A Guide to the Common Ground Records, 1983-2003:SC 0126

A Guide to the Common Ground Records, 1983-2003:SC 0126

A Collection in
Special Collections
Collection Number SC 0126


Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University

Special Collections
Carrier Library
James Madison University
Harrisonburg, Virginia 22807
Phone: (540) 568-3612
Fax: (540) 568-3405
Email: library-special@jmu.edu
URL: http://www.lib.jmu.edu/special

© 2017 By JMU Libraries. All rights reserved.

Processed by: Tiffany W. Cole and Julia Merkel, 2010; Revised by Dillon Thomas, December 2016, Tiffany Cole, September 2018

Special Collections, James Madison University
Collection Number
SC 0126
Common Ground Records, 1983-2003
.96 cubic feet; 3 boxes
Common Ground
The Common Ground Records, 1983-2003, consists of the newsletters, administrative files, and other material related to or published by the now-defunct Harrisonburg peace and justice organization Common Ground and its predecessors, The Network for Peace and Justice and Common Weal.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the James Madison University Special Collections Library to use this collection.

Use Restrictions

Collection is open for research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the James Madison University Special Collections Library to use this collection.

Preferred Citation

[identification of item], [box #, folder #], Common Ground Records, 1983-2003, SC 0126, Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA.

Acquisition Information

The collection was donated to Special Collections in May 2010 by Greg Czyszczon with additions made in July 2010 by Bob Bersson, September 2010, December 2016 by Dale Diaz, and September 2018 by Bob Bersson.

Processing Information

A portion of Network for Peace and Justice newsletters were migrated to photocopy format upon receipt due to environmental damage and inherent vice i.e. vinyl line tape, acidic adhesives, and chemical deterioration of master photographic copies. This collection was reprocessed in December 2016 and is comprised of materials from the Common Ground Collection, previously cataloged as SC 3019, and the Network for Peace and Justice Collection, previously cataloged as SC 3020.

Administrative History

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 Greg Czyszczon in 2003.

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 1990s, circulation reached 2,000 copies. A quarter of the subscriptions were paid and the rest of the newsletters were freely distributed at local restaurants,campuses, and churches.

The Harrisonburg area Network for Peace and Justice is the predecessor of the Common Ground. Originally conceived of as a vehicle for "communication, cooperation and consciousness-raising" among twelve socially progressive local groups or chapters of national groups, the participating organizations listed in the inaugural October 1983 newsletter are: Choose Life; Christians for Peace; Church Women United, Harrisonburg/Rockingham County; Citizens Party, Harrisonburg/Rockingham County; Community Mediation Center; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; National Organization of Women, Harrisonburg/Rockingham County and James Madison University chapters; Peacemakers, Trinity Presbyterian Church; Peace Ministry Committee, Church of the Brethren; and Women's Caucus, Church of the Brethren. Robert Bersson, JMU professor emeritus of art, was the newsletter's first editor. Contributions of articles came from representatives of member organizations.

For a short time, as the newsletter began to gain popularity and local support, the newsletter changed its title to Common Weal from August 1987 to November 1987. After this change, the title was again altered to become its final iteration as Common Ground: The Network for Peace, Justice, and the Environment in March 1988, retaining the original newsletter's title as its subtitle.

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 was political in nature: early Common Ground members credit their activism 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 faceson Harrisonburg's City Council.

Scope and Content

The Common Ground Records, 1983-2003, is comprised of three boxes (.96 cubic feet) consisting primarily of material related to or published by the now-defunct Harrisonburg peace and justice organization Common Ground and its predecessors, The Network for Peace and Justice and Common Weal. The collection is arranged into four series: Newsletters, Administrative Files, Ephemera, and Images.


