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Examining three interconnected case studies, Tamar Carroll powerfully demonstrates the ability of grassroots community activism to bridge racial and cultural differences and effect social change. Drawing on a rich array of oral histories, archival records, newspapers, films, and photographs from post-World War II New York City, Carroll shows how poor people transformed the antipoverty organization Mobilization for Youth and shaped the subsequent War on Poverty. Highlighting the little-known National Congress of Neighborhood Women, she reveals the significant participation of working-class white ethnic women and women of color in New York City's feminist activism. Finally, Carroll traces the partnership between the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) and Women's Health Action Mobilization (WHAM!), showing how gay men and feminists collaborated to create a supportive community for those affected by the epidemic, to improve health care, and to oppose homophobia and misogyny during the culture wars of the 1980s and 1990s. Carroll contends that social policies that encourage the political mobilization of marginalized groups and foster coalitions across identity differences are the most effective means of solving social problems and realizing democracy.

Listen to an interview with Carroll about the book on the New Book Network podcast.


“An engagingly written book that makes major contributions to our understanding of various movements, such as the 1970s women’s movement and the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). … [This] provocative and persuasively argued work will be of interest to scholars of postwar U.S. politics and scholars of political activism in any period.”
--Melissa Estes Blair, Auburn University, American Historical Review

“Tamar W. Carroll’s energizing investigation into the evolution of social change organizing in New York City creatively rethinks radical legacies by expanding our understanding of antipoverty organizing to include AIDS activism, a significant contribution to the literature.”
--Sarah Schulman, College of Staten Island, City of New York, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society (Read the full review here )

“Mobilizing New York provides a platform for thinking beyond the scope of the book to even more recent activisms informed by feminism, such as #BlackLivesMatter. Carroll’s book is crucial reading not only for researchers documenting the contemporary history of social justice activism but also for those who seek to keep feminism alive in today’s political grassroots.”
--Claire Bond Potter, The New School, Journal of the History of Sexuality (Read the full review here )

“Analytically sophisticated, historically informed, and original. … An amazing study of the historical linkages among grassroots movements and community activists.”
--Horacio N. Roque Ramirez, UC Santa Barbara, Journal of American History (Read the full review here )

“A testament to the power of people's voices and the importance of acknowledging the whole, intersectional aspect of their identities to build communities and create change.”
--Gopika Krishna, Brown University, Oral History (Read the full review here )

“A remarkable book… Uses rich, new materials to weave several historiographies together into a compelling analysis of mobilization for social and political equality in New York City.”
--Nick Juravich, Columbia University (Read the full review at Gotham)

“[A] dazzling rarity of a book… A textured, satisfying account of social movement organizing.”
--Lana Dee Povitz, NYU, Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000 (Read the full review here )

“Carroll’s book is notable for taking readers across contexts to understand why identity and space-based organizing has and continues to be potentially fertile for social change… This book holds particular value for readers interested in finding inspiration as they seek to think through current social issues or engage in community-based organizing, and could be particularly useful for local or online reading groups.”
--Ariella R. Rotramel, Connecticut College, New York History (Read the full review here )

“Carroll has captured the New York I grew up in, evoking the creativity and emotional power of social activism in the 1960s and of people unified across lines of class, race, and gender, struggling to keep hold of the working-class soul of the city.”
--Annelise Orleck, author of Common Sense and a Little Fire: Women and Working-Class Politics in the United States, 1900-1965

“Much of the evidence in this book flies in the face of stereotypes about the second-wave feminist movement and frames its history in new ways. This is a very valuable study.”
--Sara Evans, University of Minnesota

Related Material

Read multimedia companion essays here:

Read a related journal article here:

Additional Videos

Watch (running time 16:35)

Carroll helped produce this video featuring women from the Williamsburg, Brooklyn, headquarters of the National Congress of Neighborhood Women in the 1970s. The NCNW is the subject of two chapters of Mobilizing New York.