A Guide to the

Common Ground Collection, 1984-2003

SC# 3019

Compiled by: Tiffany W. Cole and Julia Merkel, 2010

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University

Title: Common Ground Collection, 1984-2003

Collection No.: SC# 3019

Creator: Common Ground:  Network for Peace, Justice, and the Environment

Extent: 2 Hollinger boxes; .8 linear feet

Language: English


The Common Ground Collection, 1984-2003, is comprised of two Hollinger boxes (.8 linear feet) primarily of administrative files and newsletters published or distributed by the now defunct Harrisonburg peace and justice organization, Common Ground.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions:

Collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions:

The copyright interests in this collection have been transferred to the James Madison University Special Collection Library. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library Reference Desk (library-special@jmu.edu).

Preferred Citation: 

The Common Ground Collection, 1984-2003, SC# 3019, Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Va.

Acquisition Information:

The collection was donated to Special Collections in May 2010 with an addition made in September 2010.

Historical Note

With a modest beginning in the early 1980s of approximately twelve members whose interest ranged from nonviolence and social justice to ecological awareness-- Common Ground stemmed from Harrisonburg's Choose Life Peace Center which was an ecumenical group concerned with nuclear proliferation and the U.S. intervention in Central America.  Common Ground:  Network for Peace, Justice, and the Environment was officially founded in June 1987 by a group of representatives from local peace, justice, and environmental organizations.  As a not for profit networking organization to channel the efforts of local groups, associations, and churches through education, research and civic action, Common Ground's primary goals were education, study and research on peace, justice and environmental quality; networking; building strong personal bonds of mutual support; active participation for change; and celebrating spiritual and ethical commitments. By 1996, the network had grown to fifty-three affiliate organizations.  Xaverian Brother, Pete Mahoney was the network's long term director serving from 1987-1997.  Brother Pete was followed by Ms. Dale Diaz in 1997 and Mr. Greg Czyszczon in 2003.

Common Ground promoted its core values by recognizing community members and projects at an annual awards banquet.  Recipients over the years have been:  Blacks Run Restoration; Allies (an organization for advocacy on behalf of the local gay, lesbian, and bi-sexual community); Ron Copeland for organizing the Little Grill Soup Kitchen; Joe Giarriatano, an inmate who formed the Peace Center at Augusta Correctional Center in Craigsville; the Community Mediation Center; and John Eckman for the Valley Conservation Center among many others.

The spirit of Common Ground embodied both "nonpartisan radicalism" and liberation theology with its preferential option for the poor and the marginalized members of society.  Common Ground's activities and publications celebrated and gave voice to affiliate members and interests outside Harrisonburg's mainstream media outlets.  The result of its alternative voice were political in nature:  early Common Ground members credit their activisim to General Dynamics' withdrawal of a proposal to build a munitions plant in the Shenandoah Valley; Common Ground worked with the Piedmont Environmental Council to successfully oppose Walt Disney Inc.'s proposed "Historic America Theme Park" in Haymarket, Virginia; and former Harrisonburg Mayor Carolyn Frank credits Common Ground members with changing "politics as usual" in this community by rallying with the "Taxpayers Against Golf Spending" campaign which placed new faces on Harrisonburg's City Council.

Common Ground's newsletter was known by three different names while in publication-Network for Peace and Justice (December 1983 - May 1987), Common Weal (August 1987, November 1987), and Common Ground (March 1988 - December 1996).  All three titles are present within this collection.  Early newsletters were mimeographed or photocopied; by 1992 the newsletters were published on newsprint. In its heyday in the late 1990's, circulation reached 2,000 copies.  A quarter were paid subscriptions, and the rest were freely distrubuted at local restaurants, campuses, and churches.

Scope and Content

The Common Ground Collection, 1984-2003, is comprised of two Hollinger boxes (.8 linear feet) primarily of newsletters published or distributed by the now defunct Harrisonburg peace and justice organization, Common Ground.  The collection is arranged in six series:  Newsletters, Legal Documents, Administration, Publicity, Newsclippings, and Images.

Series 1, Newsletters, 1984-1996, consists of the organization's monthly publications on topics relevant to peace, justice and environmental issues including recycling, government intervention in Central America, homeless in Harrisonburg, and immigration, as well as a calendar with upcoming events and announcements.  There are minimal gaps in the dates depending on the regularity of published newsletters or missing newsletters.

Series 2, Legal Documents, 1987-1989, includes Articles of Incorporation and IRS forms.

Series 3, Administration, 1986-1997, consists of correspondence to Common Ground, resource material for the newsletter on such topics as: recycling, nuclear disarmament, tax resistance, draft counseling, conscientious objection, the Green Party, Harrisonburg International Festival, sustainability, transportation, Ted & Lee performing group, community organizing, death penalty, immigration, Harrisonburg Police Department, Civil Rights, Harrisonburg Free Clinic, equal rights, school reform, Disney Historic America theme park, and social justice.  Mailing lists, meeting agendas, and minutes of the board are also included here.

Series 4, Publicity, 1990-1997 and undated, contains fliers, brochures and programs from the Common Ground speaker series, fundraising events and community events in the spirit of Common Ground.  Readings, performances and activist opportunities may be found in this series.

Series 5, Newsclippings, 1998-2000 and undated, includes newspaper articles and letters to the editor primarily from the Daily News Record and written by or about Common Ground members or affiliate organizations.

Series 6, Images, 1990 and undated. Color photographs and slides from an early banquet and Earth Day circa 1990 as well as images from a late board meeting and annual awards banquet circa 2000 are also found here.


The collection is arranged in six series:

1. Newsletters, 1984-1996

2. Legal Documents, 1987-1997

3. Administration, 1986-1997

4. Publicity, 1990-1997

5. Newsclippings, 1998-2000

6. Images, 1990


Series I:  Newsletters, 1984-1996


Series II: Legal Documents, 1987-1997
Series III: Administration, 1986-1997
Series IV: Publicity, 1990-1997         
Series V: Newsclippings, 1998-2000, undated         
Series VI: Images 1990, undated        



Gingerich, R.C. and Busching, B.C. "New Approaches to Power in Grassroots Coalition Building: A Case Study of Common Ground" Conscious Acts and the Politics of Social Change Teske and Tetreault, ed. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, SC 2000.

Merkel, Julia "Interview notes from Common Ground Reunion Gathering, Harrisonburg's Hillandale Park, September 2010."

Related Material

Network for Peace and Justice Collection, 1983-1987, SC 3020