Records Now Available for Arkansas Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)

ACORN members in front of a reclaimed house; 1993.

Arkansas Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) was founded in Little Rock, Arkansas, in June 1970 as a grassroots organization composed of community groups made up of low- and moderate-income families. When partner organizations were founded in other states, the name was changed to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, although the original name continued to be used in Arkansas for some time. ACORN groups worked on a variety of issues, including housing, banking policies, crime prevention, health care, education, tenant issues, neighborhood improvements, drug problems, transportation, utilities, allocation of city/state/federal funds, environmental hazards, jobs and unemployment, welfare rights, and voter registration. The goal was to build a strong organization of low- and moderate-income families to fight for political and social power.

ACORN was conceived at Syracuse University in New York by George Riley of the National Welfare Rights Organization. Wade Rathke and Gary Delgado were sent to Little Rock to implement ACORN. Arkansas was chosen for this project because of the extensive poverty of its citizens and also because of progressive movements in Arkansas including the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union and the administration of Governor Winthrop Rockefeller. ACORN was staffed primarily by middle-class young people who worked for poverty-level wages.

By 2008, ACORN had chapters in more than 100 cities across the United States, including more than 350,000 member families. Controversies that year involving the presidential election and accusations of financial improprieties led to a precipitous drop in funding, which forced ACORN to declare bankruptcy and disband in 2010. However, many of the organizations under the ACORN umbrella continue to serve its mission in the twenty-first century, and the ACORN name is still used by similar organizations in other countries. Read more about ACORN on the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas here: https://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/association-of-community-organizations-for-reform-now-4797/

ACORN’s records were donated to the CALS Butler Center for Arkansas Studies in 2017. They have now been processed and are available to researchers in the Roberts Library Research Room. The finding aid is available online here: https://cdm15728.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/findingaids/id/10119/rec/1

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