On 5 January 2019, Metropolitan Detention Center Brooklyn (MDC Brooklyn), a federal jail in Brooklyn, New York that housed 1,500 incarcerated people, lost power for the first time that year for unknown reasons. Three weeks later, an electrical fire caused the entire building to lose heating capabilities as well. This loss of power and heat took place over some of the coldest days and nights of the 2019 winter in New York City (NYC).
In 2011, over 12,000 prisoners of California’s corrections system participated in a hunger strike to protest their inhumane conditions of confinement.
Garfield High School teachers in Seattle, Washington boycott Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test, 2012-2013
Standardized testing in the United States dates back to the early 1900s, when the military issued standardized tests of intelligence to potential candidates for the armed services. In the 1970s, public school students began taking “high stakes” tests, in which their scores affected school district funding and the students’ ability to move on to the next grade. The original purpose of these tests was to hold school districts accountable by providing a standard measure of academic comparison across students and school districts.
Jackson was the largest city in Mississippi in 1960, with 250,000 residents, 50,000 of whom were black. Medgar Evers, a field secretary for the Jackson chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) began to build up NAACP Youth Councils at colleges and high schools in the area since 1961. Since the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) were in other parts of Mississippi, the NAACP was the only consistent nonviolent group in Jackson.
Marshall, Texas, despite having a black majority, practiced public and private racial segregation like most of the South in the 1950’s. The town included two historically black colleges: Bishop College and Wiley College.
Unemployed Detroit auto workers conduct Hunger March to protest Ford Motor Company's policies, United States, 1932
During the Great Depression, Detroit, Michigan, and its auto-industry suffered an exceptional amount. After the stock market crash of 1929, around 80 percent of the industry was no longer producing and by 1932 large numbers of Detroit's citizens were dying of starvation. The Ford Motor Company, one of the richest employers, had laid off two-thirds of its employees. The Unemployed Councils, United Auto Workers, and communist union-organizing groups decided to organize a march against the Ford Motor Company and its employment policies.
There are few issues in the United States as divisive and bitterly fought over as the issue of abortion. In 1973 United States Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade that the issue of abortion was one of privacy, a right covered by the Constitutional right to privacy. After the ruling was handed down there was a firestorm of anti-abortion furor, with numerous death threats issued against Justice Blackmun, who wrote the majority opinion piece.
By 1964, a handful of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) field workers had endured three years of continued repression as they challenged Mississippi’s racial discrimination. Only 6.7% of black Mississippians were registered to vote in 1962, the lowest percent in the country. In 1963 SNCC’s Mississippi operation was facing a stalemate. Since arriving in 1961 they had few concrete victories to show for their hard and dangerous work in the state. They had gotten few people to attempt to register, and even fewer were successful.
In 1957 A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin initiated a campaign to pressure the U.S. government to intervene for the civil rights of African Americans.
Randolph, 68, was the acknowledged “elder” among civil rights leaders, with a base in the labor movement. Rustin, 57, was a veteran civil rights and peace activist who had coached Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott.
Editor's Note: We recognize that the inclusion of this case in a database of nonviolent action may be controversial because of the campaigner violence at certain points during the campaign. However, we have concluded that the campaigner violence was minimal under the circumstances. We also believe that the inclusion of this largely nonviolent campaign will offer strategic lessons on the use of nonviolence in similar struggles. Many prisoners campaigns in this database have been focused around the method of the hunger strike.
The yearlong boycott of Montgomery, Alabama’s city buses by between 40,000 and 50,000 African American residents was in the works for years before it began in December 1955. At that time in Montgomery, as well as in many cities across the southern United States, laws required African Americans to sit at the back of buses and yield their seats to white passengers if no other seats were available.
On February 12, 1968, sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee, began a labor strike to protest unfair wages, unsafe working conditions, and the city’s refusal to recognize their sanitation workers union.
Prior to the Tallahassee student sit-ins of 1960, the Tallahassee Bus Boycott took place in 1956, patterned after the Montgomery Bus Boycott that started with the refusal of Rosa Parks to surrender her bus seat to a white person. Tallahassee was sometimes called the “little Mississippi” where segregation was prominent.
