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Knowing where you came from is important, as an individual activist, as a member of an organization, and as an organization in a larger movement. This type of historical knowledge can help in acknowledging your own activism’s weaknesses, its strengths, and in avoiding burnout. You are not alone. Your work builds upon the work of others. Know that you are likely not the first person to tackle an issue, and will not be the last. Someone has always come before you, whether in fighting the direct issue you are combating, or in frameworks mobilized against another issue that you are adopting in your own fight. Keeping predecessors in mind can help give you strength, examples of what to do and what not to do, and a groundwork, so that you are not also starting from the ground floor, but from a higher story of a structure built by those who came before you. Remembering historical roots is especially important in light of normative (white-supremacist, patriarchal) history, which seeks to ignore and erasure the work, achievements, and existence of under-represented groups.

In putting together this project, our group was working from a feminist framework within a Women and Gender Studies class at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Our department has a strong international focus and tends to be partnered with Ethnic Studies and LGBTQ Studies. Among the class putting this together, students were seniors and juniors in Women and Gender Studies, with some students also double majoring in fields such as Ethnic Studies, History, English, and Film. All of these lenses determined what type of project we would do, and how we went about doing it. In creating this toolkit, we pulled prior information that many of us had from prior classes or activist work, conducted interviews and discussion with existing campus resources, such as Community Health, or found new sites of information and groups to reach out to, such as the University of Kansas’ Community Toolbox

Collectives, Organizations, Movements to Know

The following list contains the names of some major social and political organizations in the United States. It may be helpful to familiarize yourself with these names since current day activism builds from ongoing struggles and triumphs. Further research will allow for insight as to how these movements and organizations have influenced and informed each other and how they inform current activism and organizing. Finally, as a feminist practice we encourage giving credit where credit is due and recognizing the rich history of collective and collaborative organizing from which we all build from. This is in no way a comprehensive list, but includes several groups that are important to the history of collective activism and organizing in the United States:

  • Underground Railroad, 19th Century
  • Abolitionism, 19th Century
  • Women’s Suffrage Movement, late 19th/early 20th
  • NACWC: National Association of Colored Women Clubs, 1896
  • The Niagara Movement, 1905
  • NAACCP: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 1909
  • The Ghadar Party, 1913
  • The New Negro Movement, 1916
  • The Harlem Renaissance, 1920s
  • SCLS: Southern Christian Leadership Conference, 1957
  • Suffragette Movements, late 19th/20th century
  • SNCC: Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, 1960
  • LULAC: League of United Latin American Citizens, 1934
  • Ladies LULAC, 1935
  • United States Farm Workers Movement, 1966
  • AIM: American Indian Movement, 1968
  • Conferencia de Mujeres Por La Raza, 1971
  • Combahee River Collective (1974)
  • BWOA: Black Women Organized for Action, 1973
  • NABF: National Alliance of Black Feminists, 1976
  • Black Sisters United, 1972
  • Third World Women’s Alliance (descendent of SNCC) 1971
  • NOW: National Organization for Women 1966
  • National Black Feminist Organization, 1973
  • Kitchen Table Women of Color Press, 1980s
  • Black Panther Party (for self defense) 1966-1982
  • Brown Berets 1960s-present
  • Stonewell Riots: June 28th 1969
  • ACT-UP: AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, 1987
  • WITCHES: Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy From Hell, 1968-69
  • Proyecto ContraSIDA, 1993
  • Causa Justa, 2010