Carl and Anne Braden Papers, 1928-2006

Scope and Content Note

The Carl and Anne Braden Papers are a large collection of primary source material about the Southern civil rights movement and other social justice movements and organizations that date from the 1940s through 2006. In addition to the Bradens' own papers, the collection includes papers of James Dombrowski that the Bradens moved to their home when they became co-directors of SCEF in 1966. (Dombrowski's post-1966 papers, which were donated to the Historical Society by him and by the University of New Orleans, are catalogued separately.) Dombrowski's early records include executive board minutes; subject files; and correspondence with leaders such as James Aronson, Leonard Boudin, Virginia and Clifford Durr, James Forman, William Howard Melish, Harvey and Jessie O'Connor, Fred Shuttlesworth, Frank Wilkinson, and Aubrey Williams.

The Bradens' career with SCEF is documented by correspondence and subject files about work as field organizers, editors of the Southern Patriot, and co-directors. Among the topics covered are their opposition to the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), civil rights and poverty organizing in the South, and free speech cases concerning the Bradens and SCEF activists Walter Collins, Alan McSurely, and Joseph Mulloy. Internal SCEF records include minutes, memoranda, mass mailings, and publications. Many mailings and sound recordings document the split within SCEF that led to the Bradens' resignation and the organization of the Southern Organizing Committee for Economic and Social Justice in 1975. The SOC records are incomplete, but include minutes; memoranda; conference materials; grant writing files; and subject files on its environmental justice, Gulf Coast Tenant Leadership, Southeast Project on Human Needs and Peace, and North Carolina organizing projects. There is also correspondence with SOC leaders such as Ben Chavis, Jack O'Dell, Gwen Patton, Connie Tucker, and C.T. Vivian. Additional files concern the work of Anne Braden with other organizations such as the National Alliance against Racist and Political Repression and the defense committees for Eddie Carthan, Johnny Imani Harris, and the Wilmington 10. Additional records concern the Kentucky Alliance against Racism and Repression and in particular its activities in Louisville. There are also substantial files on the National Anti-Klan Network (later the Center for Democratic Renewal) and the National Rainbow Coalition, which grew out of the 1984 presidential campaign of Jesse Jackson. The Bradens' personal papers include correspondence, financial records, speeches and writings, and drafts of Anne Braden's award-winning autobiography, The Wall Between (1958). There is also documentation of their 1954 indictment under a Kentucky sedition law after they purchased a house for a Black family in a white Louisville neighborhood.

The papers are organized in two main series: the original 37 cubic foot collection processed circa 1972, and 62 cubic feet of additions processed in 2007 shortly after Anne Braden's death. The Bradens' original deed of gift restricted access to the original collection, but over the years Anne Braden gave some researchers permission to consult the papers. As a result, the original collection was cited in some important scholarship. Because of this use, it was decided not to integrate the old and new portions of the collection. The box and folder numbering of the original collection is undisturbed, although the sequence in which some material appears has been changed. The SCEF publications are an exception, as they were moved entirely to the 2007 addition in order to better identify and remove duplicates during processing. Photographs that accompanied the collection constitute a third series of the collection that is separately arranged. Similarly sound recordings constitute a fourth series, and film and videorecordings a fifth. (The film and the 14 disc recordings are also noted with the paper files to which they relate.)

Both series of the paper portion of the collection are arranged in a similar overall scheme: 1) the Bradens' personal papers, their SCEF records, and their post-SCEF records; 2) James Dombrowski's papers, and 3) other organizational papers. Unfortunately, a sharp chronological break could not be made between the two major series of the collection. Because of the Bradens' casual approach to recordkeeping, a condition that worsened as Anne aged, some subjects appear in both the original collection, which ended approximately in 1972-1973, and in the 2007 addition.

Also complicating an understanding of the overall scope of the collection is the fact that the materials at the Wisconsin Historical Society are by no means all of the Braden papers or Braden-related papers in archival repositories. In addition to the papers at Wisconsin, the Bradens presented nine feet of papers to the Special Collections Department of the University of Tennessee. This collection covers many of the same subjects as are documented in the Wisconsin collection. SCHW and SCEF papers are similarly dispersed, with collections at Atlanta University and Tuskegee University.

