After World War II, Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie took pains to ‘modernize’ Ethiopia and bolster higher education. Selassie’s control of Ethiopia was total. As ‘supreme ruler,’ he abolished all political parties and banned groups from forming cohesive organizations. Selassie was surrounded by a small group of social elites that supported him, and although the government had a Parliament, it wielded very little power. Well into the 1950’s, Ethiopia lagged behind other African nations in education and many of the social elites sent their children overseas for higher education.
Colombian women use sex strike to pressure government to repair road (Huelga de piernas cruzadas), 2011
Barbacoas is an agricultural town in Narino, Colombia. It is a small port town in southwest Colombia that linked the southern regions of the country in the 19th and 20th centuries. However, the provincial routes used in those times have not been renovated since. Its economy now relies primarily on fishing, agriculture, and mining.
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.
Activism against militarism in the toy industry began in the 1920s with groups such as Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the New York-based Women’s Peace Society. These groups aimed to induce the public and leaders of the toy industry to re-conceptualize their ideas of childhood and toys. They believed that childhood is the most malleable time in a child’s life where their conceptions of violence and peacemaking are formed. War toys normalize violence for children.
On March 3, 2006, Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmad Nazif announced that all public-sector manufacturing workers would be given an increase in their annual bonuses. The workers of Mahalla al-Kubra’s Misr Spinning and Weaving Company, the country’s largest public sector textile company employing 27,000 people, were overjoyed at the decree.
Manchester workers campaign for economic equality and political representation (Peterloo Massacre), 1817-1820
The economic plight of the people of Manchester in the early eighteenth century was rooted in three major historical developments: the Industrial Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, and the Corn Laws of 1804. The first solidified an enormous and conspicuous gap between rich and poor, leaving Manchester’s lower classes—mostly spinners and weavers of cotton—to grapple with unemployment, poverty, hunger, and heavy reliance on social welfare. It also contributed to an unprecedented boom in population (Manchester’s quintupled in four decades).
The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) had controlled Mexico and won almost every presidential, gubernatorial, and senatorial election since its founding in 1929. The PRI also dominated politics in most municipalities and on local levels. In the 1983 and 1985 elections however, the National Action Party (PAN) won many municipal seats and posed a significant challenge to state offices held by the PRI.
Georgetown Solidarity Committee (GSC) formed at Georgetown University in 1996
to support workers' rights. In the fall
of 2001, a group of students, headed by the GSC, formed the Living Wage
Coalition (LWC) in order to guarantee University workers an income to meet their
subsistence needs. The students held meetings on how to take action and organized
breakfast events with workers to hear their grievances and concerns. By 2002, the administration agreed to raise
the minimum wage of workers directly employed by the university to $10.25 per
Born into a family of well-to-do Ṣūfī marabouts (clerics), Sheikh Amadu Bàmba Mbàcke – whose Arabic name was Aḥmad Ibn Muḥammad
Ibn Ḥabīb al-Lah – lived from roughly 1854 to 1927. Through his emphases on piety, hard work,
singular devotion to God, the corrupting potential of governmental power,
mystical pedagogy, and principled nonviolence, Bàmba effectively (and of
secondary interest if not unwittingly) led the black Sénégalese population to de facto political and economic
After the First World War, Uruguay’s tourism industry boomed, seeing an influx of tourists from Europe into the city of Montevideo. Following the introduction of the electric streetcar in 1906, industry in Montevideo underwent massive changes to adapt to its new international popularity and the changing industrial landscape of the 20th century.
Swarthmore College, a small liberal arts college just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, had long been respected as an institution with a strong commitment to social justice. While the College had pioneered such practices as co-education and comprehensive financial aid, by 2000 many College staff—including those in the environmental and dining services departments—were paid just above poverty levels for Delaware County, where the College and the majority of its workers reside. In the fall of 2000, a group of students began to talk with staff about the College’s employment practices.
Egyptian workers strike and occupy textile factory for better pay, representation, and conditions, 2007
Misr Spinning and Weaving Company is the largest public sector Egyptian textile company, employing 27,000 workers in the mid-2000s. The company is located in the Nile Delta town Mahalla al-Kubra and had a history of workers protests, the most significant of which occurred in December 2006 when about 20,000 of the company’s employees struck (see "Egyptian textile workers strike for bonuses and prrotest corruption, 2006").
