Arthur Ocean Waskow Papers, 1943-1977 (bulk 1961-1977)

Scope and Content Note

The Waskow Papers are arranged in five series: CORRESPONDENCE, SPEECHES AND WRITINGS, SUBJECT FILES, REFERENCE MATERIAL, and VISUAL MATERIALS. The papers cover Waskow's career beginning with his years as a graduate student in American History at the University of Wisconsin. About his tenure as a member of Robert Kastenmeier's congressional staff there are memoranda, correspondence, and press clippings about the publication of the Liberal Papers, for which Kastenmeier was one of the authors. Files on Waskow's career during the 1960s when he worked as a fellow first for the Peace Research Institute and then for the Institute for Policy Studies are particularly strong, and they illustrate the transition that took place from the mainstream peace organizations to the increasingly radical activities of the anti-Vietnam War mobilizations. Coverage terminates in 1977 with the end of Waskow's association with IPS, the same point at which his Jewish heritage emerged as an increasingly central focus of his life. As a result of this end date, there is nothing here about the Public Resource Center that was organized by Waskow and other dissident IPS staff or the Shalom Center that Waskow established in Philadelphia in 1983. There is also little about his leadership within the Jewish Renewal Movement. However, many files suggest his growing religious interests. More papers concerning Waskow's Jewish activities and associations are held by the American Jewish Historical Society.

The CORRESPONDENCE series covers a shorter time span than the collection as a whole. Carbons of chronologically-arranged outgoing correspondence date only from the years 1967 to 1972. Incoming and additional outgoing correspondence for this period is filed in the appropriate folder in the SUBJECT FILES series which is described below. Additional files in the CORRESPONDENCE include general and personal letters, both categories that Waskow himself established. Generally, this correspondence is of a miscellaneous character.

The SPEECHES AND WRITINGS series includes draft and published copies of articles, letters to the editor, policy statements and proposals, and other short pieces, but no manuscripts for books. The articles are arranged alphabetically by title. Speeches and other oral presentations are included, but only a few, as Waskow often spoke only from outlines. This series is complemented by correspondence with the publishers of his articles, reviews, and reactions from the general public in the SUBJECT FILES series. In addition, research and correspondence related to several longer works, most notably his doctoral dissertation on the race riots of 1919 and the Working Man's Guide, are also included there, as well as folders labeled “T&T,” presumably meaning talks and travel, which document arrangements for his public speaking.

The heart of the collection is the alphabetically-arranged SUBJECT FILES series, which contains important information on the many organizations in which Waskow was active and on individuals of prominence with whom he was associated. An activist and organizer in the literal sense of the word, Waskow formed and took leadership roles in many organizations concerned with peace, history, social action, and Judaism. Perhaps because of his historical training, Waskow saved significant files of organizational minutes and mass mailings from these organizations as well as historical documentation about his personal involvement. Similar motivation may be the reason that he paid attention to the filing. Most of the files are arranged alphabetically according to the categories that Waskow himself established, although some inconsistencies and refinements were made in the Archives. Among the well documented organizations are the American Committee on Africa; the Consortium on Peace Research, Education and Development (COPRED), the National Coalition for a New Party (NCNP), the New Party, and Resist.

Most important among the organizational records, however, are the files on the Peace Research Institute and the Institute for Policy Studies. Waskow's files on PRI are thought to be the most extensive in archival custody, and, although his files about IPS are much smaller than the organization's own collection, which is also held by the Wisconsin Historical Society, Waskow's papers includes important information on early planning and organizational work that is missing from the IPS records. Waskow's file of internal IPS memoranda is a concise chronological overview of IPS history that is not so readily available in the organizational records.

Files on PRI and IPS include administrative correspondence and memoranda, research reports, educational and seminar files, and conference planning materials. For other organizations for which Waskow was a leader there is correspondence, minutes, and mass mailings; these organizations include the American Committee on Africa, Breira, the Committee for Emergency Support, Conference for Peace Research in History, Consortium on Peace Research in Education and Development, Jews for Urban Justice, Mankind 2000, National Conference for New Politics, New Mobilization Committee Against the War in Vietnam, the Radical Caucus of the American Historical Association, and Washington Mobilization Committee. There are also files on Democratic National Conventions in 1964 and 1968. Prominent individuals with which Waskow corresponded include Gar Alperovitz, Bernice Carroll, Dave Dellinger, Paul Jacobs, Brad Lyttle, Seymour Melman, Jessica Mitford, Dave McReynolds, A.J. Muste, Sidney Peck, Marcus Raskin, and David Riesman. Waskow also exchanged personal correspondence with Paul Booth, Robb Burlage, Rennie Davis, Todd Gitlin, Al Haber, Tom Hayden, and other leaders of Students for a Democratic Society.

