My Journey Aboard the Peace Train
Author Robert Cooney (Winning the Vote: The Triumph of the American Woman Suffrage Movement) wrote:
“Only author Ken Kolsbun could tell this story. The peace symbol is sacred to him because it represents not only peace, nuclear, and unilateral disarmament, but also his hope for a better world. He wrote this book about his extraordinary endeavors and personal peace-oriented journey. Engaging period photographs, documented by the author, complement a story reflecting the heart of Ken’s early history, creating a compelling read.”
My seminal work on the peace symbol, Peace: The Biography of a Symbol was published by National Geographic in 2008 in celebration of the symbol’s 50th anniversary. That book provided a brief overview of the symbol’s history. By contrast My Journey Aboard the Peace Train is the lifetime journey of a peace activist, from the 1960s until the present. It includes poignant stories and demonstrates the impact of the Peace Symbol in religion, business, politics, the arts and the law.
Experiences of my early childhood, young and later adult years all contributed to my lifelong desire for peace, nonviolence and cooperation. Those events are woven throughout this book’s story and serve as my autobiography. My fascination with the peace symbol, and all it connotes, historically, culturally – even commercially – is woven throughout my life, and is the thread that runs through My Journey Aboard the Peace Train.
This entertaining personal narrative, accompanied by photographs and drawings, introduces the reader to a more thorough account of Gerald Holtom, creator of the Peace Symbol, with whom I was fortunate to have a long-distance mentor relationship. Holtom was a conscientious objector and an astute political activist, who understood the perils of the atom bomb. In his country workshop, just outside of London, he created the first peace symbol for a Ban the Bomb demonstration in 1958. This book provides a history of Holtom and the peace symbol.
Ken admiring Michael Gilloti’s “Living Peace Wall” in Sebastopol, CA, October 2015
From its origins, the peace symbol has evolved into a cultural icon that contains many meanings. In its early inception as a symbol of protest, and ubiquitous during the VietNam war years, it has represented to some, evil, and has certainly transformed into a popular symbol of the colorful energy of the “peace generation” of the 60s and 70s. It has been often been co-opted for marketing purposes. It is resonant as a post-modern idea, making multiple meanings for people for the last 70 years. Thus the peace symbol forms a lens through which to view a significant part of American history, and is a token for my own life-long peace activism.
Jannice Kolsbun holds postage stamps bearing the peace symbol
My focus on the peace symbol and peace activism is reflected in many photographs, taken during the last 60 years, which are published herein for the first time. My search for peace symbols to photograph was a family adventure, with the participation of my wife, Jannice, and our three daughter as they were growing up. Jannice is the photographer for some of the photos in the book, and my daughter’s helpful “where’s waldo” searches for the peace symbol are represented, as well. Other photos are with the permission of organizations, and news service professionals, who chronicled notable events in the arena of protest and peace activism. These photos will add to the reader’s understanding and underscore the relevance of Holtom’s iconic symbol, its potency as a cultural symbol, and its relevance to an important chapter in American history.