By Isaiah Custer, Communications Manager

History’s changemakers rarely followed the popular opinion of the day. But as we continue to see the powerful ripples created by young people who fought back, spoke up and stood their ground – we know one voice becomes many and the world changes. We look back at history with 20/20 vision and immediately find moments and choices we identify as wrong. But how, in the moment, can anyone know they’re the start of a movement? That their late-night strategy session, their occupancy of a public space, or their solitude in a German prison was the start of it all? I’m not sure they did. But they did what they thought was right – and that’s enough.

Sophie Scholl and the White Rose spoke up when most were too afraid to go against the Nazis regime. The White Rose is just one of many stories throughout history where young activists have fought and sacrificed for their causes. Share your story or a meaningful story of resistance with us by using #TTCresist and tagging @taproottheatre on social media.


The NAACP Youth Council sponsored sit-ins at the Dockum Drug Stores’s lunch counter in Wichita, Kansas. Three weeks later, the store changed its segregated seating policy and soon all of Kansas’ Dockum stores were desegregated.



On Feb 1, 1960, Ezell Blair Jr. (18), Franklin McCain (19), Joseph McNeil (17) and David Richmond (18) walked into a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, NC and wouldn’t leave. Three days later they were joined by almost 300 more protestors. By the summer, the sit-ins were in more than 50 cities and lunch counters were rapidly desegregated. Their action led to the creation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which would later play a major role in the Freedom Rides and in voter registration efforts across the South. The act of the so-called Greensboro Four eventually contributed to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Source: The New York Times.



Classmates Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale met in 1961 at Merritt College in Oakland, CA. After protesting the college’s “Pioneer Day” celebration, they formed the “Negro History Fact Group, which called on the school to offer classes in black history.” Following the assassination of black-nationalist Malcolm X and the killing of an unarmed black teen, Matthew Johnson, by San Francisco police officers, 24-year-old Newton, and 30-year-old Seale founded the Black Panthers. Over the course of the group’s history, they were involved in many violent encounters with the police, but they also started programs like free breakfast programs for school kids and free health clinics in 13 African American communities across the United States. The group officially dissolved in 1982.




Public school students in Soweto, South Africa participated in a peaceful march which was attacked by police with guns and tear gas. While they were protesting a law mandating Afrikaans-language education, they set a global movement against apartheid in motion. Photos of police brutality brought worldwide attention to the cruelty of South Africa’s government. The actions of the Soweto students led many American college students to protest speeches by South African politicians and companies tied to South Africa. The economic stress, and other factors led to the dismantling of apartheid.

Source: The New York Times.



Known as the “Gate of Heavenly Peace,” Tiananmen Square marked the entrance to the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties. When the Xinhai Revolution of 1911-1912 overthrew the Qings and established the power of the Republic of China, years of turmoil followed. After World War II, China was in a period of civil war until 1949 when the Communist Party gained control of most of China. The People’s Republic of China was founded and celebrated every year as National Day. In early May 1989, students began occupying the square protesting the limits of political freedom and economic troubles. By the end of that month, more than one million protestors had gathered and the Chinese government had declared martial law. The military’s presence initially failed to stop the protests, and the government escalated its aggression and on June 4 started firing live rounds into the crowd. It’s estimated that “hundreds to thousands of protestors were killed and as many as 10,000 were arrested.”




Tunisian street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in December 2010 to protest the arbitrary seizing of his vegetable stand by police over a failure to obtain a permit. His actions brought on the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia and in turn led to regime changes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Participants in grassroots movements wanted increased social freedoms and greater participation in the political process. But in some cases, their protests turned into civil wars, such as those in Libya, Syria and Yemen.

Source: The Guardian.

Image: Wikimedia Commons – Abdeaitali



After Michael Brown, 18, was killed by the police, this movement created by Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi exploded into national view. Their protest of police gun violence towards unarmed black suspects has not always been popular in the public narrative. Members have been labeled as troublemakers and thugs — unlike their gun violence counterparts in The Never Again Movement. Regardless, “… Black Lives Matter has had a fundamental impact on the national conversation about racial bias and the use of excessive force by the police.”

Source: The New York Times.



Malala Yousafzai attended a school her father founded in Pakistan. When the Taliban began attacking girls’ schools, Yousafzai gave a speech titled, “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?” In 2009, she blogged for the BBC about the threats to deny her education. Yousafzai continued to speak out and was nominated for an International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011. She also won Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize that same year. In 2012, while 15-year-old Yousafzai was riding a bus with her friends, a gunman boarded the bus and after locating her, shot her in the head. Left in critical condition, she was eventually moved to England where she underwent multiple surgeries. Just nine months after the Taliban’s attempt on her life, Yousafzai spoke at the United Nations, urging world leaders to change their policies. She then became the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.


Image: Wikimedia Commons – Simon Davis/DFID


In the hours and days following the tragic loss of 17 students and teachers at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, the organizers of the Never Again movement created social media accounts, appeared in numerous news cycles and spoke with elected officials to bring gun reform back to the forefront of the nation. Though some media outlets painted the leaders as drama students who were just acting, the social media savvy teenagers used their technological smarts to crush their opposers. As Cameron Kasky said in an interview with The Atlantic, “Doing nothing leads to nothing.”

Source: The New Yorker.