ACORN'S 50th ANNIVERSARY

June 18th, 1970 marks the informal date of ACORN's birth. It was on that date that Wade Rathke drove into Little Rock on a mission to create a new organization that would attempt to organize a multi-racial 'majority constituency' of low and moderate-income Americans into a single umbrella organization. Over the coming decades ACORN would grow into the biggest and most effective community organization in the United States.

 

Fifty years after that auspicious date we are happy to present some extended excerpts from The Organizer, along with unedited archival material that was uncovered during the research and production of the film. 

THE ARKANSAS EXPERIENCE

This first excerpt retells the founding of ACORN and its first campaigns and organizational experiences. 

Wade Rathke had been working for the Massachusetts branch of the National Welfare Rights Organization, a civil rights group organized around reforming the welfare system. In conversations with NWRO founder George Wiley, Rathke agreed to implement a 'southern strategy' for the NWRO and organize new groups in the south, with the understanding that he would expand beyond the narrow constituency of welfare recipients. Although Wade had grown up in New Orleans, due to a number of political and organizational factors it was determined that Little Rock, Arkansas would be the place to begin this new endeavour. On June 18th, 1970. Wade drove into Little Rock...

Director: Nick Taylor, Producer: Joey Carey,  "Hard Times" written by Stephen Foster and performed by Doug Paisley. Score by Justin Small and Ohad Benchetrit.

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ARCHIVAL MATERIAL

The above clip contains material from the ACORN Archives, housed in the Social Action collection at the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison, WI. Below are unedited reels of this archive, including a 1974 Promo film highlighting ACORN's first four years, an interview with Gloria Wilson, the first dues-paying member of ACORN, and a 3-part interview with Wade Rathke from 1975 which goes deep into organizing concepts and methodology. These archives were licensed to us by the Wisconsin Historical Society and restoration and digitization was done at V-Tape in Toronto.

1974 ACORN OVERVIEW

From the ACORN archives - A promotional video made in December 1974 highlighting the first four years of ACORN's work in Arkansas.

GLORIA WILSON INTERVIEW

An interview with Gloria Wilson, the first ACORN member signed up by Wade Rathke in 1970. The interview was conducted in 1990.

WADE RATHKE in Conversation

(1/3)

 

A long conversation between ACORN founder Wade Rathke and Tom Hickey about organizing concepts and methodology.

 

This tape was labelled "Self-Interest vs Expectation" as Wade challenges Saul Alinsky's ideas of 'self-interest' in organizing in favour of the expectation of what an organization can become.

WADE RATHKE in Conversation

(2/3)

 

A long conversation between ACORN founder Wade Rathke and Tom Hickey about organizing concepts and methodology. Concepts of self-interest, expectation and power are discussed.

WADE RATHKE in Conversation

(3/3)

 

A long conversation between ACORN founder Wade Rathke and Tom Hickey about organizing concepts and methodology. Concepts of self-interest, expectation and power are discussed.

REPRESENTATION

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