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Overview

Eugene Victor Debs assumed many roles in his lifetime, and he exerted considerable influence on American political and economic life. He is most noted, however, for his leadership of the Socialist Party in America.

Researchers can now access previously unobtainable material on the charismatic Debs through this microfilm collection. Topics for exploration and study through his correspondence, speeches, and writings include:

 

  • Debs' impact on the American labor movement as leader and organizer of the American Railway Union (ARU)
  • his emergence as the most significant figure in the socialist movement, his refusal subsequently to espouse pure Party doctrine, and his disdain of the Socialist Party's machinery
  • his unprecedented five bids for the presidency, and the impact his campaigns had on popularizing such issues as women's suffrage and the abolition of child labor
  • his imprisonment for violating a court injunction during the ARU's Pullman Strike
  • his conviction for violating the wartime Espionage Act during World War I and his subsequent pardon by President Harding

The collection is organized internally into three sections. The first section includes previously unpublished letters to and from Debs. Among the many correspondents from both the socialist and labor fields and the country's literary and political circles are Samuel Gompers, Emma Goldman, Terence Vincent Powderly, Upton Sinclair, Helen Keller, and Carl Sandburg.

The second section comprises copies of Debs' editorials, speeches, and other published materials, along with newspaper articles and government reports about Debs. These previously unpublished eyewitness reports on Debs by government agents were only recently obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

The largest segment of the microfilm collection contains bound volumes of newspaper and magazine clippings collected by Debs and his brother. This material, when added to the rest of the collection, provides a wide range of research resources on Debs' life and on labor and radicalism in America.

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