A longtime movement insider's powerful account of the origins of today's protest movements and what they can achieve now
As Americans take to the streets in record numbers to resist the presidency of Donald Trump, L.A. Kauffman's timely, trenchant history of protest offers unique insights into how past movements have won victories in times of crisis and backlash and how they can be most effective today.
This deeply researched account, twenty-five years in the making, traces the evolution of disruptive protest since the Sixties to tell a larger story about the reshaping of the American left. Kauffman, a longtime grassroots organizer, examines how movements from ACT UP to Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter have used disruptive tactics to catalyze change despite long odds.
Kauffman's lively and elegant history is propelled by hundreds of candid interviews conducted over a span of decades. Direct Action showcases the voices of key players in an array of movements - environmentalist, anti-nuclear, anti-apartheid, feminist, LGBTQ, anti-globalization, racial-justice, anti-war, and more - across an era when American politics shifted to the right, and a constellation of decentralized issue- and identity-based movements supplanted the older ideal of a single, unified left.
Now, as protest movements again take on a central and urgent political role, Kauffman's history offers both striking lessons for the current moment and an unparalleled overview of the landscape of recent activism. Written with nuance and humor, Direct Action is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the protest movements of our time.
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About the Author
L.A. Kauffman has spent more than 30 years immersed in radical movements, as an organizer, strategist, journalist, and observer. Kauffman was the mobilizing coordinator for the massive anti-war marches of 2003-2004; she has been called a "virtuoso organizer" by journalist Scott Sherman for her role in saving community gardens and public libraries in New York City from developers. Her writings on grassroots activism and social movement history have been published in The Nation, Mother Jones, n+1, The Baffler, and many other outlets. She is currently involved in a range of initiatives to resist the Trump presidency.