12/28/21: An Update to an Unofficial Guide to Some Resources of Peace Corps History
Here is the current list of unofficial Resources describing the history of the Peace Corps. It is unofficial and incomplete. The public documents are available but not necessarily easily accessible. Few are digitalized. Most are the property of the institutional archives, public, private and certainly university. For example, the training documents for Colombia I, the first Peace Corps group to enter training in June of 1961, are archived at Rutgers University. RPCVs may visit the university and review the materials, a privilege otherwise reserved for students and faculty of the university.
An unofficial guide to the locations of resources describing the Peace Corps, and its history.
This list is a cooperative effort with RPCV Alana deJoseph, producer of the documentary A Towering Task, her team and the many archivists and librarians at the places cited. Thank you to all . This is the latest information we have. Please comment, correct and contribute.
Peace Corps is a federal agency staffed by civilian service employees, who may or may not have served in the Peace Corps and who are responsible for managing the agency. Peace Corps Volunteers are private citizens serving in a public capacity in foreign countries and doing the actual work of the Peace Corps.
That work is in pursuit of the Three Goals:
- To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
- To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
- To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
Overseas administrative units are staffed by a combination of citizens of the host country and US personnel, some of whom may have have served as Volunteers. When Volunteers complete their 27 months of service, they may self-identify as Returned Peace Corps Volunteers or RPCVs. RPCVs have no official affiliation with the Peace Corps Agency and their activities are independent of Peace Corps. The exception is RPCVs who are employed by Peace Corps or who are working on Peace Corps’ Third Goal activities.
PEACE CORPS OFFICIAL WEBSITES
(Note: The Peace Corps in-house Library was closed in 1999. Books published before that date may reference Peace Corps Archives. That usually refers to the defunct Library).
There are documents that we could not locate and that may be a consequence of the closing of the Library. It could also mean that such documents do not exist. We could not find material provided directly by the Host Country Nationals with whom Volunteers worked. We could not find many documents about the overseas administrative units. Over 230,000 Volunteers have served as of this date, 9/17/2020. There are Description of Service Documents for over 190.000 Volunteers which document the activities of the First Goal. Here is the link: https://peacecorpsworldwide.org/the-descriptions-of-service-dos-document-achievements-of-the-first-goal/However, this list of resources will reflect gaps in records we could not find. We are committed to continue to work towards bridging these gaps.
In 2011, Peace Corps posted the statement that Staff was not available to help with historical research.
Peace Corps – Peacecorps.gov (Federal) Documents, reports and general information
Office of the Inspector General of the Peace Corps –Program and country evaluations as well as accountability reports
Media Library –Photos and descriptions of Volunteer work
Freedom of Information Act – Information on how to request public records from the Peace Corps. The FOIA Library has a log of all recent FOIA requests from 2008 forward to 2018. The logs for the years 2008 to 2010 also record the disposition of each request. To obtain the disposition of all the FOIA requests from 2011 forward, request FOIA 19-0107. https://www.peacecorps.gov/about/open-government/foia/
Peace Corps has also published a Legacy Book about Peace Corps Burkina Faso, as that program was closed.
( If there are other Legacy Books published by Peace Corps, we could not find them.)
OFFICE OF FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT
“The Peace Corps is subject to the Freedom of Information Act, including provisions of the act providing individuals with the right to request records created by the Peace Corps and other federal agencies.” The webpage is a wealth of information: https://www.peacecorps.gov/about/open-government/foia/
It includes links to the Peace Corps Manual and logs of all the FOIAs requested in 2009 and 2010. The website will soon show logs of all FOIAs requested from 2011 to 2017. Those logs may be currently accessed by requesting FOIA 18-0079. These specific FOIAs may be of interest.
FOIA 17-0044 –Peace Corps Transition Briefing Book November 2, 2016
FOIA 17-0148 – MOU between Peace Corps and Rotary International establishing partnership
FOIA 10-060 – Information about the closing of the Peace Corps Library
THE PEACE CORPS SEXUAL ASSAULT ADVISORY COUNCIL ANNUAL REPORT
The Peace Corps Sexual Assault Advisory Council was authorized by the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011. The Council was authorized for five years and the 2016 Report was the last one mandated by that legislation. The Sam Farr and Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018 has recently been signed into law and reauthorizes the Sexual Assault Advisory Council and its annual reports.
NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION
The Peace Corps records are located at Archive II in College Park, MD, Record Group 490. The catalog also includes reports referencing Peace Corps by other Federal agencies, listed by their own Record Group Number. All Presidential Libraries are maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration and may have Peace Corps records from each administration. Here are two:
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library – https://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/RPCV.aspx?f=1 The library has memorabilia from RPCVs who served during the Kennedy years and RPCVs oral histories from all years. Peace Corps Staff who served during Kennedy Administration may also have contributed personal papers to the JFK Library. Here is the link to the RPCV Oral History Project to learn more about it: https://www.peacecorpsoralhistory.org/cpages/home
John Coyne, who helped start this historic archive, described how the collection first came about here: https://peacecorpsworldwide.org/peace-corps-volunteers-archival-collection-at-the-kennedy-library/
Lyndon B Johnson Presidential Library
OTHER FEDERAL RESOURCES
The Smithsonian has a collection of materials from Volunteers and staff. The American History Museum and the National Anthropological Archives are two of the museums. Papers of Peace Corps Volunteers, 1920-1984
The Education Research Information Center or ERIC
ERIC also has wide range of Peace Corps materials. The Materials include training manuals, reports of successful projects, plans to engage schools in learning more about the world among many other topics.
Library of Congress annotated bibliography of books authored by RPCVs and Staff:
The Library also has many other Peace Corps documents and photos:https://www.loc.gov/search/?in=&q=Peace+Corps&new=true&st=
American University – (Private University)
“The Peace Corps Community Archive curated by the American University Library collects, preserves, and makes available materials that were created and acquired by Peace Corps Volunteers. The archive is used to support student and scholarly research, create exhibits, and provide educational and public programs that document the experiences and impact of individuals who served in the Peace Corps”.
The Historic Letter from Nurses in the Peace Corps is archived in the digital AU Archive. Here is the link for that important booklet: https://dra.american.edu/islandora/object/peacecorps%3A2311
Colorado State University – (Public University)
“Colorado State University became involved with the early development of the Peace Corps through the work of Maurice L. Albertson and the successful 1960 proposal on behalf of CSURF (Colorado State University Research Foundation) to the ICA (International Cooperation Agency) to investigate the possibility of establishing a “youth corps” that would become the Peace Corps. Colorado State University soon began training Peace Corps volunteers for work in Pakistan and other parts of the world. Albertson remained interested in the Peace Corps, and in 1986 he organized a seminar focusing on the future of the Peace Corps. The collection contains correspondence, reports, printed materials, photographs and slides from the period during and following the Peace Corps’ founding, as well as correspondence, planning documents, publications, notes, and cassette tapes from the 1986 seminar.”
George Washington University –(Private University)
“The National Security Archive at George Washington University is an excellent resource for public documents describing the diplomatic, military and other areas of US Foreign Policy. It an independent archive and provides a subscription service to public and private libraries. To access its entire collection online, it is necessary to visit a library that subscribes to the Digitial National Security Archive to be able to view all the documents. To learn more about the archive, visit the website at:http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/
(DNSA/GWU:Collection: El Salvador, The Making of U.S. Policy 1977-1984, Item Number: ES00332) These documents describe the events leading up to the evacuation of Peace Corps from El Salvador in 1980.
