An Interracial Movement of the Poor: Community Organizing by Jennifer Frost

By Jennifer Frost

Selection awesome educational identify 2002 neighborhood organizing turned an essential component of the activist repertoire of the hot Left within the Nineteen Sixties. scholars for a Democratic Society, the association that got here to be visible as synonymous with the white New Left, all started neighborhood organizing in 1963, hoping to construct an interracial circulation of the terrible in which to call for social and political swap. SDS sought not anything lower than to abolish poverty and expand democratic participation in the United States. Over the following 5 years, organizers tested a robust presence in several low-income, racially assorted city neighborhoods in Chicago, Cleveland, Newark, and Boston, in addition to different towns. Rejecting the ideas of the outdated left and hard work circulation and encouraged through the Civil Rights circulation, activists sought to mix a few unmarried matters right into a broader, extra strong coalition. Organizers by no means constrained themselves to modern easy dichotomies of race vs. classification or of identification politics vs. monetary inequality. They actively synthesized rising id politics with category and coalition politics and with a force for a extra participatory welfare kingdom, treating those assorted political methods as inextricably intertwined. whereas universal knowledge holds that the recent Left rejected all nation involvement as cooptative at top, Jennifer Frost lines the ways that New Left and neighborhood activists did actually recommend a prescriptive, even visionary, substitute to the welfare kingdom. After scholars for a Democratic Society and its group organizing unit, the industrial examine and motion venture, disbanded, New Left and group members went directly to observe their ideas and targets to the welfare rights, women’s liberation, and the antiwar activities. In her research of activism sooner than the age of id politics, Frost has given us the 1st full-fledged heritage of what used to be arguably the main cutting edge neighborhood organizing crusade in post-war American background.

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Extra resources for An Interracial Movement of the Poor: Community Organizing and the New Left in the 1960s

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85 The role of organizing among the poor opened up life possibilities and options for Glassman, Jeffrey, and other women. ERAP provided a timely alternative to the traditional career or family track laid out for male and female college graduates in the early 1960s, and both women and men pursued community organizing as a vocation. 86 Moreover, 42 | Building a Social Movement such organizing—unchaperoned, political, and sometimes dangerous— could be seen as part of the process of “becoming a man,” “seeing the world,” or “testing one’s mettle,” as the sociologist Doug McAdam argues.

Williams was in a unique position in that he both criticized and gave support to ERAP’s new direction. He believed SDS needed to give more attention to political education and elections, but he also directed an ERAP project in Louisville during the summer of 1964. From his vantage point, ERAP was “a tremendous drain on the organization. ”85 Perhaps most important, this ordering of priorities left SDS unprepared for subsequent political developments, particularly the explosion of the Free Speech Movement at the University of California-Berkeley in the fall of 1964 and the escalation of the war in Vietnam in early 1965.

32 SDS’s productionist orientation reflected the fact that “work is more suitable to American political culture,” as Bob Ross puts it. ”33 ERAP wanted these public jobs to require skill and imagination and confer dignity upon workers, for SDS members believed that work had the potential to be a rewarding experience. ”34 In defining their goals, however, ERAP planners—overwhelmingly male—failed to include the role of gender in poverty. 35 Due to women’s unequal position in the labor market and responsibility for children, they were particularly vulnerable to poverty.

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