On May 27, 1956, Wilhelmina Jakes and Carrie Patterson, two female students at all-black Florida A+M University in Tallahassee, Florida, paid their ten-cent fares and boarded a segregated city bus. They sat in seats normally occupied by white people, because the back of the bus, where black patrons were expected to sit, was very crowded. When the driver asked them to move, they refused, citing the standing-room only conditions of the back of the bus, and their own fatigue. They offered to leave if their fares were refunded.
In 1960, Orangeburg, South Carolina was a town of 13,852 people. Although the African-American population numbered only around 5,000 and declining, racial tension in the town was high due to a series of protests and boycotts in 1955-56. Two all-black colleges, South Carolina State College (SCSC) and Claflin College, were home to plenty of potential activists. When students in Greensboro sat-in for racial integration on February 1, students in Orangeburg eagerly followed suit. They formed the Orangeburg Student Movement Association (OSMA) to coordinate actions between
When Alice Paul emerged into the somewhat stagnant scene of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association’s (NAWSA) campaign for the right to vote in 1912, the energy and momentum of the movement surged. Having just come from Britain where women were fighting a similar battle in which they were imprisoned, partaking in hunger strikes and smashing windows, NAWSA’s polite pleading over a cup of tea with political leaders and legislators was not only ineffective in the eyes of Paul and other emerging women leaders, it was a blow to the dignity of women to request basic human rights.
Around the turn of the 20th century, employment agencies, or, as they were known to many workers, “job sharks” had a monopoly on casual laborer in the American West. Industries such as mining and agriculture would contract labor out to an agency, which would “buy out” job applicants and take a sizable cut of what would otherwise have been workers’ wages.
Similar to action taken on college and university campuses throughout the 1960s in the United States, students at the College of the Holy Cross also took a stand against the Vietnam War. Students first organized to protest the presence of recruiters for Dow Chemical Company (a manufacturer of napalm) in O’Kane Hall on campus in January 1968.
The 1960s was a time of national turmoil for the civil rights of African-Americans, and Seattle was no exception. However, up until 1968, Seattle’s civil rights movement was subdued, compared to the fervor and tension of campaigns in other cities.
In 1970, Puerto Rico was a non-sovereign territory of the United States. Its residents were U.S. citizens but could not vote in presidential elections, nor did they have political representation in the U.S. Congress, although they could serve and be drafted in the U.S. armed forces. At the beginning of the 20th century, the U.S. Navy eliminated the principal town on the island of Culebra and evicted its residents so that a marine base could be built. In 1941, President Roosevelt claimed exclusive rights to the air space above Culebra as well as a three-mile wide radius around the island.
Cecil B. Moore, the prominent African American civil rights activist and criminal defense attorney, ran for mayor of Philadelphia in 1967. As part of his campaign, Moore supported the demands of Philadelphia's African American students and parents who called for changes to school district policy. These changes included new courses in African American history and the allowance of African American students to wear traditional African clothing in school.
In 1981, former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal was accused of murdering Daniel Faulkner, a police officer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A series of discrepancies emerged in the trial, which took place in June 1982. Although Abu-Jamal insisted that another assailant shot Faulkner, the police found two witnesses who claimed to have seen Abu-Jamal commit the crime. One of the witnesses, a cab driver, changed his testimony from the original story given on the night of the crime.
In late 1967 East Los Angeles housed a school system entrenched in racism. The Mexican American community had the highest high school dropout rate and lowest college attendance among any ethnic group. The poor facilities and constant underestimation of student capabilities by teachers created an atmosphere hostile to learning. The oppressive conditions coupled with the inability to make changes compelled students, activists, and teachers to meet and discuss the situation.
In the mid 1950’s, segregation was widespread and legally enforced throughout the American south. Birmingham, Alabama was a hotspot of black activism in opposition to segregationist policies. Between December 26, 1956 and November 1958, Birmingham blacks, led by Fred Shuttlesworth and other black ministers, initiated a campaign against the legal segregation of Birmingham buses.
In 1955, before the sit-in campaign in Rock Hill, South Carolina even began, Rock Hill’s St. Anne School desegregated in compliance with the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling. In 1957, Rev. Cecil Ivory (who would later become a leader in the sit-in campaign), led a bus boycott that put the Rock Hill bus company out of business. Sit-ins elsewhere, including in nearby Charlotte (see “University students campaign for racial integration in Charlotte, NC, 1960”), helped start Rock Hill’s own sit-in campaign. Sit-in protests lasted throughout the entire year.