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7 times in U.S. history when people protested and things changed.

Protesting is a part of the American DNA; when voices unite, there are real results.

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Aspen Institute

With so many protests taking place, America feels like it’s on the cusp of a political revolution.

There’s an outcry for empathy and for concrete action to fix the inequalities baked into our society. Bernie Sanders whipped his following into a frenzy in the hope of reforming what many perceive to be a broken and outdated system. Black Lives Matter marches have taken over streets and highways, demanding justice for slain black men, women, and kids. There have been violent clashes as various groups fight to be heard.

With protest after protest, many people may be asking themselves: Do protests actually make a difference?

Here’s the answer: They do, even if it takes a while to see results.


Here are seven moments of proof throughout U.S. history when protests yielded real results:

1. The Boston Tea Party: Dec. 16, 1773.

The Boston Tea Party was an act of defiance against British rule. Parliament tried to help The East India Company boost its revenue by taxing tea at the colonies' expense. The colonies didn’t appreciate this tactic. In Boston, the Sons of Liberty disguised themselves as Mohawk Indians — not the best move there — snuck on board ships in the harbor, and threw 342 chests of tea into the water. A large, supportive, crowd watched the entire thing.

Parliament, fed up with Boston and the American resistance to its rule, retaliated with The Coercive Acts in 1774. These were meant to punish the colonies and assert dominance, but it backfired, pushing the soon-to-be Americans toward a war for independence.

2. The Quaker petition against slavery: April 16, 1688.

Image of the drafted petition, via The Germantown Quakers/Wikimedia Commons.

While slaves had been fervently protesting their inhumane bondage since the beginning of the slave trade, it wasn’t until 1688 that a group of white men decided to speak up against it. Four Quakers drafted and presented the document, in which they stated that "to bring men hither, or to rob and sell them against their will, we stand against." The petition fell on deaf ears — the men were told that the timing wasn't right for the community to make a decision surrounding slavery. 15 years later, a group of Chester Quakers also spoke up.

It would take 92 years and many more petitions and presentations at community meetings, but in 1780, a Pennsylvania state law was finally passed to gradually emancipate slaves. Without those four men, the larger Quaker community may not have had the courage to speak up.

3. The Seneca Falls Convention: July 19, 1848.

Women have spent many years fighting to be seen as more than second-class citizens. In 1848, led by abolitionists Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a small group of women met at Stanton's home and wrote an announcement, published in the "Seneca County Courier," calling for a women's conference.

In July, 200 women gathered at the Wesleyan Chapel to discuss women’s rights. Stanton shared the "Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances," which she'd drafted, modeled after the Declaration of Independence, in which she asserted that women were being denied basic rights, including the right to vote. On the second day of the convention, the declaration was signed by the assembly.

The public thought the declaration was ridiculous, but their disdain couldn’t stop the movement. Two weeks later, a larger convention was held, and in the years that followed, women’s rights conventions became annual occurrences. In 1920, as a result of this movement, the 19th amendment was passed, granting women the right to vote.

4. The GM sit-down strikes: Dec. 30, 1936.

In the 1930s, big corporations were thriving on the backs of their workers, and the workers had had enough. They tried to form unions but were essentially dismissed. The power lay in the hands of the corporations. So, inspired by the sit-down strikes taking place throughout Europe, the workers decided to do something about the problem.

On Dec. 30, 1936, workers walked into the General Motors plant in Flint, Michigan, sat down, and stopped working, shutting down the company and forcing its heads to take notice. They remained there through mid-February. GM tried to force an evacuation and police attempted to cut off their food supply, but the workers prevailed. Finally, GM signed an agreement recognizing the union. Workers received 5% raises and were allowed to speak in the lunchroom. They’d won.

5. The Montgomery bus boycott: Dec. 5, 1955.

President Obama, the first black president of the United States, sits where Rosa Parks once sat. Image via Pete Souza/White House/Wikimedia Commons.

This started with one woman you might know: Rosa Parks, who was told to give up her seat on the bus for a white man. She refused. This simple act stoked a fire that had long been simmering. Parks was arrested and fined, and the black community came together, refusing to use public buses. Black taxi drivers lowered their fares significantly for their black riders, carpools were organized, and many people chose to simply walk to their destinations.

This protest lasted more than a year — 381 days to be exact — and forced Montgomery, Alabama, to integrate its bus system. And something else very special came out of this boycott: Martin Luther King Jr. emerged as a leader of the civil rights movement.  

6. The March on Washington: Aug. 28, 1963.

Image via the National Archives/Flickr.

In 1963, 200,000 people marched through Washington to bring attention to the issues that black people continued to face in America. The march culminated in one of the most powerful speeches of our time, King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The crowd demanded that America step it up and move toward racial justice and equality.

While, again, things didn’t change overnight, the march is credited with pressuring President John F. Kennedy and Congress to take action in favor of the civil rights movement, leading to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

7. Selma: March 9, 1965.

Just a few years after the march on Washington, another major march of protest took place. Black Americans had gained the right to vote, but voter suppression made that right mostly symbolic. In Selma, the Dallas County sheriff led an opposition to black voter registration, and it was working — only 300 out of 15,000 eligible black voters had been able to register. During a peaceful protest against this suppression, a young black man was shot and killed by state troopers.

Civil rights leaders attempted a march from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery on March 7, 1965, but they were brutally attacked by state troopers and forced to retreat. The nation witnessed the event on television. On March 9, they tried again. This time, state troopers blocked the road. That night, segregationists beat a young, white protester to death. On March 21, the activists tried yet again. This time, with the National Guard for protection and President Lyndon B. Johnson’s support, they made it. The Voting Rights Act was passed that August, protecting black voters from suppression and discrimination.

Change doesn’t happen overnight. But when people band together, they have the power to make a difference.

The largest Native American protest in history took place this year in North Dakota. An oil pipeline threatened to disrupt sacred Native American sites and burial grounds and risks polluting a major water source. Thousands of people stood together in solidarity and desperation, trying to force the public to notice and the government to take action. And it paid off. The the Army Corps of Engineers put plans for the Dakota Access Pipeline on hold while it explores alternate routes.

It's a perfect example that, no matter how bleak the outcome may look, our voices are powerful. Protests matter. And remembering that possibility for change is often all the hope that we need in the midst of chaos.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

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The airplane graveyard that 3 families call home is the subject of a stunning photo series.

From the skies to the ground, these airplanes continue to serve a purpose.

This article originally appeared on 09.18.15


What happens to airplanes after they're no longer fit to roam the skies?


An abandoned 747 rests in a Bangkok lot. Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images.

Decommissioned planes are often stripped and sold for parts, with the remains finding a new home in what is sometimes referred to as an "airplane boneyard" or "graveyard." Around the world, these graveyards exist; they're made up of large, empty lots and tons of scrap metal.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

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Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

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AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

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Dear Beauty,

Time is crawling to January 20th, the one-year anniversary of the day you took your final breath on my chest in our bed. We had a dance party the night before. Your posse came over. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, closest friends, and your loving nanny Tia. We sat in the warm kitchen with music on and passed you from one set of arms to another. Everyone wanted one last dance with you. We didn’t mess around with only slow songs. You danced to Havana and Danza Kuduro, too. Somehow, you mustered the energy to sway and rock with each of us, despite not having had anything to eat or drink for six days. That night, January 19th, we laughed and cried and sang and danced. And we held each other. We let our snot and our tears rest on each other’s shoulders; we didn’t wipe any of them away. We ate ice cream after dinner, as we do every night. And on this night, we rubbed a little bit of fresh mint chocolate chip against your lips. Maybe you’d taste the sweetness.

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