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Writing by Topic

New Book Release

Community Organizing: Fanning the Flame of Democracy

OLLI Course Syllabus

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What Works: How Social Movements Transformed America
Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

This syllabus is for a eight-class course (a two-hour class once a week for eight weeks).  See note at end for a five or six-class course.

Recommended Reading:

Juan Williams, Eyes on the Prize (Penguin Books, 1987)
Eleanor Flexner, Century of Struggle (1959; Harvard Univ. Press, 1996)

First Class: Organization
Introduction and overview
The old Collective Behavior analysis
The new Social Movement analysis:
organizations, networks & resources
The cycle of social movements
Montgomery Bus Boycott
Woman Suffrage Campaign
Modern Feminist Movement
Further Reading:
Aldon D. Morris, The Origins of the CRM (Free Press, 1984)
Ruth Rosen, The World Split Open (Viking, 2000)
Flora Davis, Moving the Mountain (Simon & Schuster, 1991)
Malcolm Gladwell, "Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg:"
Bill Moyer, Doing Democracy (New Society Publishers, 2001)
Second Class: Windows of Political Opportunity
Tectonic shifts
Political opportunity structures
Relationship to strategic planning
The Triangle Fire
Passing the 19th Amendment
A. Philip Randolph confronts FDR & HST; wins executive orders
Further Reading:
David Von Drehle, Triangle: The Fire that Changed America (Atlantic Monthly, 2003)
Paula F. Pfeffer, A. Philip Randolph (Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1990)
Third Class: Narratives & Framing
Stories giving hope and courage
Broad cultural narratives
Language & issue framing
Master frames and cascading movements
Subculture, identity, and activism
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Ernesto Cortes, Jr. and the IAF
The conservative program in 10 words
Woman Suffrage campaign
The Sixties
Sylvia Woods’ family traditions
El Teatro Campesino and the UFWA
Further Reading:
Shakespeare’s Henry V at Battle of Agincourt:
Robert B. Reich, Tales of a New America (Times Books, 1987)
George Lakoff, Don’t Think of An Elephant! (Chelsea Green, 2004)
Geoffrey Nunberg, Going Nucular (PublicAffairs, 2005)
Fourth Class: Leadership Development
Types and levels of leadership
Cultivating leaders
Women and Leadership
Christabel Pankhurst finds her voice
Ella Baker and women in the CRM
Winning the Vote for Women
Bob Moses and Freedom Summer
A. Philip Randolph and the March on Washington
Further Reading:
Jo Freeman, "The Tyranny of Structurelessness":
Warren Bennis & Burt Nanus, Leaders (Harper & Row, 1985)
Belinda Robnett, How Long? How Long? African-American Women in the Struggle for Civil Rights (Oxford Univ. Press, 1997)
Barbara Ransby, Ella Baker & the Black Freedom Movement (Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2003)
Edward T. Chambers, Roots for Radicals (Continuum, 2006)
Fifth Class: Strategic Alliances
Allies at the personal level
Challenges of cross-cultural and cross-class alliances
Strategies for societal change
White allies in the Montgomery Bus Boycott
Harvey Milk’s allies in San Francisco
Blacks and Jews
Sylvia Pankhurst organizes in London’s East End
Further Reading:
Andrea Ayvazian, "The Role of Allies," Fellowship (January/February  1995), pp. 6-9
John M. Glen, Highlander: No Ordinary School, 1932-1962 (Univ. Press of Kentucky, 1988)
Freedom Writer: Virginia Durr, ed. by Patricia Sullivan (Routledge, 2003)
Randy Shilts, The Mayor of Castro Street (St. Martin’s Press, 1982)
Jonathan Kaufman, Broken Alliance: The Turbulent Times Between Blacks and Jews in America (Scribner's, 1988)
Sixth Class: Nonviolence, Tactical and Principled
Two American tactical traditions
Nonviolence as principle and tactic
Nonviolent tactics in practice
Radical Flank Effects
Henry David Thoreau vs. John Brown
Gandhi and Emmeline Pankhurst
Black Panther Party & the Weather Underground
Southern Civil Rights Movement
Ossie Davis on Malcolm X
Further Reading:
Gene Sharp, Waging Nonviolent Struggle (Porter Sargent, 2005)
Jeremy Varon, Bringing the War Home (Univ. of California Press, 2004)
Flores Forbes, Will You Die with Me? (Atria Books, 2006)
Lucy G. Barber, Marching on Washington (Univ. of California Press, 2002)
Seventh Class: Music and the Arts
Music and the mobilization of tradition
Music in the Civil Rights Movement
The Folk Revival
Music in the Labor & Left movements
Music in the Woman Suffrage Movement
Art & Action
Posters from the Anti-Vietnam War Movement
Further Reading:
Ron Eyerman and Andrew Jamison, Music and Social Movements (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998)
T.V. Reed, The Art of Protest (Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2005)
Eighth Class: Presentation and discussion determined by class
The eighth class will be reserved for topics initiated by the class (an example might be an exploration of historical and contemporary peace movements, or conservation and environmental movements).

NOTE: In five and six-class versions of this course, the third and fourth classes will combine topics.