University of Kentucky – (Public University)
“This project began with interviews of returned Peace Corps volunteers and individuals associated with the Peace Corps with connections to Kentucky. Interviewees served in the Peace Corps from its inception in 1961 to the present. Volunteers discuss their experiences before, during, and after Peace Corps including their motivations for joining, the application process, training, living situations, difficulties, the job, relationships, coming home, and their impact on the host country and on their own lives.” Oral Histories Online: https://kentuckyoralhistory.org/catalog/xt7m3775x79d
Now, the RPCV Oral History Project has teamed with the University of Kentucky to expand their collection to include any Volunteer who served. The RPCV Oral History Team is interviewing, currently, RPCVs, by computer. An excellent contribution which allows interviews to be done when interviewers and interviewees cannot both be physically together. Some interviews are already digitalized and available. A copy of other inteviews may be requested, at no cost, from the University of Kentucky. https://www.peacecorpsoralhistory.org/cpages/home
University of Michigan – (public university)
Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan also has a collection of papers from Peace Corps Volunteers. (Public University) Here is that link:
University of New Mexico – (public university)
“The University of New Mexico Peace Corps Collection contains the original proposals and correspondence with national Peace Corps for the creation of the first Latin American Training Center in the nation. The collection contains materials on all aspects of the program and is separated into office, training and country records. The office records include proposals, contracts, meeting minutes, correspondence, and financial information. The training records include booklets, pamphlets, articles, correspondence, evaluations, and photographs. The country records include training materials from the Latin American countries UNM sent volunteers to. There are published reports, correspondence, articles, Peace Corps newsletters produced in Latin America, field feedback related to programs, biographical information on volunteers, and photographs. The collection also includes two audio cassette tapes of John F. Kennedy at Michigan Union in 1960 and a copy of the videorecording, Peace Corps at thirty-five; the power of an idea.”
University of Oklahoma (public university)
Project Peace Pipe: Indian Youth Pre – Trained For Peace Corps Duty
Harris, Fred R. ; Ginsberg, Leon H.
Radcliffe – (Private University)
“Once in Afghanistan” by RPCV Jill Vickers
University of Southern California – Peace Corps Korea Collection
University of Texas-El Paso-Report of one of the first college sites for Peace Corps Training; Tanzania I
Note: Many other universities, both public and private, may have Peace Corps documents in their collections. It may be necessary to contact each library directly to learn about such items and the manner to access them.
The World Catalog has a index of over 500 Dissertations and Theses for which Peace Corps was the subject.
ONLINE RESOURCES- not affiliated with the Peace Corps but created by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
Peace Corps World Wide –
“Peace Corps Worldwide celebrates the Peace Corps experience by publishing stories from around the world by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs), and Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs), to share with all who have a desire for international understanding.
This effort is at the heart of the Third Goal of the Peace Corps — to “bring the world back home.” Publicizing the writings of RPCVs and PCVs, all their novels, short stories, essays and poetry is a positive way of educating Americans about the world; an essential Peace Corps Third Goal activity to provided a link between the cultures of the world and our culture.
All work done for Peace Corps Worldwide is volunteer, and the site is in no way associated with the Peace Corps or the National Peace Corps Association.
This online magazine is an outgrowth of the print newsletter Peace Corps Writers that was first published in 1989 by John Coyne and Marian Haley Beil (both Ethiopia 1962–64) to promote, encourage and recognize Peace Corps writers. In the duration the effort has expanded to do all that as well as to share news and information about the Peace Corps, assist the members of the Peace Corps community bridge cultures as they fulfill the Third Goal of the Peace Corps, tell the incomparable stories that come from the Peace Corps experience, and more recently publish their books.”
Read the history of Peace Corps Writers: Third Goal Initiative–Peace Corps Writers
Peace Corps Online –
The Independent News Forum serving Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
Hugh Pickens, RPCV is publisher. There are no current posting,
But it is a historical source. Please note: the URL of this site nots “Not Secure”
Posh Corps –
Producer is RPCV Alan Toth. Posh Corps is a website which focuses on the modern Peace Corps experience.
“Our films and videos tell the stories of volunteers in South Africa, West Africa, Eastern Europe , Asia and the Americas.”
“The U.S. Peace Corps has been sending volunteers from the United States to countries all over the world for over 50 years. In fact, Live Lingua was founded by one of these volunteers. During his training he was amazed at how quickly and effectively the language learning material worked. Live Lingua has contacted the Peace Corps offices in Washington D.C. to obtain permission to be a repository of these courses, but we do not own any rights to them. If anybody wants to use this material for commercial purposes they will need to contact the Peace Corps offices to get permission. We are offering this material free of charge with no cost or commercials. If you have information that would lead you to believe that some of this material is not public domain, or if you have some PC training material that we have missed please contact email@example.com. Enjoy the free language learning. “
Note: Even though Live Lingua was founded by a returned Peace Corps volunteer (Mexico 2006-2008) neither he nor Live Lingua is currently affiliated with the U.S. Peace Corps. Making and maintaining this portion of Live Lingua is his way of helping complete Peace Corps 3rd Goal.
