Explore the drama of social activism in New York City from the 17th century right up to the present.

In a town renowned for its in-your-face persona, citizens have banded together on issues as diverse as historic preservation, civil rights, wages, sexual orientation, and religious freedom. Using artifacts, photographs, audio and visual presentations, as well as interactive components that seek to tell the entire story of activism in the five boroughs, Activist New York presents the passions and conflicts that underlie the city's history of agitation.

New features in the gallery include:

  • An original 10-minute documentary film, City of Movement, juxtaposing new and archival footage of different modes of activism in New York past and present
  • "A Danger Unlike Any Danger," a  case study on New York's role as a center for nuclear disarmament activism from 1957 to 1985
  • Touch-screen stations that showcase current activist groups across the city working on various issues as well as six original short video interviews
  • Crowd-sourced photographs of activism unfolding throughout the city, curated through a social media feed

We're on Twitter! Follow us @ActivistNY and join the conversation.

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New York Activism Today

Help us tell the story of today's activists. Use our hashtag #ActivistNY on Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram with your images of New Yorkers who are currently involved in our city, its communities, and the larger world, whether through volunteering, organizing, lobbying, petitioning, protesting, making art, or otherwise taking action or speaking out. You could be featured in the gallery's new social feed!

The Puffin Foundation

Activist New York is the inaugural exhibition in The Puffin Foundation Gallery, which is dedicated to the ways in which ordinary New Yorkers have exercised their power to shape the city's and the nation's future.

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Public Programs

Memoirs of Activism from 1930s Spain
Wednesday, June 22 at 6:30 pm
Join Eunice Lipton as she discusses her recently released memoir, Distant Heartbeat, which explores how history survives almost invisibly to affect future generations.

Education Programs

4th Annual Teaching Social Activism in the Classroom Conference
Saturday, May 21 from 8:45 am – 3:30 pm
Educators are invited to present and participate in this free full-day conference, which highlights the various tools and techniques used by teachers to engage their students in the history and practice of social change.

Art & Activism in New York City
Thursday, June 9 from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Join us on Chancellor's Day for a full-day program exploring NYC’s identity as a site of activism and a fostering ground for art, though exhibition tours, lectures, and hands-on activities.

Taking a Stand: History of Social Activism in New York for grades 2-12
Discover how New Yorkers have fought for freedom and equality over the past 350 years. Students will explore the Activist New York exhibition, which features photographs, pamphlets, signs, and banners, to learn about abolition, women’s suffrage, immigration, civil rights, and other social issues. Participants will create a button championing a change they want to make.

Family Programs

Visit our Family Programs calendar to learn about upcoming events related to our exhibitions and collections. 


Occupying New York: Protest and Dissent in Urban Spaces
Wednesday May 11, 5:00pm
From anarchist Emma Goldman to the Stonewall riots, Louie Valencia-García will explore the long history of protest surrounding New York City's public spaces using such case studies as Tompkins Square Park, Marcus Garvey Park, Union Square, and Zuccotti Park. Participants will discover how New Yorkers have used public spaces to both dissent and to memorialize their successes in New York City's streets.

  • Location

    The Puffin Foundation Gallery
    Second Floor