Mapping American Social Movements Through 20th Century

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This collaborative project features maps and other visualizations showing the chronological geography of dozens of social movements that have influenced American life and politics during the 20th century, including radical movements, labor movements, women’s movements, many different civil rights movements, environmentalist movements, and more. Until now historians and social scientists have mostly studied social movements in isolation and often with little attention to geography. This project allows us to explore the relationships between social movements by bringing them together in time and space. It enables new understandings of how social movements interact and how they reproduce and change over time. We do this by developing detailed geographic data and metrics about each movement, allowing us to identify locations where membership and activism were concentrated.

The links left and below lead to more than 80 visualizations and data tables, with more to come. We have started with dozens of maps and charts that show the activist geography of the NAACPUnited Farm Workers (UFW)Socialist Party, Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)Communist PartyCongress of Racial Equality (CORE), and League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). We are now working on SNCC, Black Panther Party, the Chicana/o Movement, and underground newspapers from the 1965-75. The National Woman’s Party and NOW are next. We will add data and maps for other organizations as we move forward.

SP map

Socialist Party Activity 1900-1940

Here are more than two dozen interactive maps and charts that show the geography of Socialist Party activity. One set maps electoral support, showing the number and percentage of votes for SP candidates in every county across the country. Another set displays SP membership by state and year, in both maps and charts. A third database maps the location of 380 newspapers associated with the Socialist Party. Finally we map the 353 towns and cities that elected socialists to public office between 1904 and 1920. These are interactive maps that can be filtered on a number of variables while providing detailed information about places, publications, periodicals.

IWW locals3-400

Industrial Workers of the World Activity 1905-1920

These interactive maps locate more than 1,800 strikes, campaigns, arrests, and vigilante events involving the Industrial Workers of the World from 1905 to 1920. Events can be filtered by year or advanced in a month by month sequence. They can be filtered by state or type of event. Hover to see short descriptions. A second set maps more than 900 local unions affiliated with the IWW with filtering by industry and date of operation. (These visualizations are hosted on our companion IWW History Project).

naacp charts-400

NAACP at the Grass Roots 1909-1977

From an early date, the NAACP was a grass roots organization with a membership that expanded across the nation. These interactive maps and charts show the growth of the NAACP from a single branch with a few members in New York City to 80 branches by 1917, to 400 branches in 1923, then surging to more than 1,000 branches and 300,000 members during World War II, and then the regional surge into the South in the 1950s and 1960s.


Communist Party membership and support 1920-1948

Here are several maps and charts that show where the CP was active and where party support was concentrated. We show changing party membership by region and follow county by county and election by election the number of votes won by CP candidates. In close detail, CP activities in Chicago are mapped.


CORE sit-ins and other demonstrations 1942-1970

Founded by black and white students at the University of Chicago, the Congress of Racial Equality pioneered key tactics of the modern civil rights movement. Here we map more than 600 demonstrations organized by CORE and show the changing activist geography as the organization first attacked segregation in northern cities, then moved south sponsoring Freedom Rides and other forms of civil disobedience.


UFW strikes, boycotts, campaigns

When ethnic Mexican farm workers led by Cesar Chavez joined with Filipino American workers led by Larry Itliong in 1965 to strike grape growers in Delano, California, the modern farm workers’ movement was born. Here we map more than1000 strike actions, boycotts, and other UFW related events showing the movement’s support across the United States and Canada.


League of United Latin American Citizens 1929-1965

LULAC was founded in Corpus Christi in 1929 and added 18 councils the next year, all but one in Texas. With World War II, LULAC began to extend its reach to California, Arizona, New Mexico, and later Colorado, claiming 82 chapters by 1955. The next decade brought LULAC new influence and a new geography, reflecting the Tejano diaspora that was now spreading into the upper Midwest.


    Very Interesting and Informative Information.

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  • DHFabian

    Gee, what a surprise that we see nothing here about the role of poverty and the poor in driving the progressive movements in the 1910s, 1930s and 1960s. Every hear of, for example, the Poor People’s Campaign, which played such a critical role in both the civil rights movement and those “failed” welfare programs that enabled millions to work their way out of poverty, ultimately creating the largest middle class in US history?

    That’s a shame. really, because our past shows why there can be no movement for progressive change in this era — in spite of the years spent trying to spark one. Each time in the past that the richest few gained too much power over US politics and policies, the “masses” ultimately united to push back — poor and middle class, workers and the jobless, for the benefit of all. That can’t happen this time. Since the 1980s, much work has gone into dividing and conquering the masses by class and race. By the time that Occupy was successfully redefined (by Dem pols, the liberal media, then some participants themselves) as a middle class movement alone, we knew the “revolution” had been cancelled.

  • DHFabian

    How would you define “justice” for those who can’t work (health, etc.) and those for whom no jobs are available? What, exactly, are you fighting for?


    It is clear what justice is. Dr. King, Malcolm X, and others explicitly wanted the system of classism and institutionalized racism to end. That is justice. Also, justice encompasses many things. It means universal health care, an end to imperialism, living wages and programs to combat poverty plus homelessness, etc.(via emergency aid institutions being developed). It is about creating funds and other programs to help the jobless (via public works jobs, expansion of income assistance, and banning unfair corporate loopholes). You know that progressive activists in America have fought for the rights of the jobless and homeless for a long time. I am fighting for human justice, for economic justice, and for liberation.