Early Growth


The broad vision of ACORN as a movement to unify the powerless in pursuit of economic justice was not shared by all the members. The inclusion of many groups in a single coalition came with costs. These costs, however, proved to be a necessary part of the struggle to become a force for social justice in America. In particular, many welfare rights members wanted a strictly welfare rights group and withdrew from the organization, fearing that they would lose control. After the split, the organization diversified further with the addition of the Vietnam Veterans Organizing Committee (VVOC) and the Unemployed Workers Organizing Committee (UWOC). 

The following year, ACORN leaders organized a "Save the City" campaign in Little Rock. The campaign addressed blue- collar homeowners' concerns that their neighborhoods were being destroyed by traffic problems in the Centennial section, and by unscrupulous real estate agencies who engaged in blockbusting in the Oak Forest section. ACORN members dealt with the traffic problems (the Centennial neighborhood won a park and a stoplight to ensure the safety of their children), the expressway intrusion (families were relocated and provided other social services) and blockbusting (stopped in its tracks). ACORN, through the "Save the City" campaign, had established itself as a force in Arkansas politics. 

ACORN began growing geographically, as well. It organized outside of Little Rock, establishing six regional offices in the state. Campaigns were developed around issues of concern to small town and rural Arkansans and the foundations were laid for statewide campaigns. One of the ACORN's major statewide targets was Arkansas Power and Light. AP&L's plan to build a huge coal-burning power plant in White Bluff presented a danger to farmers in the area. Sulphur emissions threatened to destroy their fields unless something could be done. ACORN began organizing farmers on the issue. 

The farmers, organized into the Protect Our Land Association and Save Health and Property, demanded a $50 million damage deposit against AP&L's potential destruction of farmers' fields. Then, ACORN groups applied pressure on Governor Dale Bumpers, and Harvard University, a stockholder in AP&L. These pressures resulted in a Harvard-financed study on the hazards of sulphur emissions and a Public Service Commission ruling to decrease the size of the plant by one half. As a result, AP&L dropped the plan altogether. ACORN proved that it could organize in any setting and that ACORN members could contend effectively with even the big corporate players. 


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