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.
Since its founding in 1859, Cooper Union had operated as a tuition-free art, architecture, and engineering school. However, after years of financial troubles, the College announced on 24 April 2012 that it would begin charging graduate students tuition beginning in the fall of 2014. Large numbers of students, faculty, and alumni strongly opposed this announcement; many blamed the shortfall on poor management of the endowment, expensive building construction, and over-reliance on poorly performing hedge fund investments.
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.
In June of 1973, workers at the Brookside coal mine in Harlan County, Kentucky voted 113-55 to replace their membership in the Southern Labor Union (SLU) and join the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) union. The SLU was largely seen as serving the interests of the mine owners rather than the workers.
The owners of the mine, Eastover Coal Company, a subsidiary of Duke Power Company, refused to sign the new contracts, which would have established a UMWA local in Brookside.
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.
In 2006, University of Virginia students launched an intensive campaign to raise minimum wages at their institution. Discontented with the minimum $9.37 an hour, these students urged the school’s administration to provide fairer wages, wages that they determined to start at $10.27 an hour.
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.
African American auto workers strike for union democracy and better working conditions (DRUM), 1968-1970
Detroit, Michigan had long served as a world center for auto manufacturing. A number of U.S. automobile manufacturers centered their operations in the city, including Ford, Chrysler and General Motors. For decades, as well, the city was a center of racial conflict in the country. Following World War II, a number of white soldiers had returned to Detroit to find their manufacturing jobs “taken” by women and, more so, African American men. A number of Black workers were forced out of their jobs, though many remained.
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.
A union presence among the 17,000 wool and silk factory workers in and around Passaic, NJ in late 1925 and early 1926 was almost nonexistent. The United Textile Workers (UTW), an affiliate of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), had tried to organize the workers in the past but had had no success. The management of the mills used the fact that the workers were largely immigrants from many different countries to their advantage and suppressed union support.
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
Before the grape strike in 1965, the average annual income
of a California farmworker was less than $1,400. In addition, variations in
weather or market patterns could lessen this amount. Working conditions were
also poor, as many workers did not have access to a sufficient amount of food
or sanitary facilities.
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.