With a population of 1.3 million people, the Mapuche are currently the largest indigenous group in Chile. Before 1881, the group functioned as an independent nation, but their political and territorial sovereignty was revoked after Chileans declared their independence from Spain. Since then, the government has forced the Mapuche to live on small “reducciones” (reserves) and allowed private lumber firms to expropriate their land.
The Wal-Mart distribution center in Elwood, Illinois, is one of the five largest in the country. Wal-Mart’s goods are imported here, shipped to smaller centers, and then sent to individual stores. However, many people who worked in the distribution centers were hired through employment contractors and were kept at “temporary” employee status, depriving them of benefits and higher pay, even if they had worked the same job for years. Conditions inside the warehouses were often unsafe and many workers experienced wage theft and discrimination by employers.
According to the 1900 U.S. Census, at the turn of the century 26% of males and 10% of females between the ages of 10 and 15 were gainfully employed, for a total of approximately 1.75 million child laborers. In states like Alabama, the official percentage of male child labor was close to 60%. Moreover, a contemporary New York Times article reported that due to deliberate employer underestimation, the number of child workers was most likely between 2 and 3 million.
Ecuador ushered in a democratic process of election after 1978, following six years of military governments and coups d’état. During that time, the public demanded increasingly for democracy, prompting government officials to change the constitution in support of democratic elections beginning in 1979. Since then, Ecuador’s election process has involved more than six candidates in each election, and each elected president had finished their respective term. Abdala Bucaram broke that record.
Egypt became a British protectorate on December 14, 1914. During World War I agitation towards the British increased as all sects of the population united in their discontent. British rule caused Egypt’s involvement in the war to increase – 1.5 million Egyptians were conscripted in the Labour Corps and much of the country’s infrastructure was seized for the army – contributing to the dissatisfaction.
In 1956, Shell British Petroleum (now Royal Dutch Shell) discovered oil in what was then the British colony of Nigeria, and by 1958 commercial production had begun. Today, Nigeria has the tenth largest proven oil reserves in the world, is the tenth largest oil producer, and is the eighth largest oil exporter; yet nearly two-thirds of Nigerians live on less than $1.25 a day, 70% live below the national poverty line, and 83% live on less than $2 a day (each of those measurements place Nigeria in the bottom ten out of countries for which data is available).
After Augosto Pinochet took power in 1973, Chile depended increasingly on its copper industry to fuel the country’s export-oriented economy. In the 1990s, the Chilean government allowed for the construction of privately owned mines. One such mine was Escondida, which became the world’s largest copper mine in terms of production. The mine was co-owned by four multinational companies, with BHP Billiton controlling the majority of its shares.
The Jim Crow laws had been in full effect for quite some time before the 1950s era of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The city, like most cities in the South, had laws regarding racial segregation. A major aspect of the city’s laws was the seating policy on the city’s buses. Black residents were restricted to sitting in a designated “colored section” located at the back of the bus while the front of the bus was reserved for white passengers. Over two-thirds of the buses’ passengers were black and consequently, many blacks stood up on the bus while empty seats were available in front of them.
Madagascar gained its independence from French colonialism in 1960 after nearly 70 years under French rule. Vice Admiral Didier Ratsiraka was sworn into office on December 21, 1975, after a military coup ousted president Philibert Tsiranana, who had been in office since 1959. In his first term as president, Ratsiraka nationalized Madagascar’s banks, insurance companies and mineral resources, following a socialist model that was wrought with censorship and government repression. By the late 1980’s Ratsiraka’s socialist regime had impoverished Madagascar.
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.
Kefaya (meaning ‘Enough’ in Arabic), is the moniker for the grassroots coalition the Egyptian Movement for Change. Beginning in 2003, Kefaya was a group of Egyptians of various political parties and ideologies that first met to discuss the Egyptian political scene. The group became official after affiliated Egyptian intellectuals and political activists created and signed a petition demanding fair and transparent democratic presidential elections with multiple candidates in August 2004; the petition became Kefaya’s founding declaration.
The Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power plant has been running since 1972 in its home of Vernon, Vermont. Vermont Yankee was born at a time when environmentalists were cracking down on nuclear power. In between the 1970’s and 1990’s, numerous protests took place all across the country against the manufacturing and maintaining of nuclear power facilities. Activists were further ignited by the detrimental accident at Three Mile Island 1979, which marked the worst nuclear meltdown in US history.
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.