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J. Quinn Brisben

John Quinn Brisben (September 6, 1934 – April 17, 2012) was an American teacher and political activist from Chicago, Illinois. Brisben was twice on the Socialist Party USA's presidential ticket. He was candidate for President of the United States in the 1992 U.S. presidential election.[1] His running mate was initially Bill Edwards, but Edwards died during the campaign and was replaced by Barbara Garson. Brisben had previously been the Socialist Party USA's candidate for United States Vice President in 1976.

J. Quinn Brisben
J. Quinn Brisben, 1992.jpg
J. Quinn Brisben (left) with a fellow Socialist Party activist in 1992.
Personal details
Born (1934-09-06)September 6, 1934
Enid, Oklahoma, U.S.
Died April 17, 2012(2012-04-17) (aged 77)
Political party Socialist
Residence Chicago, Illinois
Alma mater University of Oklahoma
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Occupation Teacher



Brisben grew up in Enid, Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl era. He met his wife-to-be, Andrea at the University of Oklahoma (and was physically attacked there for being a member of the NAACP). They married and lived for some time in Madison, Wisconsin while he studied at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He taught briefly in Gurnee, Illinois before coming to Chicago, where he taught at Mason Upper Grade Center, Thomas Kelly High School and Harlan High.

Teaching careerEdit

Brisben worked as a high school history and social studies teacher in Chicago’s inner city for 30 years until his retirement in 1990. He served several terms as a representative in the American Federation of Teachers, Local 1, and frequently served on strike committees. He received several teaching awards, including being named Teacher of the Year by Teachers for Integrated Schools in 1964.


Active in the Civil Rights Movement, Brisben took part in the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964—where he was briefly jailed—and in several Southern Christian Leadership Conference-sponsored activities in Alabama from 1965 to 1967. He was active in the anti-Vietnam War movement and served as a boycott captain for the United Farm Workers among other social movements. In July 1990, he and Andrea helped smuggle 3,000 condoms donated by ACT-UP Chicago to the Moscow Lesbian and Gay Union. Around the time of his run for president, Brisben had been primarily involved in the disability rights movement, with American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT). He began his 1992 run for president by serving three days in an Orlando jail for taking part in an ADAPT demonstration. He contributed to the 2003 anthology Queer Crips: Disabled Gay Men and Their Stories.

1992 presidential campaignEdit

Brisben and his running mate Bill Edwards were nominated at the 1991 Socialist Party USA convention. However, Edwards died during the campaign and writer Barbara Garson of New York was selected to replace him on the ballot. In March 1992, Brisben participated in a presidential debate with other small party and independent presidential candidates which was aired on CSPAN.[2] Brisben/Garson appeared on the ballot in four states (Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin, District of Columbia) and received 3,071 votes.[3]


Brisben published three poetry collections, and a novel, V for Victory Blues. He also contributed interviews to four books written by Studs Terkel.



The writer Studs Terkel, a friend, interviewed Brisben in four of his books:

  • The Great Divide: Second Thoughts on the American Dream (1988) ISBN 0-394-57053-7
  • Race: What Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession (1992). ISBN 978-1-56584-000-3
  • Will the Circle Be Unbroken: Reflections on Death, Rebirth and Hunger for a Faith (2001) ISBN 0-641-75937-1
  • Hope Dies Last: Keeping the Faith in Difficult Times (2003) ISBN 1-56584-837-3

Poetry collectionsEdit

  • The Significance of the Frontier: Selected Poems 1966-2002. Chicago: Scars Publications. 2002. ISBN 9781891470578. 
  • I Saw This: New and Old Poems. Chicago: Scars Publications. 2006. ISBN 9781891470790. 
  • Late Self Portraits. Becky Davis Design. 2008. ISBN 9780615237121. 

Novels and storiesEdit


Brisben died at their apartment on April 17, 2012, at which time he and Andrea had been married 56 years, and had a daughter, Becky and a son, Michael.


  1. ^ "Harlan High teacher ran for president as a Socialist". Retrieved 2012-06-11. 
  2. ^ "Independent Presidential Candidates Debate". C-SPAN. March 1, 1992. Retrieved 27 November 2016. 
  3. ^ Ross, Jack (2015-04-15). The Socialist Party of America: A Complete History. U of Nebraska Press. pp. 657–. ISBN 9781612344911. Retrieved 27 November 2016. 

Party political offices
Preceded by
Willa Kenoyer
Socialist Party Presidential candidate
1992 (lost)
Succeeded by
Mary Cal Hollis
Preceded by
Socialist Party Vice Presidential candidate
1976 (lost)
Succeeded by
Diane Drufenbrock