NEH Funds “Unbound Movements” in Tamiment Library


Tamiment Library at New York University today announced that it has been given a grant of $230,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to process “Unbound Movements,” more than 1,500 linear feet of material documenting American social protest.  Most of the materials were donated to the Tamiment Library as parts of manuscript and other archival collections amassed by activists and organizations in existence between 1950-2000.

Front page of Liberated Barracks Vol. II No. 8
Front page from an issue of Liberated Barracks. Courtesy of Tamiment Library.

Archivists to apply enhanced subject access cataloging approach to meet the needs of interdisciplinary researchers and scholars and increase their productivity

Tamiment Library at New York University, one of the world’s leading centers for scholarly research on Labor and the Left, today announced that it has been given a grant of $230,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to process “Unbound Movements,” more than 1,500 linear feet of material documenting American social protest.  Most of the materials were donated to the Tamiment Library as parts of manuscript and other archival collections amassed by activists and organizations in existence between 1950-2000.

Unprocessed collections are inaccessible to researchers, and the NEH found the 9,000 serial titles in “Unbound Movements,” pertaining to feminism, African American equality, labor, and economic rights, too rich in content to remain hidden. 

“Most of the organizations represented were short lived, but they made a lasting impact,” says Tim Johnson, head of Tamiment.  “Movements such as Occupy, Black Lives Matter, mass incarceration protests, and raising the minimum wage for fast food workers are all indebted to their legacy. This project will open up new areas of inquiry into the history of American social protest.” 

For researchers, Johnson notes that in the past fifteen years, scholars of social protest movements in the U.S. look to the end of the classic civil rights movement in 1965 (with the passage of the Voting Rights Act) as unleashing a “movement of movements” - that is, a plethora of movements whose leaders were inspired by, and learned their protest tactics from, the labor and civil rights movements. People became politically engaged in advocating for special interests—women’s rights, farmers, the young, the old, and so on. It is these movements that are represented in and extensively documented in the Tamiment Library’s “Unbound Movements” collection.

The bulk of “Unbound Movements” is centered on the post-Civil Rights “movement of movements,” including feminist publications, Vietnam-era G.I. materials, the African American Equality movement, pacifism, consumer cooperatives, Asian American radicalism, and Zionism.

For example, Tamiment holds issues of:

  • The Bolshevik, an irregular publication of the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization, which developed from the Young Lords Organization. It was active in the Bronx, NY (1999-2000).
  • Forward, an anti-Vietnam War publication. It was published in Germany in the early 1970’s and attempted to marshal support for GI’s who went AWOL to protest the war.
  • Let Your Motto be Resistance, was published in the early 1980’s by the Resistance Task Force in New York City. It carried news about “political prisoners” and communiques from the Black Liberation Army, a violent offshoot of the Black Panther Party.
  • Come Out was published by the Gay Liberation Front of New York (1969-71).
  • Common Woman was published by the Common Woman Collective in Berkeley, CA in 1971 and is an early example of second wave feminist thought. Another example is Majority Report by the New York Area Feminists, 1972.
  • The Irish Felon was published by the Irish-American Action Association in San Francisco in 1969. Focus was published by the Auto Workers Black Panther Caucus in 1970.

Dissemination
The primary manner in which the content of “Unbound Movements” will be made available to scholars and researchers is through a web-based finding aid that will be constructed and made available through the Tamiment Library website. In addition, links to the finding aid will be available from the NYU Libraries website, OCLC’s WorldCat, and Google.

Tamiment expects the project to complete in mid-2018. For more information about the project, please contact Sally Cummings at sally.cummings@nyu.edu

About Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at New York University
The Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at New York University form a unique, internationally-known center for scholarly research on Labor and the Left. Tamiment has one of the finest research collections in the country documenting the history of radical politics: socialism, communism, anarchism, utopian experiments, the cultural left, the New Left, and the struggle for civil rights and civil liberties. It is the repository for the Archives of Irish America, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, the Estela Bravo Archive, and a growing LGBT and Asian American labor collections.

The NYU Division of Libraries is a global system comprising five libraries in Manhattan and one each in Brooklyn, Abu Dhabi and Shanghai. Its flagship, the Elmer Holmes Bobst Library on Washington Square, receives 2.6 million visits annually. For more information about the NYU Libraries, please visit http://library.nyu.edu  

Cover for the May '73 issue of New American Movement.

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