Timeline of Midwest Academy


Heather Booth wins a labor back pay suit; uses those funds to start Midwest Academy

Midwest Academy’s Goals:
• Combine the vision and spirit of progressive movements with the practical skills of grassroots organizing
• Elevate the role of women in organizing
• Forge a path to progressive change through multi-state organizations for the emerging labor, women’s rights, and environmental movements
• Create a comprehensive training program that provides organizers with the fundamental skills needed to build and sustain power

Founding Board:
Heather Booth, Paul Booth, Bob Creamer, Day Creamer, Mary Brumder

Steve Max joins Heather to design and implement the first curriculum, introducing the Strategy Chart. Steve would remain the curriculum director and Associate Director for years to come.


Officially file articles of incorporation in Illinois! The Academy is born.


First general organizing training session, focused on preparing women organizers.  Included leaders from NOW, Working Women’s organizing (Women Employed, 9to5), Movement for a Just Society, NEA, and others.

We also start small trainings around the country (perhaps 100 sessions).


Around the country: Midwest Academy leads training with unions, emerging statewide organizations (Illinois Citizen Action, Massachusetts Fair Share, Oregon Fair Share, Indiana Citizen Action, Ohio Fair Share), emerging environmental organizations, & consumer organizations. We helped win victories on utility rates, transportation, housing, farmer rights, and voting rights, to name a few.  


The Academy helps support organizations and movements as they begin to implement the idea of canvassing in their organizing work. We connect with Marc Anderson’s Hudson Bay Canvass, followed shortly by Barbara Helmick’s Women’s Resources Canvass. Combined, Midwest Academy helped win victories on health care, and for senior citizens & students. 

Midwest Academy helps organize the first E.R.A. rally in Springfield, IL. Turnout accounts vary, ranging from 8000 – 16,000 people from 30 states.
Read more here (New York Times article from 17 May 1976; will open in a new tab).


The Academy receives a VISTA grant, recruiting, training, and managing over 100 volunteers serving low income populations and building organizations in the statewide network.


Midwest Academy supports the creation of Citizen Labor Energy Coalition, uniting labor and community that had been divided by the Cold War. The Academy would stay deeply aligned with CLEC for a number of years, continuing to provide nonpartisan training to their organizers.


Karen Thomas becomes Executive Director. First training in northeast takes place in Boston.

Citizen Action is created as a national organization, starting with 5 state groups; Midwest Academy would continue to train Citizen Action affiliates as they expanded to 34 states over the next 15 years.

Midwest Academy Annual Retreats become a gathering place for the progressive movement, reaching an attendance of 2200 by the mid-90’s.

Stop Big Oil Day, organized by CLEC and reflecting organizing by Midwest Academy, winning no shut offs of utility rates, challenging de-regulation of natural gas, and elevating fights on who pays taxes.
Read more here (New York Times article 23 August 1979; will open in a new tab)


The trainings expand to the Northwest, taking place in Portland, OR.

Jackie Kendall changes roles, moving from Director of Social Projects to becoming the Executive Director — a role she’ll hold for 30 years.

Midwest Academy develops non-partisan engagement with voter registration, turnout, and increasing the importance of engaging in elections. Creation of State and Local Leadership Project (hiring Paul Tully & Sophie Ann Aoki) to train organizations in how to build election work into their ongoing efforts.


Midwest Academy launches the USSA/GROW Trainer Training Program that continued to 2015, training a cadre of organizers, many of whom lead today’s progressive organizations, unions, and foundations.


Publication of Citizen Action and the New American Populism, by Harry Boyte, Heather Booth and Steve Max.

National speaking and training to promote a Progressive American Populism to counter right wing populism. Telling people’s real stories and victories when we work together.


Pittston Coal Miners Strike

From a Midwest Academy Retreat, leaders join the strike (first people other than mineworkers to join in that struggle).
Read more about the strike here (AFL-CIO article; will open in a new tab)


The first edition of Organizing for Social Change is released.


SmokeLess States project is supported by Midwest Academy’s training, leading to scores of smoking bans in states throughout the country.


Judy Hertz is hired as Director of Special Projects.

Summer internship program expands and grows in popularity.

Founding of USAction, an organization the Academy would work with closely.


NAACP National Voter Fund initiated; Academy provides nonpartisan organizing training for NAACP, eventually providing Trainer training at the end of the decade.


Train the Trainer training developed for AARP, one of the first major Trainer training partnerships for the Academy.


Introduce Supervising Organizers

A training specifically designed to meet the needs of supervisors of community organizers.


Train the Trainer partnership begins with American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.


Organizing for Social Change releases its fourth edition.

The Advanced Strategy Retreat is introduced.


Judy Hertz becomes Executive Director.


Timeline Heading

Trainer training for UnidosUS (formerly National Council of La Raza)


Jay Travis and Eric Zachary become co-directors.


Adapt training to a virtual environment, expanding accessibility and training options.

Trainer Training for Minneapolis Area Synod, ELCA – note, this was the first time we did this virtually!


Yomara Velez becomes co-executive director alongside Eric Zachary.

Fifty years after its founding as a school for progressive organizers, the Midwest Academy continues to build a community of organizers who are well-connected, well-trained, and ready to drive social change.

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