At the time of her death, Anne Braden still had custody of a large quantity of archival material, all stored in her house in Louisville in considerable disorder. In keeping with their mother's wishes, the Braden children donated to Wisconsin the remaining papers that documented her participation in national organizations such as SCEF, SOC, the National Alliance, and the National Anti-Klan Network (NAKN), while papers with a Louisville focus, such as those concerning the Kentucky Alliance, were donated to the University of Louisville. Given the chaotic condition of the papers in the Braden home, this distinction was difficult to maintain when the papers were packed for shipping. As a result, some records concerning the Kentucky Alliance and other Louisville subjects can be found in the Wisconsin collection, and it is likely that the reverse condition is also true.

Although the Bradens had custody of the official SCEF records, the same cannot be said of the other organizations for which they were founding members. The papers pertaining to NAKN and the National Alliance primarily contain mass mailings and documents concerning their personal involvement in the organization. The situation concerning the records of the Southern Organizing Committee for Economic and Social Justice is also complex. For the early years of its existence the SOC records in Anne Braden's custody probably represent the official files. As her responsibilities turned to fundraising and grant writing during the 1990s, others took on the general administrative responsibilities, and the records in her custody became incomplete. It is likely that more complete records were in the hands of other officers of the organization.


The original collection has three subseries: Anne and Carl Braden Files, James Dombrowski Files, and Other Records. The first subseries of the original collection, the Carl and Anne Braden Files, is divided into personal files and SCEF files.

The personal papers are not personal in the usual sense of the word because, with a few exceptions, the Bradens' associates in the movement were their friends. This portion consists of information about the Bradens as a couple; Carl Braden's files; Anne Braden's files; and files about their children. Also included are the papers about the Wade Case, which predated their association of SCEF. Carl Braden's files document his career between 1928 and 1955 and his imprisonment after conviction in the Wade Case. Included here are samples of high school writing and newspaper articles. Anne Braden's files consist of correspondence, writings while a college student, and extensive material about her book The Wall Between (1958), including correspondence, research, drafts, sales information, and reader comments. The material about the Bradens' children documents the memorial to Anita Braden, who died in 1964, and the activities of their son Jim. Jim Braden's records include taped interviews about the 1968 civil disorders in Louisville, a biographical sketch of his father, and a report on his work at the Law Center for Constitutional Rights.

The SCEF files, the second part of the Carl and Anne Braden Files, are divided into chronological sections pertaining to 1) the Bradens' years as field representatives and editor of the Southern Patriot, 1954-1966, and 2) their years as co-directors, 1966-1973. The Field Organizer and Southern Patriot section consists of correspondence and subject files. This correspondence is arranged in chronological order, and it relates mainly to the business activities of the Southern Patriot and to field organizing. More important correspondence is generally to be found in the subject files.

A list of principal correspondents follows, with an asterisk denoting frequent correspondents:

