40 Years of PRA

Founding Story

40 years ago, in the aftermath of Ronald Reagan’s election and the rise of evangelical political action group the Moral Majority, activist and political scientist Jean Hardisty founded an organization that would become a backbone of social justice research, analysis, and strategy in the United States.

Located in Chicago and originally named Midwest Research, this new group broke with academics and liberal commentators who—then as even now—often dismissed white supremacists and the religious right as unsophisticated hicks who weren’t worth taking seriously. Jean and her team knew the organizers of these movements were mostly well-educated and middle class. Most importantly, Jean saw how effective these organizers were and determined that social justice movements–and the entire country—had better take them seriously. So Jean and her researchers began producing cutting edge analysis that would “become conventional wisdom in liberal and progressive circles.”

In the late 1980s, Midwest Research relocated to Massachusetts and became Political Research Associates (PRA).

For its first few decades PRA was a small organization—but one with a mighty impact among movements for gender, LGBTQ and reproductive freedom, immigrant rights, and racial and economic justice. Donald Trump’s election as president in 2016 proved to be a pivotal moment for the Far Right, and for PRA. Our leadership decided that we had to scale up in order to rise to the challenge of the viral racial and religious nationalism that threatened the gains of social justice movements and the very possibility of a just and equitable democratic society. 

In just two years, PRA tripled in budget and staff size, capacities that have allowed us to collaborate with a much larger number of visionary groups and coalitions; publish more reports, briefing papers, articles, and op-eds; to greatly expand our social media presence; and to shift public narratives through increased engagement with reporters and media.

After 40 years, PRA proudly remains that rare source of expertise on supremacist and authoritarian movements that is of and for justice and democracy builders. We partner with front-line movement organizations which largely represent communities directly targeted by the Right. We provide these organizations—as well as journalists and civic leaders—strategic insights and actionable intelligence to block anti-democratic forces and build a more just and liberated world.

– Tarso Luís Ramos, Executive Director

A Tribute to Jean Hardisty

A visionary, Jean anticipated many of the political and economic shifts the country has endured over the past several decades. Undaunted by the implications of her insights, she dedicated herself tirelessly–and with uncommon skill, humor, and compassion–to the cause of social justice. She was a friend, mentor, colleague, and inspiration to us, and to countless people and organizations.

For more on Jean and her foundational leadership building the Political Research Associates that we celebrate today, read a tribute to Jean and her amazing legacy here.

We Hear From Our Partners

We thank our friends and supporters: Sharon Horne & Heidi Levitt, Jade McGleughlin, Paul Kivel and Micki Luckey, Joel and Rachel Samoff, Gus and Joanne Ricca, Jeyn Levison, Myra Ramos, Peter Montgomery, Cara Page, Founding & Cultural Organizing Director of Changing Frequencies, Holly Pruett & Amber Wilson, Tom Louie, Estelle Disch, C. Hamlin Fauré, Susan Lloyd, Shad And Jody, The Country Dyke Fund, Jill Hurst and Jay Hessey, Robert M. Weissbourd, Catherine Raphael, Joyce and Gordon Garner

A message from Hurst-Hessey
Happy 40th Anniversary, PRA! In memory of my dear colleague and comrade in arms, Jean Hardisty. Congratulations on everything you've accomplished in the last forty years, PRA. — Bob Weissbourd
Congratulations on 40 Years! From longform analysis to political education for donors and grass-rotts organizers on authoritarian movements, PRA's impact is felt across a wide range of sectors fighting for democracy and justice. I'm exceptionally proud to support PRA and its crucial work. Lisa Owens