The Democratic Promise: Saul Alinsky & His Legacy

Legendary community organizer Saul Alinsky’s life and legacy is seen through the work being done by contemporary “people’s organizations.”

PBS Plus Presentation
Premiere Date
November 1, 1999
60 minutes
Funding Initiative
Series and Special Projects
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    1999 Philadelphia International Film Festival and Market-Best Documentary
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    1999 WorldFest - Houston International Film Festival-Bronze Remi Award
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    1999 USA Film Festival-Special Jury Award
  • Producer

    Bob Hercules

    Bob Hercules’ work includes Bill T. Jones: A Good Man and Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance, both of which aired on PBS’s American Masters series. A Good Man was an official selection at Full Frame, IDFA, Silverdocs, DOXA, and many other festivals. Joffrey was the opening night film at the Dance on Camera Film Festival at Lincoln Center in 2012 and the Show more closing night film at the San Francisco Dance Film Festival. His 2006 film, Forgiving Dr. Mengele, was shown at film festivals around the world and won the Special Jury Prize at the 2006 Slamdance Film Festival. Show less


    Bruce Orenstein

    Bruce Orenstein grew up in working-class Chicago and spent 15 years organizing in Chicago and Seattle, receiving training at Saul Alinsky’s Industrial Areas Foundation. Profoundly influenced by Alinsky’s books, Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals, Orenstein says, “They helped me focus and took my hot anger and turned it into what Saul Alinsky Show more called cold anger.” Show less

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    The Film

    Famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass wrote, “Power concedes nothing without demand.” The Democratic Promise: Saul Alinsky & His Legacy is the story of ordinary people making demands for the power to govern their own lives. Narrated by Alec Baldwin, the documentary examines both the history of community organizing — through the work of Saul Alinsky — as well as the current state of community organizing, as shown by contemporary organizations in New York and Texas. In a larger sense, the program is about the restoration of American democracy through shared public participation in civil life — a vital antidote to an era of increased citizen alienation and voter apathy.