A Quaker, he has co-founded and led numerous organizations and campaigns for justice and peace.[3]

Early life[edit]

Lakey was born to Dora M. and Russell George Lakey (a slate miner) in Bangor, Pennsylvania.[4] He was identified as a prospective child preacher for his church, and at age 12, he gave a sermon promoting racial equality as the will of God, although his sermon was not well-received at the time.[5] He graduated from Cheyney University in southeastern Pennsylvania, and also studied at the University of Oslo, Norway, where he married Berit Mathiesen in 1960, and taught at an Oslo high school. He continued his sociology studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Activist career[edit]

In the late 1950s, Lakey was active in the ban-the-bomb movement,[6] then participated in the civil rights movement, in 1963 being arrested in a sit-in.[3] The following year he was a trainer for Mississippi Freedom Summer and co-authored his first book, A Manual for Direct Action, which was widely used in the South by the civil rights movement.[7] In 1966 he co-founded the national body A Quaker Action Group (AQAG), whose activities took him in 1967 to Vietnam to participate in the sailing ship Phoenix's protest action in South Vietnam seeking to give medical supplies to the anti-war Buddhist movement there.[8]

In 1970, Lakey was active within AQAG in the successful direct action in the Puerto Rican struggle to stop the U.S. Navy from using the island of Culebra for target practice.[9] In 1971 he helped found Movement for a New Society (MNS), a network of autonomous groups working for a nonviolent revolution.[10] The network featured living collectives and co-ops as well as participation in national movements of the 1970s and '80s. The network's training program at the Philadelphia Life Center Association became highly influential in the US and abroad in spreading Paulo Freire's Popular education and other participatory training methods.[11]

During the 1970s, he also gave national leadership to the Campaign to Stop the B-1 Bomber and Promote Peace Conversion,[12] which succeeded in persuading Congress and President Carter to de-fund this Air Force program.[13] In 1976 he co-organized Men Against Patriarchy, a pioneering anti-sexism movement for men. In 1982 he organized the Pennsylvania section of a national labor/community coalition named "Jobs with Peace" and directed that effort for seven years.[14]

In 1991, he co-founded with Philadelphia activist Barbara Smith, Training for Change (TfC). Building on previous training at the Martin Luther King Jr. School for Social Change and Movement for a New Society, Training for Change developed a new pedagogy called "Direct Education". Training for Change did trainings and consultations for activists and nongovernmental organizations in 20 countries.[15]

In 2009, Lakey co-founded Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT), to build a just and sustainable economy through nonviolent direct action campaigns. The group won its first campaign, forcing PNC Bank to stop financing mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia. In that campaign, while in his seventies, Lakey was arrested and also led a 200-mile march.[16]

Academic career[edit]

Lakey's first teaching post in higher education was in the Martin Luther King Jr. School of Social Change, a division of Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania.[17] Lakey helped formulate the curriculum and then taught there for its first four years, 1965–69.[18] In this period he systematized the field of "Experiential Nonviolence Training" and the students were supported in efforts to connect field training with theory in direct actions.[19]

Later Lakey joined the Peace Studies program at the University of Pennsylvania, successfully expanding its undergraduate offerings and the participation of minority students. In addition, he helped lead a University of Pennsylvania group dynamics lab promoting innovative feminist leadership. He also taught peace studies at Haverford College.

He later taught at Temple University and much later he accepted the endowed Eugene M. Lang Visiting Professorship in Issues of Social Change at Swarthmore College. He continued at Swarthmore as a Lang Professor and then as a research professor until his retirement.

In 2010, Lakey was named by the National Peace and Justice Studies Association as "Peace Educator of the Year".

LGBT activism[edit]

In 1973, Lakey came out in public as a gay man, and joined the LGBT movement, becoming part of what he later would call "Gay Liberation's early visionary days."[20][21]

See also[edit]


