Do You Know Your Activist History?

Photo: h.koppdelaney via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo: h.koppdelaney via Flickr (Creative Commons)

If you had a similar early education path as myself, you probably only learned about a few justice movements (e.g. women’s suffrage and civil rights).

You probably also learned that these movements had a few charismatic leaders that led them to victory (e.g. Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King Jr.).

I was hard-pressed to answer if someone asked me whether I could name more than 2-3 other activists in those movements, let alone describe significant events or organizations that shaped the grassroots organizing.

While over the past few years I have definitely increased my understanding of the activist history that has shaped the world’s course, I know I learn new things every day about the leaders, groups, events, and achievements the dominant culture-focused history books tend to ignore.

So with this newest Organizing Change project, I’m excited to illuminate some of the main elements that have pieced together our activist history!




If you’re someone who wants to showcase how many people and organizations have dedicated their lives to making positive change, then check out #ActivismHistory (by “liking” the Facebook page and follow on Twitter) and consider contributing your own knowledge of our history!

Here’s the main areas from our changemaking past I’ll be looking at:

1. Individuals – both well-recognized (e.g. Angela Davis, Naomi Klein, and Dolores Huerta) and those we should know more about (e.g. Maggie Kuhn, Grace Lee Boggs, Haunani-Kay Trask). I’ll be bringing attention to an important changemaker almost every day of the week!

2. Organizations – though individuals are often the ones to receive the most media coverage, groups of people helped provide the capacity for movements to grow (e.g. Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Fuerza Unida, Women of All Red Nations, and the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation).

3. Dates and events – while most social change work takes place over a long time span, there are keys moments in history that have dramatically (or subtly) shaped our world (e.g. 1966 Compton’s Cafeteria riot, 1982 Afton protests in Warren County North Carolina, and the recent Idle No More National Day of Action).

4. Achievements – as noted above, our activist history is more than just a collection of protests and media events…it’s a long-term struggle for justice whether it results in monumental legislation (e.g. 2009 Matthew Shepard Act), fosters community empowerment (e.g. American Indian Movement), or brings about a step toward our visions (e.g. Atlantis Community – a model for independent living).


Purpose of #ActivismHistory


My aim with this project is to complement the work of others showcasing our activist history, such as the Zinn Education Project (check out their Facebook or Twitter pages for daily analysis and important moments), Transgriot, and the Disability Studies blog.

As with my purpose for Organizing Change, to increase the number of folks finding ways to amplify our strategic social change work, I hope this initiative gives rise to more analysis of our activist history as a way to support our current organizing.

So join Organizing Change on Facebook and Twitter and add to #ActivismHistory by contributing your own knowledge, while learning from the experience of others!

By Drew Serres

Drew Serres began working on Organizing Change to combine his dedication to showing impactful organizing practices with his passion for learning. Find out more about him at the About Page and see his updates on Twitter and Google+