The collection is arranged in four series:

Series 1: Newsletters, 1983-2003

Series 2: Administrative Files, 1986-1997

Series 3: Ephemera, 1990-1998

Series 4: Images, 1990

Index Terms


  • Church and social problems -- Virginia -- Harrisonburg
  • Environmentalism -- Virginia -- Harrisonburg
  • Human rights -- Virginia -- Harrisonburg
  • Peace movements -- Virginia -- Harrisonburg
  • Social justice -- Virginia -- Harrisonburg
  • Genre and Form Terms:

  • Administrative records
  • Brochures
  • Fliers (printed matter)
  • Newsletters
  • Newspaper clippings
  • Photographs
  • Printed Ephemera
  • Slides (photographs)


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

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

Container List

Series 1: Newsletters, 1983-2003
Scope and Content

Series 1: Newsletters, 1983-2003, consists of the organization's monthly publications on topics relevant to peace, justice, and the environment 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.

  • Box:Folder 1 folder: 1
    Network for Peace and Justice, 1983-1984
  • Box:Folder 1 folder: 2
    Network for Peace and Justice, 1985-1987
  • Box:Folder 1 folder: 3
    Common Weal, 1987
  • Box:Folder 1 folder: 4
    Common Ground, 1988
  • Box:Folder 1 folder: 5
    Common Ground, 1989
  • Box:Folder 1 folder: 6
    Common Ground, 1990
  • Box:Folder 1 folder: 7
    Common Ground, 1991
  • Box:Folder 1 folder: 8
    Common Ground, January-August 1992
  • Box:Folder 3 folder: 1
    Common Ground, September-December 1992
  • Box:Folder 3 folder: 2
    Common Ground, 1993
  • Box:Folder 3 folder: 3
    Common Ground, 1994
  • Box:Folder 3 folder: 4
    Common Ground, 1995
  • Box:Folder 3 folder: 5
    Common Ground, 1996
  • Box:Folder 3 folder: 6
    Common Ground, 1997
  • Box:Folder 3 folder: 7
    Common Ground, 1998
  • Box:Folder 3 folder: 8
    Common Ground, 1999
  • Box:Folder 3 folder: 9
    Common Ground, 2000
  • Box:Folder 3 folder: 10
    Common Ground, 2001
  • Box:Folder 3 folder: 11
    Common Ground, 2002-2003
Series 2: Administrative Files, 1986-1997
Scope and Content

Series 2: Administrative Files, 1986-1997, consists of documents originating from the management of Common Ground and its predecessors. The documents include legal files, mainly Articles of Incorporation and IRS tax forms. The series also 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.

  • Box:Folder 1 folder: 9
    Legal Documents, 1987-1989
  • Box:Folder 1 folder: 10
    Administration, 1986-1987
  • Box:Folder 1 folder: 11
    Administration, 1988
  • Box:Folder 1 folder: 12
    Administration, 1989-1990
  • Box:Folder 2 folder: 1
    Administration, 1991
  • Box:Folder 2 folder: 2
    Administration, 1992
  • Box:Folder 2 folder: 3
    Administration, 1993
  • Box:Folder 2 folder: 4
    Administration, 1994
  • Box:Folder 2 folder: 5
    Administration, 1995
  • Box:Folder 2 folder: 6
    Administration, 1996
  • Box:Folder 2 folder: 7
    Administration, 1997
Series 3: Ephemera, 1990-1998
Scope and Content

Series 3: Ephemera, 1990-1998, is primarily comprised of publicity material and newsclippings. The publicity material contains fliers, brochures, and programs from the Common Ground speaker series, fundraising events, and community events in the spirit of Common Ground. The newsclippings include newspaper articles and letters to the editor primarily from the Daily News-Record and written by or about Common Ground members or affiliate organizations.

  • Box:Folder 2 folder: 8
    Publicity, 1990-1998, undated
  • Box:Folder 2 folder: 9
    Newsclippings, 1990-1998
Series 4: Images, 1990
Scope and Content

Series 4: Images, 1990, is comprised of color photographs and slides from a banquet and Earth Day circa 1990. This series also includes images from a board meeting and annual awards banquet circa 2000.

  • Box:Folder 2 folder: 10
    Slides and Photographs, 1990, undated