  • A Manual for Direct Action: Strategy and Tactics for Civil Rights and All Other Nonviolent Protest Movements, co-author with Martin Oppenheimer; Chicago IL: Quadrangle Books, 1965
  • In Place of War: Moving toward a New Society, co-author with the American Friends Service Committee working party; lead author: James E. Bristol) New York City NY: Grossman, 1967
  • A Manifesto for Nonviolent Revolution: Toward a Just World Order, Vol. 1 Boulder CO: Westview Press, 1982 (originally published by War Resisters International (WRI) in 1972)
  • Strategy for a Living Revolution: a World Order Book; New York City: Grossman, and San Francisco CA: W.H. Freeman, 1973
    • Revised and published as Powerful Peacemaking, Philadelphia, PA: New Society Publishers, 1987
    • Revised and published as Toward a Living Revolution, London, England: Peace News, 2013, then published with the same title in a North American edition by Wipf & Stock, 2016 (The central thesis of the above book on nonviolent revolution is found in "A Manifesto for Nonviolent Revolution" also by George Lakey and released by War Resisters International (WRI), 1975 (see above).)[22]
  • Moving toward a New Society (co-author), Philadelphia, PA: New Society Publishers, 1975
  • No Turning Back: Lesbian and Gay Liberation in the ‘80s (co-author with Erika Thorne), Philadelphia, PA: New Society Publishers, 1983
  • Grassroots and Nonprofit Leadership: A Guide for Organizations in Changing Times (co-author with Berit Lakey, Rod Napier, and Janice Robinson), Philadelphia, PA: New Society Publishers, 1995; new edition (self-published), 2016; also published in translation in Cairo, Belgrade, and Bangkok
  • Opening Space for Democracy: Curriculum and Manual for Training for Third Party Nonviolent Intervention; co-author with Daniel Hunter), Philadelphia, PA: Training for Change, 2004
  • Facilitating Group Learning: Strategies for Success with Diverse Adult Learners. San Francisco CA: Jossey-Bass, 2010
  • Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians got it right and how we can, too; New York, NY and London, England: Melville House Publishing, 2016
  • How We Win: A Guide to Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigning; New York, NY and London, England: Melville House Publishing, 2018

Internet Development and Writing:

  • Global Nonviolent Action Database, internet – ongoing[23]

Over 1,000 researched cases from nearly 200 countries with focus on campaigns back to ancient Egypt that used nonviolent direct action. Searchable, and includes a narrative for each case. Developed by George Lakey with Swarthmore and other university students, with Swarthmore's Peace and Conflict Studies, the Peace Collection, and the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility.[24]

  • Living Revolution. column internet website, ongoing
  • Waging Nonviolence. Blog (featured columnist) internet website, ongoing on-line blog where George Lakey has been a regular featured columnist since 2010.


  1. ^ "Book Review: Of Gravlax and Power Grids". Bloomberg L.P. July 7, 2016. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
  2. ^ "Key Insights from George Lakey's book, "Facilitating Group Learning" | Daryn R. Cambridge". December 17, 2010. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Preaching Peace and Justice: An Interview with George Lakey". April 9, 2012. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  4. ^ "Rebel Energy – Swarthmore College Bulletin". Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  5. ^ Rushe, Dominic (March 3, 2019). "Civil rights legend George Lakey on how progressives can win". The Guardian. Archived from the original on March 3, 2019.
  6. ^ "George Lakey – Quaker Ranter". Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  7. ^ "Nonviolent Action: How It Works – Pendle Hill Quaker Books & Pamphlets". Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  8. ^ "How a Modest Wooden Boat Became an International Icon During the Vietnam War, Then Disappeared". October 11, 2016. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  9. ^ "Puerto Ricans expel United States Navy from Culebra Island, 1970–1974 – Global Nonviolent Action Database". Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  10. ^ "Movement for a New Society – Lokashakti Encyclopedia". Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  11. ^ "Anarchism and the Movement for a New Society: Direct Action and Prefigurative Community in the 1970s and 80s By Andrew Cornell – The Institute for Anarchist Studies". Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  12. ^ "Spirit in Conflict: George Lakey". Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  13. ^ "The Occupy Movement Stands at the Crossroads: Street Spirit Interview with George Lakey". March 8, 2012. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  14. ^ Spirituality, Religion, and Peace Education, By Edward J. Brantmeier, Jing Lin, INFORMATION AGE PUBLISHING, John P. Miller, pg 90
  15. ^ Cornell, Andrew (January 1, 2011). Oppose and Propose!: Lessons from Movement for a New Society. AK Press. ISBN 9781849350662. Retrieved December 3, 2016 – via Google Books.
  16. ^ "Earth Quaker Action Team Campaigns Against PNC Bank for Financing Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining 2010–2015 – Global Nonviolent Action Database". Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  17. ^ "Talk and Book Signing – "Viking Economics"". Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  18. ^ "Pacifists' Visit – NZETC". Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  19. ^ "Satyagraha Foundation " Blog Archive " Nonviolent Peace Training as a Means of Linking Research and Action". Retrieved December 12, 2017.
  20. ^ "Lessons from the LGBT equality movement – Waging Nonviolence". April 2, 2013. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  21. ^ "What white allies can learn from allies in the gay rights struggle". July 4, 2015. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  22. ^ S, Roger Powers (November 12, 2012). Protest, Power, and Change: An Encyclopedia of Nonviolent Action from ACT-UP to Women's Suffrage. Routledge. ISBN 9781136764820. Retrieved December 3, 2016 – via Google Books.
  23. ^ Butigan, Ken (September 22, 2011). "Global Nonviolent Action Database launched". Waging Nonviolence. Retrieved May 20, 2018.
  24. ^ "Who made the database? – Global Nonviolent Action Database". Retrieved December 3, 2016.