Museum of the Peace Corps Experience –
(An NGO -Not affiliated with the Peace Corps and created by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers)
“The Committee for a Museum of the Peace Corps Experience (CMPCE) is devoted to sharing the Peace Corps story with the broader American public. The museum is not yet a reality, but active support from the national returned volunteer community will get us there. We were started in 1999 by a committed group of returned Peace Corps Volunteers in Portland, Oregon. While most of our members are drawn from the Portland metro region, involvement is welcome from returned Peace Corps Volunteers, staff, and supporters all over the world.
We are an affiliate group of the National Peace Corps Association, and we coordinate our activities with the Columbia River Peace Corps Association.
Contact the Museum about their policy for accepting items from
A Towering Task is a documentary describing the almost 60 years of Peace Corps history. It was produced by Alana deJosephy, RPCV. To learn more, visit:
HISTORICAL REFERENCE WORKS
This list is divided in two parts. The first includes works by authors who were Peace Corps Volunteers and/or Peace Corps Staff. The second includes work by Scholars and Journalists who were not Peace Corps Volunteers and/or Peace Corps Staff.
The list is not meant to be exhaustive. As already noted, the Library of Congress has an annotated bibliography of over 300 books authored by RPCVs and Staff:
Peace Corps World Wide has the original bibliography of Peace Corps Writers and it is constantly updated, by RPCV Marian Haley Bell
Works by Authors who were Peace Corps Volunteers and/or Peace Corps Staff
22 YEARS OF SERVICE – UNITED STATES PEACE CORPS IN BULGARIA
by PC BULGARIA LEGACY BOOK COMMITTEE
Peace Corps Chronology – 1961-2010 by Lawrence F. Lihosit RPCV Published 2011
The Peace Corps and Latin America: In the Last Mile of U.S. Foreign Policy
Thomas J Nisley (RPCV Dominican Republic 1989-91)
Lexington Books Published 2018
When the World Calls – The Inside Story of the Peace Corps and its First Fifty Years – by Stanley Meiser (Former Peace Corps Staff) Published 2011
The Peace Corps Experience: Challenge and Change 1969-1976 by P. David Searles ( Former Peace Corps Country Director and staff) -Published 1997
Come As You Are by Coates Redmon -(Former Peace Corps Staff) -Published in 1986
Keeping Kennedy’s Promise-Unmet Hope of the New Frontier by Kevin Lowther and C. Payne Lucas (Former Peace Corps Staff) –Published 1978
A Moment in History: The First 10 Years of the Peace Corps by Brent Asgabranner (Former Peace Corps staff) -1971
Agents of Change–David Hapgood and Meridan Bennett (Former Peace Corps Staff) –Published 1968
Cultural Frontiers of the Peace Corps edited by Robert T. Textor(former Peace Corps staff) -Published in 1966
Letters from the Peace Corps-Edited by Ireis Luce –Published 1964
Point of the Lance by Sargent Shriver (Former Peace Corps Director) -Published 1964
Sargent Shriver Peace Institute-The Institute includes online speeches by Sargent Shriver delivered during the time he was the first Peace Corps Director.
Dr. Robert Textor was the first cultural anthropolgist consultant at Peace Corps from June 1961 to December 1961. Based on his experience, he created the policy which was to evolve into the famous “Five Year Rule”, limiting tenure at Peace Corps. Dr. Textor published the paper, “In, Up, and Out” describing his plan, as well as his recommendations for training Volunteers. He helped trained Thailand I. Sadly, he died in 2013.
Here was Dr. Textor’s message posted on Peace Corps Online:
March 13, 2011
Here is some background on the book, “Cultural Frontiers of the Peace Corps”
(MIT Press, 1966) which, as of March 1, 2011, was made digitally available to
the general public, thanks to the generosity of the MIT Press and the
Stanford University Libraries.
Sadly, some years afte Dr. Textor death, Stanford University took down Dr. Textor website and with it the digitized copies of his classic work, “Cultural Frontiers of the Peace Corps” as well as the historical document, “In, Up and Out” describing the unique “Five Year Rule” which he created for Peace Corps. Stanford Library reports “Cultural Frontiers of the Peace Corps” which they had digitized was not archived in their digital archive. Hard copies of “Cultural Frontiers of the Peace Corps” are available in many libraries.
