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"Explores protesting as an act of faith . . . How to Read a Protest argues that the women's marches of 2017 didn't just help shape and fuel a moment—they actually created one."—Masha Gessen, The New Yorker
O, the Oprah Magazine’s “14 Best Political Books to Read Before the 2018 Midterm Election”
"A fascinating and detailed history of American mass demonstrations."—Publishers Weekly
When millions of people took to the streets for the 2017 Women’s Marches, there was an unmistakable air of uprising, a sense that these marches were launching a powerful new movement to resist a dangerous presidency. But the work that protests do often can’t be seen in the moment. It feels empowering to march, and record numbers of Americans have joined anti-Trump demonstrations, but when and why does marching matter? What exactly do protests do, and how do they help movements win?
In this original and richly illustrated account, organizer and journalist L.A. Kauffman delves into the history of America’s major demonstrations, beginning with the legendary 1963 March on Washington, to reveal the ways protests work and how their character has shifted over time. Using the signs that demonstrators carry as clues to how protests are organized, Kauffman explores the nuanced relationship between the way movements are made and the impact they have. How to Read a Protest sheds new light on the catalytic power of collective action and the decentralized, bottom-up, women-led model for organizing that has transformed what movements look like and what they can accomplish.
About the Author
L.A. Kauffman has been a grassroots organizer and movement journalist for more than thirty-five years. She was the mobilizing coordinator for some of the largest demonstrations in U.S. history—the massive Iraq antiwar protests of 2003 and 2004—and has played key roles in many other movements and campaigns. Kauffman's writings on organizing and resistance have appeared in The Guardian, n+1, Frieze, and numerous other publications, and she is the author of Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism.
Visit lakauffman.org for tour dates and speaking engagements.
"A fascinating and detailed history of American mass demonstrations"
— Publishers Weekly
"Explores protesting as an act of faith . . . How to Read a Protest argues that the women's marches of 2017 didn't just help shape and fuel a moment—they actually created one."
— Masha Gessen
“At a little over a hundred pages, it’s a quick read but Kauffman’s familiarity with the mechanics of mass protest and the history of the U.S. left over the past half-century are evident throughout.”
— The Indypendent
“A quick and easy read, filled with amazing historical images. Kauffman was a mobilizing coordinator for some of the largest Iraq War demonstrations, and her sources and mentors include some of the most driven organizers in movement building in the US since 1963. If you’ve ever organized a protest or put your theory into praxis, you’re going to find this book a real page-turner.”
Listed as one of the "14 Best Political Books to Read Before the 2018 Midterm Election."
"A seasoned activist shares her wisdom on the struggle for social change, using political movements such as Black Lives Matter, the Women's March, and the Bonus Army as examples."
— O, The Oprah Magazine
“For a first draft of history still in the making, Kauffman is right to focus on the broad scale and wide impact of the Women’s Marches of 2017. As she persuasively shows, marches need not be the apex of a movement’s rise; they can also be its generative soil."
— The New Republic
“How to Read a Protest begins, “Protests work?—?just not, perhaps, the way you think.” There are few people better placed to explain that than Kauffman.”
— Hong Kong Free Press
"Drawing on 30-plus years as a grassroots organizer, L.A. Kauffman sheds new light on how and why protests work.”
“Kauffman sheds new light on the catalytic power of collective action and the decentralized, bottom-up, women-led model that has transformed what movements look like and what they can accomplish.”