Woolman Center for Activism

The Woolman Center for Activism is a learning platform that seeks to connect and support an intersectional network of social justice activists, students, collaborators, and allies. 

The Woolman Center for Activism is based out of
Woolman at Sierra Friends Center, a 240-acre nonprofit hub for retreats, educational programs, and enrichment opportunities on Nisenan land. Woolman has lived many lives, first established in 1963 as a Quaker boarding school that ran until 2001 and then as a high school semester program from 2004-2016. Currently Woolman is a community resource that seeks to inspire and to prepare individuals to work for peace, justice, and environmental sustainability.

The Woolman Center for Activism will launch in January 2023, coordinating
year-round monthly offerings including workshops, panels, screenings, and discussions. These programs will take place both online and in-person in an effort to reach many networks and communities. 

Beginning in 2024, The Woolman Center for Activism will begin to host a group of intersectional activists, students and leaders for
a year-long cohort program. This cohort will participate in collective learning opportunities both online and in-person throughout the year, including several retreats at the Woolman campus in Nevada City, CA. Emphasis will be placed on developing a knowledge of relevant history, organizing methods, skills for mobilizing and sustaining movements, tools for measuring impact, and encouraging collaborative participation in cross-issue dialog as well as personal reflection. Each member of the cohort will finish their term with a capstone project of their choice.

Quaker Roots

Quaker values are based in integrity, equality, simplicity, community, stewardship of the Earth, and peace

Woolman at Sierra Friends Center exists today as a non-religious educational institution. However, deep roots in Quaker history and Quaker values provide inspiration and are a catalyst in the creation of the Woolman Center for Activism. This value system plays an important role in programming and outreach.

Quakers have always been deeply involved in activism and social justice work. Prominent Quaker activists have included abolitionists, suffragettes, civil rights activists, and anti-war organizers. This continued focus is embraced throughout Woolman Center for Activism’s learning platforms and programming through an emphasis on asking the hard questions, encouraging intersectional dialog, stimulating collective impact, and practicing ongoing reflection.

The Woolman Center for Activism draws its inspiration from Quakers Mary and Russ Jorgensen, who were dedicated civil rights and peace activists throughout their lifetimes. At the calling of Martin Luther King, Jr., Mary and Russ showed up as allies to the Civil Rights Movement, joining what became known as the “Freedom Riders.” They were both arrested for desegregating a restaurant in Jackson, Mississippi, and served a week’s sentence in the Jackson County jail. Their activism extended to various peace actions, including protesting nuclear weapons across the US. Mary’s interest in an integrated education for high school students, which included gardening and rural living in community, manifested in her helping with the formation and opening of the John Woolman School, now Woolman at Sierra Friends Center. She and her husband Russ supported the school for over 50 years through leading work camps, serving on the board, fundraising and through their own donations.

The program also draws inspiration from the organization’s namesake and Quaker abolitionist, John Woolman, who was a merchant, journalist, Quaker preacher, and early abolitionist. John Woolman’s focus on the ending of slavery took many forms, including refusal to write wills, bills of sale or any other document that perpetuated slavery, boycotting all products associated with the slave trade, and publishing essays denouncing the practice of enslavement. Woolman traveled extensively throughout America and Britain with a commitment to sharing this abolitionist message as well as decrying cruelty to animals, economic injustices, oppression, and conscription. 

Contact Morgan Street, Woolman Programs Director to sign up for the mailing list and receive updates: morgans@woolman.org (530) 273-3183 x116