Southeastern World Affairs Institute - Black Mountain - July 29-31, 2011
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January 2011 Newsletter

Southeastern World Affairs Institute - Black Mountain - July 30-August 1, 2010
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Report of the Secretary-General
In larger freedom:  towards development, security and human rights for all 
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Report of the Task Force on the United Nations: American Interests and UN Reform
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The Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting

Southeastern World Affairs Institute - Black Mountain - July 27, 2008
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"Dedicated to Education in the Relation of International Law to Peace and Freedom."

History and Mission

The American Freedom Association (AFA) is a non-profit organization incorporated in 1953 "For education on the relationship of world law to religion, peace, and freedom." Its Board of Directors includes teachers, students, business leaders and other community leaders.  Chartered in North Carolina, American Freedom Association enjoys 501(c)(3) status.

American Freedom Association has sponsored an annual World Affairs Institute, which brings together specialists who address the international issues of our day.  Originally held at Blue Ridge Assembly, Black Mountain, North Carolina, one of the few integrated established in the State when American Freedom Association began, the institute was later held on various college campuses.  It then returned to the Blue Ridge Assembly.

Shortly after its founding, American Freedom Association took over from the Extension Division of UNC-Chapel Hill the direction of the High School Global issues Study Program, founded by Oscar Merritt, a Mount Airy, North Carolina businessman, which deals with the same issues as the Institute.  School essay winners and their teachers are given a bus trip to our National Capital and the United Nations in New York.

American Freedom Association seeks to provide information that allows informed decisions by the public, to present perspectives on peaceful conflict resolution, and to promote international institutions whereby change can occur through law rather than war.

The American Freedom Association has no paid staff, and all activities are organized by volunteers.  Therefore, it does not have any financial problems.

Oscar K. Merritt Scholarship Awards

The American Freedom Association provides the Oscar K. Merritt Scholarship Awards and arranges the Seminar/Tour including bus transport, lodging, scheduling, tour coordinators, and an awards dinner in Washington, DC.

Each high school registers its participation with the American Freedom Association program coordinator.  The school then arranges and judges its own essay contest.  The winning student and a teacher/chaperone participate in a seminar/tour of the United Nations in New York and of Capital Hill in Washington.  The tour group often meets with government officials and specialists from all over the world.

While on the tour, four scholarship winners are announced and present their papers at an awards dinner.  All students on the tour are invited, expenses paid, to attend the annual Southeastern World Affairs Institute in July.  Scholarship winners are invited to present their papers and receive their scholarship awards at the Institute.  Scholarships are administered by the American Freedom Association Treasurer and paid directly to the winners.

July, 1991 - The Southeastern World Affairs Institute discusses the New World Order.  In a program, topics include, Legal Structures for a New World Order and The United Nations:  From its Conception to a New World Order.  Participants include a former director of the United Nation's General Legal Division, and a former Secretary General of International Planned Parenthood.

High School Global Issues Study Program

The American Freedom Association serves a two-fold purpose.  First, it encourages students to examine current issues closely from a global basis.  Second, it gives teachers and students the opportunity to interact personally with international experts in fields addressed by the current essay topic.

History of American Freedom Association

When we set out to compile a history of the American Freedom Association in time for its 50th anniversary, we wanted to draw upon the memories of long-term members who were still participating in the association, as well as locate and use the documents and other written sources about the association.  At the outset we were glad when Frank L Smith, one of the founding members, wrote a letter that put the establishment of the American Freedom Association into context.  Soon after, Grace P. Cooper, another early member, provided thoughtful comments and added to Frank's recollections.  Since then we have received a number of personal letters, including Carol Burke, current President, about their long involvement.

Marie ploughed through materials stored in her basement and in boxes located by Rober Merritt, son of Oscar K Meritt.  George and Marilyn White, Ronnie Pruett, and Bill and Margaret Harris provided additional materials.  We did not have the opportunity to explore the boxes of American Freedom Association materials housed in the UNC library archives of the South Carolina Council on Human Relations, or those now being catalogued at Guilford College.  Our work is therefore somewhat uneven, but, we hope, representative.  These materials could be used in future to expand upon our efforts.

We hope that these pages will be of interest to members, to students of North Carolina and of American history, and to the future of International studies.


The American Freedom Association was formed in June, 1953 "by a group of citizens who were convinced that a vast program of public information and education on world law and its relation to religion, peace and freedom was urgently needed if our Nation and civilization was to be preserved."  Many of the founding members were members of the World Federalist Society.  The chosen name reflected a strong perspective on the required conditions for American Freedom.  It also reflected a need for a name that was acceptable at the height of the era of Senator Joe McCarthy.  AFA's purpose was (and is) to "provide the American people with information on the relation of world law to religion, peace, and freedom."  One purpose in establishing a non-profit, non-political organization was to enable the raising of funds sufficient to provide education to the public.

The Association's Founding Board included businesspeople, attorneys, college faculty, and journalists.  The Advisory Boar included such prominent state and community leaders as the Chancellor and Dean of the School of Law at the University of North Carolina; the Major and the Superintendent of Schools of Elizabeth City; the President of Meredith College, the editor of the Greensboro Daily News, the retired Chancellor of Women's College at Greensboro; and the president of North Carolina Granite Corporation, and president of John D Sargent.  Dr. L. W. Nordheim, Duke Atomic Physicist and a contributor to the Manhattan Project, joined the board in late summer 1953.

For 14 years AFA had paid staff.  Peter Cooper of Salisbury severed as Executive Director for several years.  His wife, Grace P. Cooper served as secretary from 1953 through 1967.  Grace Cooper was responsible for producing a regular A.F.A. Bulletin, which provided news of the organization and a rich assortment of articles about world federalism, rule of law, democracy and other issues.

After 1967, Marie Judson volunteered as secretary and also registrar for the Institutes for many years and her daughter Donna Moore did so for several years.  Ann Smith and Molly Watters have also severed as registrars, while Margaret Harris has been a long-term secretary.  Robert Smith, Robert Merritt, David Judson, and George White have served as treasurer.


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