Linda Stout, director of Spirit in Action, has been a grassroots organizer and activist for three decades. A thirteenth-generation Quaker born to a tenant-farming family, Linda founded a successful grassroots organization in 1984, in a conservative region of North Carolina, Linda first recognized racial and economic injustice in the mid-1970s. Refusing to support the racism and classism endemic in the textile mill she worked in, Linda left a desperately needed paycheck and began a lifelong mission for social change.
In 1985, after several years working for a civil rights law office, she founded a successful grassroots organization called the Piedmont Peace Project (PPP). PPP quickly attracted national attention for its success in drawing leadership from within a poor and working-class community–empowering people who never had a voice in policy decisions to speak up for their own interests–and building an organization where a high level of diversity was achieved and maintained at every level. PPP worked successfully to forge extraordinary alliances across race and class lines and won major public policy changes.
Linda founded Spirit in Action in January 2000 to seek out transformative tools, models, and resources for building a powerful and visionary progressive movement. Spirit in Action’s core initiatives, Circles of Change and the Progressive Communicators Network, produce real change in communities across the country. Most notably, both programs have contributed to the rebuilding of New Orleans through Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools – a student-led initiative to rebuild New Orleans’ public schools, and KIN – the Katrina Information Network that has mobilized and educated reporters about the systemic issues of race and class at play in New Orleans and the Gulf region.
Linda’s awards include a Public Policy Fellowship from Harvard University, Honorary Doctorate for Allegheny College, and the Freedom Fighter Award of the Equal Rights Congress. Her story was featured in Stud Terkel’s book, “Hope Dies Last” and she is the author of Bridging the Class Divide and Other Lessons for Grassroots Organizing, published by Beacon Press. Her second book, Collective Visioning: How Groups Can Work Together to Create a Just and Sustainable World, was published in 2011. It is an essential read for activists and community organizers, offering tools for successful collaboration between diverse communities.