Oral History of the American Left: Radical Histories Collection

Date Range: 19201980
Survey Conducted: Fri, 2008-10-24
Creator: Tamiment Library

History: The Oral History of the American Left (OHAL) project was started in 1976 by the Tamiment Library at New York University. The purpose of this project was to expand the archive of American labor and radicalism through the creation of “living documents;” the memories of veteran activists. After receiving major funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1982, the project conducted a sweeping oral history of ethnic-immigrant radicalism, its press and fraternal organizations. The NEH grant also enabled OHAL to collect hundreds of hours of interviews made by filmmakers on American anarchism, the Hollywood blacklist, the Communist Party, the Columbia University student strike of 1968, and other subjects.Summary: The collection consists of approximately 370 cassette tapes, many of which are transcribed. In addition some transcripts without tapes exist.

Of particular significance is an interview conducted with Karl Yoneda, a Japanese-American activist, union organizer and author. Born Goso Yoneda in 1906 to Japanese immigrants in Glendale, California, he later changed his first name to Karl after Karl Marx. Yoneda played a substantial role in the founding of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). The interview, which includes a substantial contribution from his wife Elaine, deals with the Japanese-American Communist movement in the 1920s-30s, the Japanese-language press in the 1920s and early 1930s, Yoneda’s role in labor movement and opposition to concentration camps, the Popular Front in Japanese-American Left and Yoneda’s view of the Asian-American labor at the time of the interview.

Also interviewed was Grace Lee Boggs, a Chinese-American activist who worked closely with C.L.R. James during the 1940s and 1950s. She moved to Detroit in 1953, where she met and married James Boggs, an African American labor activist, writer and strategist. Together they founded Detroit Summer, a multicultural, intergenerational youth program to rebuild, redefine and respirit Detroit from the ground up, and the Detroit City of Hope campaign and the Beloved Communities Initiative. The interview touches upon her Asian-American family background in Providence, R.I., her education and involvement in radical politics in New York during the late 1930s, the Workers Party and Johnson-Forest tendency in the 1940s and her involvement in the Black Power movement with her husband, James Boggs.

Total Size: 371 cassette tapes
APA-related Size: 3 cassette tapes
Languages of materials: English
Arrangement: other
Location: Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University
Bibliographic Control: finding aid
Finding Aid Link: http://dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/tamwag/oh_002/bioghist.html
Conditions Governing Access: Open for research without restrictions.

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