9/27/19 Correction: The historical document “Five Year Rule” is available. The article may take two minutes to load, please be patient. Here is the link:
https://web.archive.org/web/20150930052121/http://web.stanford.edu/~rbtextor/History_of_In_Up_Out_Policy.pdfEradicating Smallpox in Ethiopia
Editors: Gene L. Bartley (Ethiopia 1970-72), John Scott Porterfield (1971-73), Alan Schnur (Ethiopia 1971-73), James W. Skeleton, Jr. (1970-72)
Peace Corps Writers
November 26, 2019
$ 19.95 (paperback); $ 9.95 (Kindle)
Works by Journalists and Scholars who were not Peace Corps Volunteers and/or Peace Corps Staff
All you need is Love: The Peace Corps and the Spirit of the 1960s – Elizabeth Coffs Hoffman -Published 1998
What you can do for your country –An Oral History of the Peace Corps – Karen Schwarz –Published 1991
Making a Difference: The Peace Corps at Twenty-five-Milton Virost Published 1986
The Bold Experiment, JFK’s Peace Corps by Gerard T. Rice-Published 1985
Volunteers for Peace: The First Group of Peace Corps Volunteers in Colombia by Morris Stein -Published in 1966
OTHER SUGGESTIONS –
The National Peace Corps Association has a roster of RPCV alumni groups.
Many groups preserve history of their host countries. Many RRPV alumni groups also are working on projects, now, to benefit their host countries and their websites would carry information about such efforts. To access the roster listing all these Alumni Groups:
Ad Council ads for Peace Corps:
Videos about the Peace Corps:
The link to the YouTube presentation of the PCVs working in an urban Barrio in Ecuador in 1963-65 is included.
10 CommentsLeave a comment
Joanne, you are doing an invaluable service for the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps prides itself on being dynamic and forward-looking and that has done good things for the agency. At the same time, a true institutional memory along with historical scholarship is crucial. These are the building blocks! It is an honor to be able to work with you on this and the entire Peace Corps community should thank you!
Thank you for your kind words, Alana, I just collect what eveyone else has done. Your Towering Task has become more and more important as we wait, watch and struggle through this very difficult time.
Ursula Le Guin said (in “Leaves” in her final poems SO FAR SO GOOD, 2018) ‘Years do odd things to identity.’ and in another poem “Ancestry” Le Guin writes ‘ I am such a long way from my ancestors now/ in my extreme old age that I feel more one of them/ than their descendant//….Age undoes itself and plays the Ouroboros. I the only daughter have always been one of the tiny grandmothers, laughing at everything, uncomprehending, incomprehensible.’
We are old now, me older, and still we ride the red school bus. Our work is incomplete until we are. We live and then we die — in between, we smile and can be useful. You are one of these. That is your medal of honor, not for military valor, but for peace pressing on .
Joanne, nicely done…and a lot of work! pulling all of this information together and in one place. You have done with just this one blog item more research and valuable research than the Peace Corps agency has done in 60 years.
Thank you for all your help and the opportunity to post these sources. You and Marian have done the real work and showed the way to all of us. There would be no Peace Corps history if it were not for everything you all have done. There probably would not even be a RPCV community, which is where I believe the real goals and values of the Peace Corps thrive.
That’s true, Joanne, and don’t forget the personalized outreach. John, as Regional Manager in New York, welcomed me home upon my return from Russia, helped me with re-entry contacts, and then years later, introduced me into our Peace Corps Worldwide writers group.
Hi Joanne, Thank you for this. I can’t believe stuff is scattered so far and wide. Several people in my group were talking about what to do with our stuff and thought it would be nice if everything from the group was kept together. I.m not sure what we are going to do now.
I think it is great that your group wants to keep all its documents and records together, “historic stuff”! I would suggest you contact the Peace Corps Community Archives at American University. The link is in the Unofficial Resource Guide posted on Peace Corps World Wide, here. The link will work, I just checked it. I cannot post it the link in a comment because the website has excellent filters to prevent commercial and “others’ from posting links in the comment section. Good Luck!
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Go to https://www.livelingua.com/lessons