A.J. MusteA.J. Muste

The four-part documentary film series chronicling the life and impact of peace activist A.J. Muste will be screened at Hope College across four Mondays between Sept. 25 and Nov. 6.

Collectively titled “A.J. Muste: Radical for Peace” and produced between 2017 and 2021, the films will be shown one per night on September 25, October 16, October 23 and November 6 at 6 p.m. in Winants Auditorium of Graves Hall.  The screenings are being hosted by the college’s A.J. Muste Memorial Lecture Committee.

The public is invited.  Admission is free.

A.J. (Abraham Johannes) Muste (1885-1967), who was a 1905 Hope College graduate (and class valedictorian), was one of the most well-known and influential peace activists in the United States.  He spoke out against the nation’s involvement in every war from World War I through the Vietnam War.  In his quest for peace he generated controversy for being arrested for participating in protests in the U.S. and meeting with leaders like Ho Chi Minh, yet he also demonstrated in Moscow’s Red Square against nuclear testing.  Muste was also a prominent labor leader across much of his career, with activity including serving as general secretary of the Amalgamated Textile Workers of America and educational director of Brookwood Labor College.  Serving as executive director of The Fellowship of Reconciliation from 1940 to 1953, he became active in the civil rights movement.  He corresponded with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. throughout the 1950s and 1960s, and King in his book “Stride Toward Freedom” credited Muste with introducing him to pacifism during a lecture that Muste delivered at Crozer Theological Seminary in 1949 while King was a student.

The first film in the series, “A.J. Muste: Radical for Peace/Finding True North,” follows Muste from his childhood through his early 50s, and received a State History Award from the Historical Society of Michigan in September 2019.

The second film, “A.J. Muste: Radical for Peace/The No. 1 U.S. Pacifist,” follows Muste’s career as a Christian pacifist from the late 1930s though the mid-1950s.

The third film, “A.J. Muste: Radical for Peace/Welcoming the New Left,” highlights Muste’s efforts at race reconciliation and demilitarization at an age when he might instead have retired.

The fourth film, “Say not the struggle naught availeth…,” begins with Muste’s 1963 visit to Birmingham, Alabama, when he met with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders of the civil rights movement; shows him participating in mass protests in Washington, D.C., and New York City in 1965; and follows him to South Vietnam and Saigon in 1966, and to north Vietnam and his January 1967 meeting with Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi.  Muste died just a few weeks later, on Feb. 11, 1967, at age 82.

“A.J. Muste: Radical for Peace” was produced and directed by Dr. David Schock, an award-winning independent filmmaker who is a former member of the college’s communication and English faculty. Schock was invited to undertake the multi-film project by Dr. Kathleen Verduin, a professor of English at Hope who is a member and former chair of the A.J. Muste Memorial Lecture Committee.

With Schock serving additionally as videographer, editor and researcher, and Verduin as associate producer and researcher, between them they covered thousands of miles, including three trips to the West Coast, three to the East and two to the South.  Along the way they interviewed experts who have written extensively about Muste and those who knew him well and worked with him. Highlights include interviews with scholars Jo Ann Ooiman Robinson and Leilah Claire Danielson, activists David McReynolds, Brad Lyttle, The Reverends Kristin Stoneking, James Lawson, and Andrew J. Young, SDS cofounder Dick Flacks, Gene Keyes, George Lakey, Michele Gloor, Rosalie Riegle, and Sheldon Weeks. Others include The Reverend Art Van Eck, Brenda Walker Beadenkopf, Dorothy Vanderklipp, Heidi Boghosian, and grandson Peter Muste and granddaughter-in-law Shirley and grandson Richard Baker.

Muste is remembered at Hope in a variety of ways. The college’s A.J. Muste Memorial Lecture series, which was established in 1985 to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of his birth, seeks to explore issues that would have been of interest to Muste, including topics related to labor, civil rights and peace, and this year was held on Monday, Sept. 11.  Since 1988, Muste has also been honored on campus with the A.J. Muste Alcove, which is a study alcove in the Van Wylen Library.  A commissioned bust of Muste sculpted by Dr. Ryan Dodde, a 1989 Hope graduate who is a plastic surgeon, was added to the alcove in November 2018.  A conference focused on Muste and his work is being planned for the spring of 2024.

Audience members who need assistance to enjoy any event at Hope fully are encouraged to contact the college’s Events and Conferences Office by emailing events@hope.edu or calling 616-395-7222 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Updates related to events are posted when available in the individual listings at hope.edu/calendar

Graves Hall is located at 263 College Ave., between 10th and 12th streets.  The four films are also available for public viewing at no cost at radicalforpeace.org