  • *Aronson, James
  • *Aschbacher, Ruth and Stanley
  • *Boudin, Leonard B.
  • *Bown, Vernon
  • Cartwright, Perry
  • *Coe, John M.
  • *Crane, Mrs. Sylvia E.
  • Criley, Richard
  • Dilliard, Irving
  • *Dombrowski, James A.
  • Donner, Frank J.
  • Dreyfus, Benjamin
  • *Durr, Virginia
  • Ferry, Elinor
  • Finlator, Rev. W. W.
  • Ford, I.O.
  • *Foreman, Clark
  • Forman, James
  • France, Royal W.
  • *Gilbert, Louise
  • Ginger, Anne Fagan
  • *Gomillion, C. G.
  • *Haessler, Carl
  • Hassler, Alfred
  • *Holt, Len
  • Hortenstine, Virgie
  • Huberman, Leo
  • *Hupp, James L.
  • Kinoy, Arthur
  • Lamont, Corliss
  • Lens, Sidney
  • Lorch, Lee
  • Love, Bishop Edgar A.
  • *Lubka, Lewis
  • Lusky, Louis
  • Lynd, Staughton
  • Lynn, Conrad J.
  • *McCrackin, Rev. Maurice
  • *McLaren, Louise
  • McReynolds, David
  • Margolis, Benjamin
  • *Marshall, Dorothy
  • *Maund, Alfred
  • *Melish, Rev. William Howard
  • Muste, Rev. A. J.
  • Nathan, Otto
  • Nelson, Steve
  • *Nixon, Russ
  • *O'Connor, Harvey and Jessie
  • Parsons, Howard L.
  • Perdue, Rev. M.M.D.
  • Pike, Rev. James A.
  • Rabinowitz, Victor
  • Redding, Louis
  • Ruthenburg, Dorcas
  • Seeger, Pete
  • *Shuttlesworth, Rev. Fred L.
  • Smith, Benjamin E.
  • Spiker, LaRue
  • Spofford, Rev. William B.
  • Stryker, George
  • Tekla, Tad
  • *Thrasher, Sue
  • Tillitt, Paul
  • Tillow, Walter
  • Treuhaft, Decca (Jessica Mitford)
  • Walker, Wyatt Tee
  • Waltzer, Bruce C.
  • West, Don
  • *Wilkinson, Frank and Jean
  • *Williams, Aubrey and Anita
  • Wyland, Bishop Benjamin
  • *Zellner, Robert and Dottie
  • Zollinger, Robert W.

The Field Organizer and Southern Patriot section's subject files cover individuals, organizations, and places; and they were primarily used for editorial purposes. There is extensive information here on labor unions, SCEF's Southern Mountain Project, and the Appalachian Economic and Political Action Conference (AEPAC), as well as the House Committee on Un-American Activities and Anne Braden's pamphlet, “Bulwark of Segregation.” SCEF organized the Appalachian Provision Organizing Committee in 1964 in order to improve communications in that region. The AEPAC files contain correspondence, records of board actions such as memos and meeting minutes, and reports to SCEF. The Southern Mountain Project was created to improve wages for workers, both black and white, living in Appalachia. Other groups documented in the subject files from this period include the Southern Student Organizing Committee and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.

The section documenting the Bradens' tenure as co-directors of SCEF (1966-1972) include central office files, 1966-1972, and fundraising files, 1966-1970. The central office files reflect their broader responsibilities after 1966, as well as Anne's ongoing work on the Southern Patriot. The correspondence in this section includes extensive exchanges with staff and other organizations concerning coordination of objectives, business activities, and personal matters. The subject files contain information on Appalachia and other topics relevant to civil rights. The fundraising files document trips by SCEF staff to various parts of the country, and they contain printed appeals for money and lists of contributors. The collection also includes numerous taped interviews and public appearances by the Bradens, primarily speaking on behalf of SCEF, as well as speeches by Robert Moses, Stokely Carmichael, and William Howard Melish; these are listed in Series 4 of the contents list, the Sound Recordings.

The second subseries of the original collection, the James Dombrowski Files, document the activities of the man who was executive director of SCEF before the Bradens, as well as executive secretary of SCHW, SCEF's predecessor organization. In 1966, when they assumed Dombrowski's responsibilities, the Bradens moved some of his files from Louisiana to Louisville. The bulk of Dombrowski's SCEF and SCHW materials, however, can be found at Tuskegee Institute.

The Dombrowski files at the Wisconsin Historical Society consist of personal papers (1932-1963), records of SCHW (1938-1948), and the early administrative records of SCEF. The personal files, 1932-1963, include correspondence, articles, and personal financial and property records. The correspondence includes letters from Aubrey Williams, president of SCEF and director of the National Youth Administration under Franklin Roosevelt, and letters concerning royalties for Dombrowski's book, The Early Days of Christian Socialism in America (1936). The SCHW files, 1938-1948, contain fragmentary documentation of Dombrowski's personal life as well as information on the origins of SCHW and SCEF. These files contain correspondence from T. G. Bilbo, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Hugo Black, and others. In addition, this section contains Executive Board and Board of Directors minutes and correspondence, and a manuscript about the presidential campaign of 1940 by Charles W. Erwin.

