Category Archives: Social Movement Leadership

Social Movement Leadership

From Martin Luther King Jr. to Susan B. Anthony, and from Cesar Chavez to Gloria Steinem, the most prominent social movement leaders capture the public’s attention. Yet understanding social movement leaders requires a wider focus than charisma and force of will. We dedicate this next Mobilizing Ideas dialogue to the topic of leaders and leadership. We ask our contributors to consider such topics such as the development of leaders, conflicts between leaders, leader cooptation, and the interactions of personal biography with contexts.

Many thanks to our fantastic group of contributors.

Andrew Martin, Ohio State University (essay)
Amanda Pullum, California State University, Monterey Bay (essay)

Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Guillermo Trejo

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Coalition-Building through “Everyday” Social Movement Leadership

By Amanda Pullum

When I ask my students to tell me about social movement leadership, they often paint one of two metaphorical pictures. The first is of well-known leaders—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, and others—whose contributions are usually described in overly broad terms. The second is of so-called “leaderless” movements, like Occupy, in which modern technology and strategic innovation are thought to enable diffuse decision-making processes, with no individuals in true leadership roles. Continue reading

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Just What Do We Mean by Leadership Anyway?

By Andrew Martin

For as long as there have been social movements, popular culture has been quick to either laud or demonize leaders of popular protest (and often those that were once scorned eventually become mythical heroes). The successes enjoyed by the Civil Rights movement was due to the effort of numerous organizations and thousands of activists willing to put their life on the line, yet Martin Luther King jr. remains the face of racial struggle in America. He is, for many Americans, a symbol of justice and the personification of racial equality. The list of other social movement leaders and revolutionaries, both loved and hated, is extensive: Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks, Caesar Chavez and the farmworkers movement, Che Guevara and the Cuban Revolution, Susan B. Anthony and the women’s suffrage movement, to name just a few. Continue reading

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