James Groppi Papers, 1956-1989

Container Title
Milwaukee Mss EX
Part 1 (Milwaukee Mss EX, Audio 704A, AE 110): Original Collection, 1956-1989
Physical Description: 7.7 c.f. (18 archives boxes) and 13 tape recordings 
Scope and Content Note

The collection provides information about the activities and writings of one of the 1960s leading civil rights activists. However, it consists primarily of correspondence, little of which is personal in nature, and most of which is unsolicited response to Father Groppi's civil rights activities, especially during 1967-1968 when he was a controversial national figure for his inflammatory activism in support of racial integration. Therefore, as a resource the papers may be more valuable for research in public reaction to civil rights activists, particularly those in religious professions, than they are for a study of Groppi's life and work. The collection is arranged in eight series: Correspondence, Personal Material and Writing, Activities, Printed Material, Essays by Various Authors, Scrapbooks, Newspaper Articles, and Tape Recordings.

The CORRESPONDENCE is divided into twelve subseries. The Supportive, Criticism, and Hate segments are the most valuable in terms of public opinion. Of note in the Supportive file are telegrams from Jesse L. Jackson (February 28, 1968) and Martin Luther King Jr. (September 4, 1967), and a letter (February 26, 1968) from Walter Mondale. While some of the correspondence is in support of Father Groppi, the larger portion is not. Some of the letters opposing Groppi's ideological stance and actions are thoughtful, reasoned criticism; more of them are “hate” mail. Copies of form letters signed by Groppi requesting donations of money for food and fines, and dated May 19, June 21, July 19, 1967 and September 12, 1969, are filed with Supportive correspondence. Occasionally, donations received are recorded on letters in the Supportive and Criticism correspondence files, but letters sent to Groppi for the sole purpose of donating money to support his civil rights activities are found in the Donations file. The Personal correspondence and letters to Archbishop W.E. Cousins contain the only responses in the collection written by Father Groppi. Also included with Personal correspondence are birthday cards, letters from friends and associates, and a May 5, 1967 letter from Sheed and Ward Publishers suggesting that Groppi write his autobiography. In this subseries is the only mention in the papers of the incident at the Alexian Brothers Monastery at Gresham, Wisconsin, a critical letter written February 26, 1975 by Father Groppi in response to an article by syndicated columnist Andrew Greeley. Speaking Engagements correspondence includes initial requests of Groppi to address meetings, contractual arrangements, and in some cases the sponsoring organization's response to the lecture. The Grade School Compositions are letters written by the children in parochial schools as class projects, and sent to Father Groppi by the instructors. Most of the General correspondence file consists of requests to Father Groppi to grant a private audience, to lend his name and assistance in combating issues such as the fluoridation of drinking water, or to help high school students with essays and debates on civil rights topics. The folders in the Correspondence series labeled “Additions” contain items separated from the Eugene Bleidorn Papers in the Archives of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and presented to the Historical Society in 1996.

The PERSONAL MATERIAL AND WRITINGS series was compiled to separate what little exists on the personal life of Father Groppi from his civil rights activities. This material is fragmentary and not very revealing with the exception of a partial draft of an autobiography plus a biographical essay by an unidentified author covering Groppi's years at St. Veronica Church. Although items relating to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee provide insight on the responsibilities of a Roman Catholic priest in the diocese, they are limited in extent and there is almost nothing on Groppi's relationship with the predominantly black St. Boniface parish of the diocese. Groppi's involvement as advisor to the Milwaukee NAACP Youth Council, which was the basis of support in his early civil rights activities, is only sketchily documented in the correspondence series. There is nothing on it here nor in the Activities series that follows.

The ACTIVITIES series spans 1966 through 1972, but is an incomplete testimony of all the activities with which Groppi was associated. However, it does contain records of legal proceedings against Father Groppi which give more detail about his civil rights activities than any other single file. The file marked Statements, Proposals, and Resolutions holds papers which were sent to Father Groppi regarding the civil rights issue. They are not statements made by Groppi himself. It is probable that the clippings in the Scrapbooks and Newspaper Articles series offer more information concerning some of Groppi's activities than the manuscripts in the Activities series.

