Norma Becker Papers, 1961-1975 (bulk 1963-1968)

Summary Information
Title: Norma Becker Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1961-1975 (bulk 1963-1968)

  • Becker, Norma, 1930-
Call Number: Micro 817

Quantity: 1 reel of microfilm (35 mm)

Archival Locations:
Wisconsin Historical Society (Map)

Papers, mainly 1963-1968, relating to the social and political concerns of a New York City school teacher. Included are correspondence, form letters, clippings, flyers, newsletters, and other printed matter relating to the United Federation of Teachers' “Adopt-a-School” program in Prince Edward County, Virginia, in 1963; its volunteer teaching during the Mississippi Freedom Summer project in 1964; and its support of full integration of New York City schools. Her leadership in the opposition to the war in Vietnam is documented in files on the Teachers Committee for Peace in Vietnam and the Fifth Avenue Vietnam Peace Parade Committee.

Language: English

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Political and social activist Norma Becker was born in the Bronx in 1930 to Russian Jewish immigrant parents. No doubt many of her later political and social ideas and actions were shaped by her father, a motion picture projectionist active in the socialist wing of the trade union movement. She attended Hunter College, married in 1950, and raised two children. In 1956 she began teaching on a part time basis at two private schools, Greek Hellenic Cathedral School and Kaliski School for Emotionally Disturbed Children. From 1959 through 1973 she taught at P.S. 84 in the Upper West Side.

Norma Becker first became involved in the civil rights movement in 1963. That summer she went south to teach in Prince Edward County, Virginia. The following year she was active in gathering support from New York City school teachers for the COFO Mississippi Freedom Summer Project. That summer she again went south, this time to Greenville, Mississippi, to teach. Out of these experiences grew her eventual conversion to a non-violent philosophy.

Beginning in 1965 she first became concerned by the U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam. That year she organized the Teachers Committee for Peace in Vietnam and assisted in the organization of the Fifth Avenue Vietnam Peace Parade Committee. Then followed active participation in a number of national anti-war groups. In 1977 she organized Mobilization for Survival.

Scope and Content Note

Although the papers are disappointing with respect to Mrs. Becker's prominence within the anti-Vietnam War movement, they do provide an interesting though limited glimpse of the support provided to the civil rights movement by one northern professional group. The collection includes correspondence, form letters, clippings, newsletters, flyers, and other printed matter, all filed by organizational name. There are a few items of both earlier and later date, but coverage is best for the period 1963-1968. Of special note within the United Federation of Teachers files are the materials for the curriculum conference which planned instruction for the Mississippi Freedom schools. The other Freedom School papers are generally more revealing about project planning and follow-up than about Norma Becker's teaching in Greenville, Mississippi. The Teachers Committee for Peace in Vietnam is documented chiefly by form letters and clippings. There are also a few copies of a newsletter. Material which concerned the Fifth Avenue Vietnam Peace Parade Committee was compared with the Society's holdings on that group and photocopies of printed matter were filed in that collection. Correspondence, however, was retained as part of Mrs. Becker's papers. This consists largely of letters from 1967 protesting an apparent dilution of the committee's original purpose with other social concerns.

Related Material

The Wisconsin Historical Society has one of the richest collections of Civil Rights movement records in the nation, which includes more than 100 manuscript collections documenting the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project of 1964. More than 25,000 pages from the Freedom Summer manuscripts are available online as the Freedom Summer Digital Collection.

Administrative/Restriction Information
Acquisition Information

Originals loaned for microfilming by Norma Becker, New York, New York, 1980. Accession Number: M80-164

Processing Information

Prepared for filming by Carolyn J. Mattern, May 1980.

Contents List
Micro 817
United Federation of Teachers
Reel   1
Frame   1
“Adopt-A-School Project,” Prince Edward County, Virginia, 1963
Mississippi Freedom Summer Project
Reel   1
Frame   27
Freedom Schools Curriculum Conference, 1964
Reel   1
Frame   43
General papers, 1964-1965
Alternate Format: All or part has been digitized and is available online.
Reel   1
Frame   158
New York City schools integration, 1963-1965
Reel   1
Frame   213
Teachers Committee for Peace in Vietnam
Reel   1
Frame   244
Correspondence, 1965-1968
Reel   1
Frame   301
Flyers, undated
Reel   1
Frame   313
Newsletters, 1965-1967
Reel   1
Frame   337
Clippings, 1965-1967
Reel   1
Frame   355
Fifth Avenue Vietnam Peace Parade Committee, 1965-1975
Reel   1
Frame   466
Miscellaneous correspondence, 1961-1965