In 2011, Vincent Harding, James Lawson, Phil Lawson, Dolores Huerta, and Grace Lee Boggs founded the National Council of Elders to engage leaders of 20th-century civil rights movements to share what they have learned with young leaders of the 21st century and to promote the theory and practice of nonviolence. 

The founders shared a sense of urgency caused by the escalation of all forms of violence and the rise of anti-democratic forces. Their intent was to increase and deepen important story-based dialogue with younger activists who are currently on the frontlines of activism across the U.S.  Still active themselves, the Elders would play their part on current frontlines, sharing what they learned from the successes and failures of 20th Century civil rights efforts.

February One is the name of the 2002 monument dedicated to Ezell Blair Jr., Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil and David Richmond who were collectively known as the Greensboro Four. On February 1, 1960 they staged a sit-in at the Woolworth Department store in Greensboro, NC. All were students at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in their freshman year. Shortly afterwards sit-ins began across the South. ‎James Barnhill, sculptor

From these origins, NCOE has become a council which gathers to analyze the current political landscape and to advance movements toward justice.  Elders join with younger leaders to confront the escalation of all forms of violence and the rise of anti-democratic forces, using a framework that spans civil and human rights. NCOE participates in conversations, conferences, webinars, and direct actions, sharing analysis, strategies, and skills across generations.

In 2012 we issued our first Greensboro Declaration, acknowledging the stirring of new movements in our country. Since that time we have met consistently to foster a spirit of a radical revolution in values against racism, materialism, and militarism while bringing to life beloved communities.

The National Council of Elders welcomes invitations from younger 21st-century leaders to join in dialogue or action. All our interactions strive to combine an analysis of what has worked and what has not with the creation of new ideas to advance the work of today.  We share the belief that the struggle for justice is a lifelong commitment to work for freedom with our lives, voices, and deeds.