The Ellsberg Initiative for Peace and Democracy

We are an initiative at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst dedicated to the stewardship of Daniel Ellsberg’s legacy and committed to putting the overlapping causes that define his activism into action—government transparency, freedom of the press, a priority for diplomacy over military action, and social and environmental justice.

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image of Daniel Ellsberg

With democracy in peril at home and abroad–and civilization itself threatened by the prospects of environmental catastrophe and nuclear war–I welcome the Ellsberg Initiative for Peace and Democracy.

The World Needs More Daniel Ellsbergs

Daniel Ellsberg, America’s most famous whistleblower, devoted his life to the nonviolent struggle for peace, nuclear disarmament, and democratic rights. In 1971, he risked his freedom by releasing to the press and public a 7000-page classified history of the Vietnam War—the Pentagon Papers—exposing decades of government lies and deceit. Ellsberg’s principled commitment to nonviolent activism continued until his death in 2023 and remains a model of citizenship that inspires countless people around the world.

The Ellsberg Papers at UMass

In 2019, Ellsberg, impressed by the longstanding UMass commitment to social justice, chose to make it the home for his papers, and the university, with the help of an anonymous donor, invested $2.2 million in the acquisition.

The Ellsberg collection is a vast treasure trove—500 boxes of materials—that documents the still relevant issues of his long life: the rise of the national security state, nuclear policy and war planning, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, the proliferation of state secrecy, and the impact of individual whistleblowing and collective dissent.

In 2020–2021, inspired by the arrival of Ellsberg’s papers, the University of Massachusetts sponsored a host of historic ventures to explore his life and legacy—a year-long seminar, the creation of a website (the Ellsberg Archive Project), a series of podcasts by The GroundTruth Project, and a two-day, international, online conference with more than two-dozen high profile scholars, journalists, former policymakers, whistleblowers, and activists that was attended by thousands. Videos of conference sessions hosted on the website have drawn more than 25,000 viewers.

image of Ellsberg's papers

The impact of the Ellsberg papers' acquisition was immediate and included:

  • Two seminars for advanced undergraduate and graduate students who developed research projects using the papers and spoke directly to Ellsberg online. “I’ve never seen a class so engaged,” he told them, adding, “Your questions have been incredibly precise and some of them I’ve never been asked.”
  • The launch of the Ellsberg Archive Project website.
  • A free, two-day online international conference, Truth, Dissent, and the Legacy of Daniel Ellsberg.
  • The creation of The Whistleblower, a five-part podcast produced in collaboration with the GroundTruth Project (led by Charles Sennott, ‘84), which has drawn nearly 50,000 listeners for each episode.

Our Projects


The Ellsberg Archive Project is a major University of Massachusetts Amherst initiative exploring the life and legacy of Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the press in 1971 and risked life in prison to reveal the truth about the U.S. government’s policy in Vietnam.


In 2022 we held a free online conference that brought together more than two dozen distinguished historians, journalists, activists, whistleblowers, and former policymakers on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Ellsberg’s leak of the Pentagon Papers. Details about our 2023 conference will be available soon.


What risks are you willing to take for the truth? That question is at the center of a new five-part GroundTruth Podcast series exploring the life of Daniel Ellsberg.

Help Grow the Ellsberg Initiative

The Ellsberg Archives