The PRINTED MATERIAL is a sampling of items that were sent to Father Groppi with some regularity. Part of the material isgularity. Part of the material is religious such as the published words of the Lady of Fatima. The remaining is social comment of which a major portion, in cartoon and broadside, is unfavorable to the Negro race. The series ESSAYS BY VARIOUS AUTHORS is a group of papers submitted to Father Groppi which deal either with Father Groppi or with the civil rights movement.

The SCRAPBOOKS consist of newspaper articles from 1967 which were mounted into blank books by Father Groppi. The NEWSPAPER ARTICLES are probably a continuation of Groppi's scrapbooks, but the articles were never organized as such. They have been kept in the order received and Groppi's file titles have also been retained. Clippings from the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Sentinel newspapers have been retained in the original as Father Groppi clipped them, since these Milwaukee newspapers are preserved on microfilm for the period of the clippings in this collection, 1967-1978. Clippings from other newspapers and magazines, for which it is not known whether microfilm copies exist, have been photocopied to assure better preservation of the text of the articles.

The TAPE RECORDINGS consist of recordings of some of Groppi's sermons, monologues, and speeches. Most of the content touches upon themes of racism, poverty, social justice, and civil rights in relation to society and religion. There are also recordings of other speakers and activities including interviews, discussions, songs, and television shows.

