Presented by Museum of the Peace Corps Experience and American University Museum
MANY FACES OF PEACE CORPS
Peace Corps volunteers in earlier years did not reflect a true representation of this country’s diversity. Applicants consisted primarily of college graduates, most of them White and middle class. The agency assigned them to communities where they served among people whose ethnicity differed from their own. For some critics, this disparity between volunteers and host community residents provoked questions about US imperialism and racial dominance.
Over the decades Peace Corps has recruited a broader spectrum of the population. These underrepresented individuals sometimes confront racism in their host communities, among fellow volunteers, or in the agency itself. Some stories in this exhibition reflect the experiences of volunteers of color and how they handled these challenges.
Events of the past year—especially the worldwide pandemic and national demonstrations against systemic racism—have deepened conversations about equity in the Peace Corps. To encourage discussion, the Museum of the Peace Corps Experience worked with American University Museum staff to curate this exhibition with assistance from members of Many Faces of Peace Corps. The project collects volunteers’ stories that reveal complexities of race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, and disability, as experienced during service abroad.
Listen to stories, recorded and produced in partnership with the RPCV Oral History Archive.