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Overview

The American left has for years espoused causes that did not become "popular" until the 1950s and 1960s. Of the many socialist organizations born during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries and which set the stage for this age of protest, the Socialist Party of America was perhaps the most well-known.

Within The Socialist Party of America Papers, students possess an indispensable research tool for the study of the labor movement, civil rights, anti-war activities, and the history of the American left. In addition to documenting the party's activities in furthering these causes, the collection also records the party's pursuit of its goals with affiliated and sympathetic organizations such as the League for Industrial Democracy, the Southern Tenants Farmers Union, Americans for Democratic Action, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

This collection is divided into two distinct parts, the base collection and the addendum.

 

Base Collection (1897-1963) The records in this collection provide an exceptional historical overview of the Socialist Party of America as it struggled to gain support and realize its goals. Featured are correspondence, position papers, memoranda, financial records, pamphlets and broadsides, leaflets, serials, and related materials.

The five distinct series into which the base collection has been organized provide researchers with systematic access to the internal workings of the party:

 

  • National Office Papers
  • Youth and the Young People's Socialist League Papers
  • State and Local Files
  • Related Organization Files
  • Printed Materials

In addition, records in this collection reflect the party's internal disputes, including the 1919 split, which resulted in the formation of the American Communist Party.

An important segment of the material focuses on the 1950s and 1960s, when the party's momentum was aided by social unrest and the concomitant increase in civil rights activities. These were also the years when the Socialist Party of America finally received widespread attention from intellectuals and influential government leaders in President Johnson's War on Poverty. It was the era of Erich Fromm's manifesto, "Let Man Prevail," of Michael Harrington's book, The Other America, and Robert Tucker's pamphlet, "The Case for Socialized Medicine."

 

Addendum (1963-76) The addendum documents this new era in the history of the Socialist Party, particularly its alignment with the Democratic Party to forge a new labor-liberal coalition. Researchers can now investigate the changes that occurred within the party during the 1960s and early 1970s--the formation of the Social Democrats, U.S.A., of the "Debs Caucus," and the Socialist Party, U.S.A.

Included are correspondence; minutes of meetings; financial records; state, local, and national reports; national platforms; campaign materials; press releases; and serials and pamphlets.

Filmed from the William R. Perkins Library of Duke University, this outstanding collection is a must for historical research into American Socialism, labor, and leftist thought.

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