Member Spotlight: Barbara Joye

We often say DSA is a “big tent”. It’s true that we all come from different backgrounds, but every one of our unique experiences has brought us to the same conclusion: A better world is possible, and it is ours to build. The following is the second in a series of stories told by our members about the events and experiences that led them to the Left.

I was raised a Liberal Democrat in New York City, but learned much later that I was really a “Red Diaper Baby”. (In the McCarthy Era, many parents kept things from their kids so they wouldn’t say anything that could get the family in trouble.) My father had spent two years in the Communist Party until he and my mother visited the USSR in 1938, and found that things there were so bad that his Russian relatives were too terrified to meet with them in public. Though my father’s medical practice thrived in the ’50s and I enjoyed a great deal of privilege, my parents passed on enough of their idealism that I knew it was simply my luck – and that everyone deserves a good life.

At Vassar College I wanted to become involved in Civil Rights work, but nothing was happening until the spring of 1960: four Black women on campus organized a picket of Woolworth’s in solidarity with the North Carolina student sit-ins. That hooked me on activism. A few weeks later at a Civil Rights conference, I met my first husband, who was a Democratic Socialist, an associate of Michael Harrington and Bayard Rustin, and active in early Students for a Democratic Society (he’s now a DSA member). He taught me a lot. I started an SDS chapter at Vassar and remained a Democratic Socialist, though other tendencies eventually took over SDS.

We moved to Atlanta in 1966. There was a DSA group here in the 1980s, but I didn’t think it was radical enough and I had other projects, so I didn’t join. Later, in 2006 during Bush W’s regime, I was ready. Milt Tambor moved to Atlanta from Detroit and started a chapter. He found me in a Nation Magazine discussion group which didn’t want to actually do anything, so I joined DSA. It was just what I was looking for. Read all about us in Milt’s history under “About” at

For a long time half the officers and many of the members were old enough to be on Social Security. Now, like everywhere, we have been taken over by young people, and many excellent new leaders have emerged. Two years ago, I stepped down from an officer position, though I continue to be active. These times demand all hands on deck!

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