Danilo Dolci

Activist Type
Civil Rights

Danilo Dolci was an Italian human rights activist, grassroots organizer, and author who dedicated his life to addressing social injustice within Sicily’s poorest communities through nonviolent activism in accordance with Gandhi’s theories. Dolci developed the reverse strike, utilizing unpaid workers to improve conditions and local infrastructure by skirting the traditionally-held government and Mafia control of resources and labor.

As a young man, Dolci joined a commune in Tuscany to care for orphans, and it was there that he witnessed WWII and its effect on Europe. Dolci openly opposed the Nazi reign, and at the age of 28 he moved to rural Sicily where he learned the local dialect to communicate with and understand the people he intended to serve. He began by surveying the poverty-stricken families and recorded their treatment by police. Dolci fasted in protest of the poor conditions in the town and demanded emergency funds from authorities for an irrigation project, and after staying vigilant, authorities came to offer Dolci and the citizens the costs for irrigation. Over the next few years, Dolci’s strike yielded a pharmacy, paved streets, and a sewage system. Dolci organized hundreds of individuals using hunger strikes, sit-down protests and non-violent demonstrations to force the government to take notice and make changes.

Danilo Dolci was a published author who wrote over 50 books, many of them translated into multiple languages. He was nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1965 and 1982, for his nonviolent activism in support of jobs and the transfer of water rights from the Mafia to Sicilian farmers. He was an influential educator and scholar, with many other scholars and writers visiting his research center in Italy to learn from him. Dolci continues to be known as the “Gandhi of Sicily.”

Artwork by
Anne Di Lillo

Dolci’s portrait is a rustic texture of stone filled with the tools of rural farmers, referencing his frequent use of the Reverse Strike protest method. Necessary bridges, roads, and public buildings were built by thousands of volunteers despite corrupt government officials and the ever-present mafia, giving the impoverished people of Sicily a sense of purpose and power through construction.


Italy Flag
March 17, 1861
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