The Blood Demonstration: Teaching the History of the Philadelphia Welfare Rights Organization


Despite a growing body of scholarship that documents civil rights activism in the North during the 1950s and 1960s, college educators continue to rely on traditional understandings of African Americans’ struggle for civil rights as being rooted in the South. Moreover, history professors continue to privilege a male-centered narrative that tends to define the civil rights movement through mass marches and protests. In an effort to challenge this pedagogy, this article describes a method for teaching the history of women’s role in the struggle for social justice in the 1960s through their participation in the Philadelphia Welfare Rights Organization (PWRO). Through the use of primary sources such as the Philadelphia Tribune and the PWRO’s newsletter along with secondary
sources such as Lisa Levenstein’s A Movement Without Marches, this article offers a way to expand and complicate students’ understanding of the civil rights and women’s movements of the late twentieth century. Just as importantly, it assists teachers in stressing the significance of African American women’s fight for equality in Pennsylvania history. Supplemental resources are posted on the journals’ web pages.