The nonviolence of daily living

"You Don't Gotta"
Nelson Legacy Teaser 

A sampling of audio interviews produced by Talking Across the Lines 

Q: Why did they
live this way? 

In Juanita’s words: “That’s the only way you can stop war — stop participating in it, and stop so much consumption that requires war.  At least that’s the way I look at it.”

Wally's Definition of Nonviolence

NONVIOLENCE is the constant awareness of the dignity and humanity of oneself and others; it seeks truth and justice; it renounces violence both in method and in attitude; it is a courageous acceptance of active love and goodwill as the instrument with which to overcome evil and transform both oneself and others. It is the willingness to undergo suffering rather than inflict it. It excludes retaliation and flight.

Juanita's “Nonviolence of Daily Living” 

I am concerned to strive for a coherent, integrated life. So that the way I live and get my living might be the clearest statement I can make of my belief in nonviolence. So that my day-to-day relations might be an expression of my desire for a world of reason, sharing, and creativity.

To the extent that my very sustenance is embedded in a network organized around violence in many manifestations, I am a collaborator in the very opposite of what I desire. It seems to me that only a profound change in my way of life can begin to correct these contradictions. That change includes reaching toward ever greater simplicity, then devising ways to secure those basic requirements more directly.

By simplifying my needs and living more nearly within the bounds of my own productivity, I hope to reduce my exploitation of the earth and its inhabitants.

Short video about the Nelson Homestead (2022)

Wally and Juanita Nelson were civil rights activists, peace activists, war tax refusers, subsistence farmers, and advocates of simple living.

They were members of groups such as CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), FOR (Fellowship of Reconciliation), and Peacemakers. They were founding members of the Greenfield Farmers' Market, the Free Harvest Supper, the Valley Community Land Trust, and Winter Fare. They were recipients of numerous awards during their lifetime, including the Courage of Conscience Award from the Peace Abbey in Sherborn, Mass., the Sacco and Vanzetti Award from Community Church in Boston, and CISA’s Local Hero Award for championing local food and agriculture.


"You Don't Have to
Ride Jim Crow"
Radio production (2021)
by Robin Washington


"Let My People Go —
An Activist's Story"
Kim & Reggie Harris & Juanita Nelson (2005)

12 Let My People Go_ Story Of An Activist's Life.m4a

Student Interview
Sarah Horowitz with Juanita Nelson

Sarah Horowitz's interview of Juanita.mp3
Trouble playing the audio files? Try refreshing the page or opening the files in a new window.

Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association


“I guess a long time ago I got it out of my head I was going to save the world. So I act to save Wally and his integrity. Sometimes it’s a situation that’s dangerous and sometimes not so dangerous. But I would hope that other people would be inspired to do what they ought to do.”

―Wally Nelson

"I am concerned to strive for
a coherent, integrated life…”

—Juanita Nelson


"You Don't Have to Ride Jim Crow" 

A PBS documentary film (1995) by Robin Washington

War Tax Resistance 

Interview by the NWTRCC

See full NWTRCC video here: 

Tribute to Juanita Nelson 

Democracy Now, 2015

Occupation: Training for Nonviolence

Charles Light
(Wally begins speaking at 2:48)


Input — Alternatives

Part 1 (1970)  Exploring Oppression and Class 


Part 2 (1970)  Philly Black Panthers Debate Revolution 


What would they think? 

An imaginary conversation with Juanita and Wally

By Bob Bady, Spring 2021

Wally, I’ve noticed some stirrings at our place the past few years. More doings than just the mice. A bunch of people were having workdays, fixing the place up, getting rid of the rot from all those different roof angles. It was nice to see. I thought, OK, so the place won’t just crumble to the ground. It will be lived in, maybe by someone who will till the bean patch, like that young couple several years back.

But Wally, now they’re talking about turning it into some kind of museum, and make a website to go with it! I didn’t much like it when people put us on a pedestal, make us into special people who could do things they couldn’t do. They even want to have docents. Unbelievable! Maybe they will have statues of us with flowers and fruit baskets around the base. 

Woman, I hear you, let’s look at this. I think if they focus on what we tried to do, tried to be non-violent in the way we lived, some good will come of it. 

How will two dead people and their shack help them live with less violence? 

We cared about and loved a lot of people. And they loved us back. Some of those people are still alive and they’re our community. I think they understand what we were about and they’re not going to turn us into deities. This community is what’s left of us on earth, it’s going to do what it’s going to do. 

Well, Wally, you’re probably right. There’s nothing we can do about it at this point. Nothing that’s non-violent anyway. Maybe they’ll have a harvest dinner with lots of snow peas. 

I’d like to see some dancing. I just hope Bob doesn’t start putting words in our mouths. When we met him all those years ago he was a wet behind the ears kid who thought he knew everything. He’s still got some dampness behind those ears.

The Nelsons and Craig Simpson in New Mexico, c. 1971.