Series: Correspondence
Subseries: Supportive
Box   1
Folder   1-6
1965 October 18-1967 July 21
Box   2
Folder   1-6
1967 July 22-September 15
Box   3
Folder   1-6
1967 September 16-October 2
Box   4
Folder   1-6
1967 October 3-1969 October 3
Box   5
Folder   1-5
1969 October 4-1975 July 29
Box   18
Folder   1
Additions, 1965 October and 1966 August
Subseries: Criticism
Box   5
Folder   6
1965 August 1-1966 September 5
Box   6
Folder   1-6
1966 September 6-1967 September 13
Box   7
Folder   1-6
1967 September 14-1968 June 3
Box   8
Folder   1-2
1969 August 30-1972 July 20; undated
Box   18
Folder   2
Additions, 1965 October-1967 September
Subseries: Hate
Box   8
Folder   3-6
1965 December 7-1967 September 1
Box   9
Folder   1-6
1967 September 2-16
Box   10
Folder   1-6
1967 September 17-1968 September 1
Box   11
Folder   1
1969 August 31-1975 April 1; undated
Box   18
Folder   3
Additions,1965 October-1967 September
Box   11
Folder   5
Subseries: NAACP, 1967 August 17-1970 July 21; undated
Box   11
Folder   2-4
Subseries: Donations, 1967-1968
Box   11
Folder   6
Subseries: Personal, 1966 March 16-1978 June 20; undated
Subseries: Regarding Speaking Engagements
Box   12
Folder   1-6
1965 December 12-1968 August 23
Box   13
Folder   1-2
1968 September 12-December 30
Box   13
Folder   3
Subseries: Archbishop W.E. Cousins, 1971
Box   13
Folder   4
Subseries: Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center, 1971 August 20-1973 July 23
Subseries: Grade School Compositions
Box   13
Folder   5
St. Boniface, 1967
Box   13
Folder   6
St. Agatha, 1969
Box   13
Folder   7
St. Augustine, 1967
Box   13
Folder   8
Sacred Heart, 1967
Box   13
Folder   9
St. Mary's, 1967
Box   13
Folder   10
Holy Name, St. Alphonsus, St. Elizabeth, and unidentified, 1966-1967
Box   18
Folder   4
Additions: Letters from School Children, 1965 October
Subseries: General
Box   13
Folder   11-13
1965 October 6-1967 October 2
Box   14
Folder   1-4
1967 October 3-1968 October 9
Box   14
Folder   5
1969 October 10-1973 May 22
Box   14
Folder   6
Subseries: Chain Letters Sent to Groppi, 1967 May 9-1969 September 10
Series: Personal Material and Writings
Box   14
Folder   7
Autobiography and Biographical Essay
Box   14
Folder   8
Resume and Selected Bibliography on Groppi, to 1972
Box   14
Folder   9
Marriage Certificate, 1976 April 22
Box   14
Folder   10
Applications to Post-Secondary Institutions, 1970-1973
Box   14
Folder   11
Appointment Books and Calendars, 1968-1970
Box   15
Folder   1
Archdiocese of Milwaukee, 1967-1972
Box   15
Folder   2
Awards, Citations, and Membership Certificates
Box   15
Folder   3
Class Picture, St. Boniface School, 1968
Box   15
Folder   4
Correspondence Checklists, 1969 October 22-27; undated
Box   15
Folder   5
Interviews, Lectures, and Speeches, 1964-1976; undated
Box   15
Folder   6
Job Applications, 1976
Box   15
Folder   7
St. Boniface Church Council, 1967
Box   15
Folder   8
Sermons, 1969 August
Series: Activities
Box   15
Folder   9
Campaign against Allen-Bradley Company, 1969 August 8-September 6
Box   15
Folder   10
Cartoons, Flyers, and Magazine Articles about Groppi, 1966-1975
Editorials
Box   15
Folder   11
WTMJ-TV, 1967 August 15-September 26; 1969 September 29
Box   15
Folder   11
WITI-TV, 1967 September 8; 1969 September 29
Box   15
Folder   12
Legal Documents, 1968-1972
Box   15
Folder   13
Statements, Proposals, and Resolutions, 1967-1969
Box   15
Folder   14
Police Brutality and Harrassment, 1966-1969
Box   15
Folder   15
Series: Printed Material, circa 1966-1969 (no order)
Box   15
Folder   16
Series: Essays by Various Authors (no order)
Box   17
Folder   1-4
Series: Scrapbooks, Newspaper Clippings, circa 1967
Series: Newspaper Articles
Box   16
Folder   1-9
“Civil Rights,” circa 1967, circa 1974
Box   16
Folder   10
“Budget,” circa 1969
Box   16
Folder   11
“Welfare,” 1969 September 27-October 6
Box   16
Folder   12
“Pentagon Arrest,” 1972
Box   16
Folder   13
Biographical, 1974, 1978
Audio 704A
Series: Tape Recordings
Note: Users in Milwaukee should request these tapes under call number Milwaukee Tape 5.
Access Restrictions: Tape recordings 704A/3-13 are restricted until January 1, 2020.
704A/1
“The Church in Black and White”
Scope and Content Note: Discusses the role the church plays in the Black community and social Christian action, racism, and integration.
704A/2
Speech at University of Arizona by Father Groppi, 1972?
Scope and Content Note: Discusses welfare and racism.
704A/3
Father Groppi sermons at St. Boniface, 1967 September 17 and 1967 September 24
Scope and Content Note: Jesus as history's most radical civil rights leader.
704A/4
Groppi discusses personal history, ideas for books with collaborator
Scope and Content Note: Also recordings of radio or TV shows discussing civil rights movement.
704A/5
Groppi Monologue about Church's role and responsibilities on the issues of racism, poverty, and social justice
Note: Cuts to recording of TV or radio show dealing with global revolution topics.
704A/6
Speeches by James Bevel in Chicago, one about the need for a real movement in Chicago, one about the structure and function of the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Council)
704A/7
Groppi Speech at Hiroshima Remembrance Gathering
Scope and Content Note: Discusses the immorality of war.
704A/8
Unidentified service, talk, rally, and music
Note: Mostly inaudible. Last part of recording is phone calls to St. Boniface by people upset with the Church's involvement in civil rights issues.
704A/9
Speech by Louis E. Lomax, “Tale of Three Cities,” delivered at Augsburg College, 1963 November 21
704A/10
Margaret Penman (of Canadian Broadcasting Company) interviews Eddie Brown at a conference between civil rights leaders and religious leaders
704A/11
Audio recording of “Great Divide” TV show, an ABC news program describing the details and public opinion on the Civil Rights Act
704A/12
NAACP youth group singing and having discussions with Father Groppi
Scope and Content Note: Also recording of TV show of New York City residents debating the state of school integration in New York City, religious songs, Father Groppi practicing sermons, and group Bible study.
704A/13
Speech by Father Phillip Berrigan in Milwaukee about American imperialism and Christ as a revolutionary
Series: Film
AE 110
Welfare Mothers' March on Madison, 1969 September 29
Physical Description: 16 mm, color, silent, approximately 150 feet