SCW Fundraiser – Reading & Discussion

October 17, 2011 - 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM

Author & Activist Amy Sonnie

Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Power –
Community Organizing in Radical Times
by Amy Sonnie and James Tracy

The historians of the late 1960s have emphasized the work of a small group of white college activists and the Black Panthers, activists who courageously took to the streets to protest the war in Vietnam and continuing racial inequality. Poor and working-class whites have tended to be painted as spectators, reactionaries, and, even, racists. Most Americans, the story goes, just watched the political movements of the sixties go by.

James Tracy and Amy Sonnie, who have been interviewing activists from the 1960s for nearly ten years, reject this old narrative. In five tightly conceived chapters, they show that poor and working-class whites, inspired by the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Panther Party, started to organize significant political movements against racism and inequality during the 1960s.

Their book explores an untold history the New Left. Challenging the Right for the allegiance of white workers, a diverse network of new political groups helped to redefine community organizing at a pivotal moment in the history of the United States, collaborating with their better known colleagues in SDS and the Black Panthers.

These organizations kept the vision of an interracial movement of the poor alive by working arm in arm with Dr. Martin Luther King and the Puerto Rican Young Lords and, in so doing, gave rise to a generation of community organizers. In the best tradition of people’s history, Tracy and Sonnie bring these diverse and groundbreaking movements alive.


Amy Sonnie is an activist, educator and librarian who has worked with U.S. grassroots social justice movements for the past 17 years. She is co-founder of the national Center for Media Justice. Her first book, Revolutionary Voices, an anthology by queer and transgender youth (Alyson Books, 2000), is banned in parts of New Jersey and Texas. Her work has appeared in dozens of publications including the San Franscisco Bay Guardian, Alternet, Philadelphia Inquirer, Clamor, the Oxygen Television Network, Bitch magazine, Area magazine and The Sojourner. She holds a Masters in Library and Information Science from San Jose State University and two Bachelors degrees from Syracuse University in Women’s Studies and Public Communications.

James Tracy is a long-time social justice organizer in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is the founder of the San Francisco Community Land Trust and has been active in the Eviction Defense Network and the Coalition On Homelessness, SF. He has edited two activist handbooks for Manic D Press The Civil Disobedience Handbook, and The Military Draft Handbook. His articles have appeared in Left Turn, Race Poverty and the Environment, Contemporary Justice Review and the Political Edge, a City Lights Foundation anthology.