COMM-ORG announcements announce at comm-org.wisc.edu
Fri Sep 17 07:07:55 CDT 2010

  From:Peter Dreier <dreier at oxy.edu>

Friends and Colleagues,

My article, "The 50 Most Influential Progressives of the 20th Century," 
is the cover story in the current  (October 4) issue of The Nation 

·         You can read my Introduction to the list here: 

·         The Nation has posted a slide show with photos and bios of the 
50 individuals.  Here's the link:  
The list appears in three parts (as slideshows) today, tomorrow, and 
Monday. The slide show also includes my list of "further reading" about 
each person as well as links to articles that many of them wrote for The 
Nation over the years.

·         The entire article will be available on-line on Tuesday, 
linked here: http://www.thenation.com/issue/october-4-2010.  The hard 
copy of the magazine will be on newstands and in mailboxes next week.

·         There will, of course, be much room for dispute about who 
belongs on the list.  On Monday, The Nation will ask readers to nominate 
names that I missed, which the magazine will prominently post as well.  
With your help we also hope to begin a list of notable progressive of 
the twenty-first century. So please check out the list and get your 
nominations ready for Monday.

As I write in my article, 100 years ago, any soapbox orator who called 
for women's suffrage, laws protecting the environment, an end to 
lynching, workers' right to form unions, a progressive income tax, a 
federal minimum wage, old-age insurance, the eight-hour workday and 
government--subsidized healthcare would be considered an impractical 
utopian dreamer or a dangerous socialist. Now we take these ideas for 
granted. The radical ideas of one generation are often the common sense 
of the next. When that happens, give credit to the activists and 
movements that fought to take those ideas from the margins to the 
mainstream. We all stand on the shoulders of earlier generations of 
radicals and reformers who challenged the status quo of their day.

Unfortunately, most Americans know little of this progressive history. 
It isn't taught in most high schools. You can't find it on the major 
television networks or even on the History Channel. Indeed, our history 
is under siege. In popular media, the most persistent interpreter of 
America's radical past is Glenn Beck, who teaches viewers a wildly 
inaccurate history of unions, civil rights and the American left. Beck 
argues, for example, that the civil rights movement "has been perverted 
and distorted" by people claiming that Martin Luther King Jr. supported 
"redistribution of wealth." In fact, King did call for a "radical 
redistribution of economic power." Using his famous chalkboard, Beck 
draws connections between various people and organizations, and defines 
them as radicals, Marxists, socialists, revolution-aries, leftists, 
progressives or social justice activists--all of which leads inexorably 
to Barack Obama. Drawing on writings by conspiracy theorists and white 
supremacists, Beck presents a misleading version of America's radical 
family tree.

Many historians, including Howard Zinn in his classic A People's History 
of the United States and Eric Foner in The Story of American Freedom, 
have chronicled the story of America's utopians, radicals and reformers. 
Every generation needs to retell this story, reinterpret it and use it 
to help shape the present and future. Unless Americans know this 
history, they'll have little understanding of how far we've come, how we 
got here and how progress was made by a combination of grassroots 
movements and reformers.

The list includes fifty people--listed chronologically in terms of their 
early important accomplishments--who helped change America in a more 
progressive direction during the twentieth century by organizing 
movements, pushing for radical reforms and popularizing progressive 
ideas. They are not equally famous, but they are all leaders who spurred 
others to action. Most were not single-issue activists but were involved 
in broad crusades for economic and social justice, revealing the many 
connections among different movements across generations. Most were 
organizers and activists, but the list includes academics, lawyers and 
Supreme Court justices, artists and musicians who also played important 
roles in key movements. The list includes people who spent most of their 
lives as activists for change--long-distance runners, not sprinters. 
Elected officials have been excluded, as I explain in my introduction.

At a moment, when Glenn Beck and the right have hijacked progressivism 
as dangerous, it is more important than ever that we engage in a real 
discussion about the accomplishments of true progressives. I encourage 
you to read, discuss, let us know who you would include, and most 
importantly, share the feature with your friends and colleagues.

I'll give you the first five here: Eugene Debs; Jane Addams; Louis 
Brandeis; Florence Kelley; John Dewey.

For the rest, please click over to the first of the three slideshows: 

I've already heard that some professors around the country will be using 
the article in their classes. I'm eager to hear reactions from people 
about the list.

Thanks - and enjoy!



Peter Dreier

Dr. E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics

Chair, Urban & Environmental Policy Program

Occidental College

1600 Campus Road

Los Angeles, CA 90041

Phone: (323) 259-2913

FAX: (323) 259-2734

Website: http://employees.oxy.edu/dreier

"The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great 
moral crises maintain their neutrality" - Dante

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