About the Peace Research Institute there is correspondence, project proposals, research reports for the Arms Control Agency, memoranda, press information, and information on conferences. There are also files on books Waskow wrote for the institute such as A Worried Man's Guide to World Peace and America in Hiding, a critique of U.S. fallout shelters. Also included is a file on PRI's response to the Cuban missile crisis. Waskow directed PRI toward the study of world order, particularly through his participation in the Mankind 2000 program and his interests in development of an international police force. Creation of an international peacekeeping academy was another effort in which Waskow was active on an international level. An offshoot of the peace agenda at PRI was involvement in future studies and the use of games and simulation as a tool to advance the cause of peace.

In addition to the previously mentioned documentation, the subject-based documentation about IPS in the collection grew out of Waskow's responsibility for its educational program, his contacts with prospective students and alumni, and the IPS seminar program. The theme of educational reform seen in the IPS files is also evident in other areas of the series. Gar Alperovitz, Paul Jacobs, Seymour Melman, and David Riesman are among the individuals associated with IPS with whom Waskow had contact. Waskow and his staff gathered a substantial quantity of information on prisons and prisoners as part of an IPS project. However, little documentation places this information within the programmatic framework at IPS so it has been filed separately. The prison material includes a brief correspondence with Jessica Mitford.

During the 1960s several members of Students for a Democratic Society were interns at IPS, and through them Waskow formed close relationships with national SDS leaders such as Paul Booth, Robb Burlage, Rennie Davis, Al Haber, Tom Hayden, and, in particular, Todd Gitlin and Carol McElerney. This personal correspondence adds an important dimension to the SDS records held by the Wisconsin Historical Society. Waskow's files on SDS itself, however, were heavily weeded, as they duplicated the SDS records at the Historical Society, the chief exception being a file on the Radical Education Project which has been retained here. It is likely that the files in the collection about the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party were also created as a result of his association with SDS people working in the South.

Like other fellows at IPS, Waskow opposed the war in Vietnam. Here his activities focused on supporting Marcus Raskin, who was indicted as one of the Boston 5, and serving on the national steering committee of the New Mobilization Against the War in Vietnam. Because many mobilizations organized marches and demonstrations in Washington D.C., Waskow, as a resident of the capitol, assumed an important role. Among his contacts in the anti-war movement in addition to the previously mentioned SDS leaders were Dave Dellinger, Brad Lyttle, Dave McReynolds, A.J. Muste, and Sidney Peck.

The most important documentation relating to Waskow's career as a historian are the detailed notes created while working on the race riots of 1919 for his doctoral dissertation. Records of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People that he used at the Library of Congress are now missing at that institution, and Waskow's notes are the only known source of information on this subject. The dissertation itself, “The 1919 Race Riots: a Study in the Connections between Conflict and Violence,” is available in the University of Wisconsin Library. Waskow's 1956 master's thesis, “Negroes and the American Labor Movement, 1880-1990,” is also available there. Despite his doctorate, Waskow never taught professionally, but he maintained close relations with many individual historians such as Gar Alperovitz, Merle Curti, Todd Gitlin, Gabriel Kolko, Staughton Lynd, and with historical organizations such as the Radical Caucus of the American Historical Association and the Conference on Peace Research in History.

The District of Columbia community provided the focus for much of Waskow's activism. His work ranged from efforts in behalf of the Adams Morgan neighborhood and the Committee for Emergency Support, which he founded after a riot in the capitol. In 1968 Waskow was one of the district delegates to the National Democratic Convention in Chicago, and, as a result, he collected information on the local party during that important year. Waskow's growing awareness of his religious heritage is also evident in the local community. For this there are files on Fabrangen, the district's Jewish Community Council, and the kibbutz Micah. Waskow was also active in national left-wing Jewish organizations, by taking a leadership role in Breira, an organization critical of Israeli policies in the Middle East, and helping to establish Jews for Urban Justice and the National Jewish Organizing Project.

The REFERENCE files consist of near-print secondary material collected by Waskow on organizations and topics with which Waskow had varying levels of involvement. In the main, these files contain no information about Waskow's own activities. Among the most extensive are civil defense, community control of police, futurism, games and simulations, Middle Eastern foreign affairs, and prisoners.

The VISUAL MATERIALS include images and ephemera related to demonstrations by the Campaign for Global Justice and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; a protest at Gwynn Oaks in Baltimore; and images of Arthur Waskow and Bob Moses.