On the Freedom Side

How Five Decades of Youth Activists Have Remixed American History

By Wesley C. Hogan

368 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 26 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5248-1
    Published: December 2019
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5247-4
    Published: December 2019
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-5249-8
    Published: October 2019
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5534-3
    Published: October 2019

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As Wesley C. Hogan sees it, the future of democracy belongs to young people. While today's generation of leaders confronts a daunting array of existential challenges, increasingly it is young people in the United States and around the world who are finding new ways of belonging, collaboration, and survival. That reality forms the backbone of this book, as Hogan documents and assesses young people's interventions in the American fight for democracy and its ideals.

Beginning with reflections on the inspiring example of Ella Baker and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s, Hogan profiles youth-led organizations and their recent work. Examples include Southerners on New Ground (SONG) in the NAFTA era; Oakland's Ella Baker Center and its fight against the school-to-prison pipeline; the Dreamers who are fighting for immigration reform; the Movement for Black Lives that is demanding a reinvestment in youth of color and an end to police violence against people of color; and the International Indigenous Youth Council, water protectors at Standing Rock who fought to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline and protect sovereign control of Indigenous lands. As Hogan reveals, the legacy of Ella Baker and the civil rights movement has often been carried forward by young people at the margins of power and wealth in U.S. society. This book foregrounds their voices and gathers their inventions--not in a comprehensive survey, but as an activist mix tape--with lively, fresh perspectives on the promise of twenty-first-century U.S. democracy.

About the Author

Wesley C. Hogan is the director of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and author of Many Minds, One Heart: SNCC’s Dream for a New America.
For more information about Wesley C. Hogan, visit the Author Page.


“Hogan . . . here recounts the manner in which young people have grappled with the burdens of racism, discrimination, and gender bias in the last 50 years or so. . . . Some of the activists Hogan presents are familiar, e.g., Ella Baker; many others are less so, including Pat Hussain, Hermelinda Cortes, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, and a host of others, all of whom were (and are) devoted to ridding the nation (and the world) of ills ranging from systemic racism to environmental degradation and failures to protect minority rights. . . . Charting powerful activist legacies, the author leaves readers with hope for the future.”--CHOICE

“Hogan’s history is strikingly contemporary. . . . Drawing on and expanding the legacy of Ella Baker’s role in African American and youth activism, On the Freedom Side examines relationships between generations of youth activism and intersectional politics.”--Cercles

“A must-read for academics and activists interested in the linkages between youth movements across generations, regions, racial and ethnic groups, sexual orientations, and citizenship status.” --Journal of Southern History

“Essential reading for scholars and practitioners of social movements, youth activism, and community engagement.”—Journal of African American History

"At a time when too many of us are simply cursing the darkness, Hogan has shone the light of history on the often-invisible youth movements that fueled positive change in the past . . . and that continue to energize us today."--Judy Richardson, SNCC veteran and coeditor of Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC

"Hogan provides a way for us to explore the evolution of social justice movements, revealing how activists take what they learn from the 'Movement Decade' of the 1960s and build upon it."--Tracy E. K’Meyer, author of From Brown to Meredith: The Long Struggle for School Desegregation in Louisville, Kentucky, 1954–2007