Charis welcomes Annelise Orleck in conversation with Shanda Neal Green for a discussion of Storming Caesars Palace: How Black Mothers Fought Their Own War on Poverty, which has been revised and updated and served as inspiration for the PBS documentary which premiered in March 2023. Storming Caesars Palace is the story of the revolutionary Black women welfare organizers of Las Vegas who spearheaded an evergreen, radical revisioning of American economic justice. This timely reissue tells the little-known story of a pioneering group of Black mothers who built one of this country's most successful antipoverty programs. This event is co-hosted by 9to5, one of the largest, most respected national membership organizations of working women in the U.S., dedicated to putting working women’s issues on the public agenda.
In Storming Caesars Palace, Annelise Orleck brings into focus the hidden figures of a trailblazing movement who proved that poor mothers are the real experts on poverty, providing job training, libraries, medical access, daycare centers and housing to the poor in Las Vegas throughout the 1970s. Orleck introduces Ruby Duncan, a sharecropper turned White House advisor who led the charge on the long war on poverty waged against the poor Black mothers of Las Vegas. According to Ruby, " Poor women must dream their highest dreams and never stop," and she with the help of Mary Wesley and Alversa Beals, did exactly that.
A vivid retelling of an overlooked American history, Orleck follows the Black women who went on to lead a revolutionary movement against welfare injustice. These women eventually founded Operation Life, one of the first women-led community organizations in the nation and one of the country’s most successful antipoverty programs. They went on to gain national traction and garnered the respect of key political figures such as Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter.
With a new prologue and epilogue that explore the race and labor movements paramount to the political climate of 2021, Orleck masterfully blends together history, social analysis, and personal storytelling in a story that is as enraging as it is empowering.
Annelise Orleck is professor of history at Dartmouth College and the author of five books on the history of US women, politics, immigration, and activism, including Storming Caesars Palace: How Black Mothers Fought Their Own War on Poverty. She lives in Thetford Center, Vermont.
Shanda Neal Green is the Georgia Associate State Director of 9to5. Shanda is a firm believer that someone else’s opinion does not define you or what you can accomplish in life, if you are willing to fight. A graduate of Winston-Salem State University with a degree in Political Science, Shanda was a vanguard for grassroots organizing and politics. Collegiate activism lead to campaign work for city council elections in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Shanda seeks to leave the world a better place, whether by given a voice to the voiceless, or redeeming social, political, and economic conditions that keep people oppressed.
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The inspiration for the PBS documentary premiering March 2023
The story of the revolutionary Black women welfare organizers of Las Vegas who spearheaded an evergreen, radical revisioning of American economic justice
Rethinking American Women's Activism traces intersecting streams of feminist activism from the nineteenth century to the present.
Over twenty years after its initial publication, Annelise Orleck's Common Sense and a Little Fire continues to resonate with its harrowing story of activism, labor, and women's history. Orleck traces the personal and public lives of four immigrant women activists who left a lasting imprint on American politics.