Contemporary Youth Activism
Advancing Social Justice in the United States
by Jerusha Conner and Sonia M. Rosen, Editors
September 2016, 433pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-4212-2
$95, £74, 83€, A131
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-4213-9
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Youth are now on the frontlines of social change in the United States. What does that mean to them—and to our nation?

A cutting-edge study showcases the emergence of contemporary youth activism in the United States, its benefits to young people, its role in strengthening society, and its powerful social justice implications.

At a time when youth are too often dismissed as either empowered consumers or disempowered deviants, it is vital to understand how these young people are pushing back, challenging such constructions, and advancing new possibilities for their institutions and themselves. This book examines the latest developments in the field of contemporary youth activism (CYA) and documents the myriad ways in which youth activists are effecting social change, even as they experience personal change. By taking public, political action on a range of intersecting issues, youth activists are shifting their own developmental pathways, shaping public policy, and shaking up traditional paradigms.

Section one of the book offers a historical perspective on youth activism in the United States, followed by a discussion of contemporary examples of CYA for social justice. The second and third sections analyze the individual, institutional, and ideological effects of CYA, arguing that youth activism works to promote change at three levels: self, systems, and in the broader society. Readers will come away with a clearer understanding of the many ways in which today’s youth activists are working to reimagine and remake American democracy, reawakening the promise of a multi-issue, progressive movement for social justice.


  • Presents a framework for understanding the role of youth activism in contemporary U.S. society
  • Surveys the various issues, strategies, and organizational features in the field of youth activism
  • Offers detailed portraits of youth responding to the pressing issues of our time, including police brutality in low-income communities of color, sexual assault on college campuses, environmental degradation caused by fracking, and the surge in unaccompanied minors coming to the United States
  • Features a range of youth and adult voices, from senior scholars and rising stars in academe to youth activists and their adult allies
  • Identifies lessons about how contemporary youth activism can help build a more just, inclusive, and responsive democracy
  • Highlights the policy wins of youth activists and illuminates the ways in which they are shifting the political terrain while building power in their communities
Jerusha Conner, PhD, is associate professor of education at Villanova University, Villanova, PA. She has published more than 25 peer-reviewed journal articles and several book chapters. Her publications on youth organizing and activism have appeared in top-tier journals, including American Journal of Education, Journal of the Learning Sciences, Journal of Research on Adolescence, and Equity and Excellence in Education. Conner recently coedited a National Society for the Study of Education yearbook, Student Voice in American Educational Policy. In 2013, she was named a finalist for the Ernest A. Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement for Early Career Faculty.

Sonia M. Rosen, PhD, is assistant professor of education at Arcadia University, Philadelphia, PA. She has published several peer-reviewed journal articles in such publications as International Journal of Leadership in Education, Learning Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal, Education 3–13, and Penn GSE Perspectives on Urban Education. She has also contributed a book chapter to an edited collection.


"The editors write useful introductions to each of these three sections, as well as a lengthy general introduction and conclusion . . . heavy on descriptions of political events, providing exemplars of activist organizational strategies. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above."—Choice, April 3, 2017

"This snapshot of the current social movements is a solid first source for information and research."—Library Journal, February 1, 2017

"Contemporary Youth Activism stakes out the political, ethical, and strategic space for speaking in many tongues and generations, for bearing witness across communities and institutions, and for documenting the radical paths carved by young people in times of severe institutional betrayal and rich popular contestation. The volume is joyous and devastating—a gift to those of us trying to imagine and organize for the world as it might be . . . It is a must-read."—Michelle Fine, Distinguished Professor of Critical Psychology and Urban Education, The Graduate Center of the City University of New York

"Conner and Rosen have masterfully assembled a collection that spotlights the wide range of ways that youth analyze, counter-narrate, and ultimately resist. . . . The brilliant cadre of scholars in this volume, which includes youth themselves, raises the intellectual stakes of the scholarly literature on education research, youth studies, and social movement theory. More importantly, they dare us to imagine our youth as rich sites of agency, hope, possibility, and revolutionary love."—Marc Lamont Hill, Author of Nobody: Casualties of America's War on the Vulnerable, From Ferguson to Flint and Beyond

"For readers seeking to understand where democracy in America may be heading, this book will provide insights into the thinking of a new generation of activists who are determined to create a more just and equitable society, whether those in power are ready for it or not."—Pedro A. Noguera, Distinguished Professor of Education, UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies
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