Dombrowski's SCEF files section is divided into correspondence and subject files. The correspondence is divided into two sections: 1) correspondence available only as microfilm and 2) boxed, unfilmed papers. The microfilmed correspondence (Micro 306, Reels 4-5) covers the period between 1948 and 1968. This material was filmed before transfer to the Historical Society. The boxed correspondence, which covers the period from 1948 through 1966, includes letters from Howard Melish, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Aubrey Williams, among others. In addition, it contains additional Wade Case correspondence and letters relating to SCEF fund-raising. The subject files include SCEF Board of Directors minutes, reports, fundraising files, and correspondence relating to general operations. The subject files contain a wealth of documentation on individuals who worked with SCEF.

The third major subseries of the original Braden collection is entitled Other Records, and it consists of one box of records of the Southern Regional Office of the National Committee to Abolish HUAC (NCAHUAC). Carl Braden played a key role in the organization of NCAHUAC, but these are not his papers. They are, instead, the papers of the NCAHUAC Southern regional director, Barbara Bloomfield Flynn, covering only the years 1966 to 1968. The other records in this subseries are from the SCEF New York office, and they primarily relate to fundraising between 1960 and 1968.


Like the previously described Braden papers, the 2007 additions consist of three subseries: 1) Braden Files, 2) James Dombrowski Files, and 3) Other Records, with the majority of the new material consisting of material about Carl and Anne Braden.

The Braden Files are arranged like the previously processed material: 1) personal files and 2) additions to the two phases of their involvement with SCEF, plus 3) records documenting their post-SCEF activities with the Southern Organizing Committee (SOC).

The new personal files are limited, again suggesting the degree to which social activism dominated the couple's personal life. Important additions to the personal papers consist of clippings and biographical information, personal financial records, and speeches and writings. In the earlier part of the collection, the documentation about the Wade Case is arranged in the personal files because this episode predated their work with SCEF. Additional Wade Case material appears in the personal papers in the 2007 addition, although the new papers are those of Selma Rein, who headed the Washington Committee for the Louisville Cases, 1955-1956, and later the District of Columbia anti-HUAC committee. The collection does not document how these records came into the Bradens' possession.

Anne Braden is individually documented in the 2007 addition by several biographical interview transcripts and by extensive speeches, writings, and speech-related correspondence. As Anne emerged as one of the leading elders of the social justice movement she contributed her memories to numerous historical projects. Interviews by Cate Fosl, Anne Braden's biographer, are not included, although there are preliminary proposals concerning her research project. Anne's writings include a large quantity of handwritten notes recorded in reporter's notebooks. Unfortunately, few of these are identified or dated, and the handwriting is difficult to decipher.

The new SCEF files date from the two phases of their SCEF activity, with each phrase represented by additional chronological correspondence (mainly 1971-1972) and subject files. The first section, the pre-1966 phase, consists of only a few folders, but the second, 1966-1973, consists of eight cubic feet of papers. Most important are internal administrative records including minutes of executive board meetings, financial and fundraising files, mass mailings to staff and supporters, publications, and information on the ideological crisis that led to the Bradens' resignation. The internal and external mass mailings provide the most concise and comprehensive documentation of SCEF activities in the collection. Documentation of SCEF support for the striking members of the Gulf Coast Pulpwood Association and the cases of Walter Collins and Alan McSurely are also strong.

The post-SCEF Southern Organizing Committee records consist of chronological correspondence dating from 1973 to 2006 and alphabetical subject files. These additions arrived in great disorder and most of the arrangement had to be created in the Archives. Because so much of the correspondence was received without context, a chronological arrangement appeared to be the least arbitrary arrangement scheme. As a result, this correspondence, which is labeled “general,” is of much greater interest than the similarly titled correspondence in the first part of the collection. This general correspondence is divided into incoming and outgoing sections in order to make the letters written by Anne Braden and other SOC officers more accessible. The outgoing correspondence is limited after 1995.

Alphabetical subject files comprise the majority of these post-SCEF SOC records. The content of these files varies widely both with regard to subject and scope. Some thin folders, for example, contain only mass mailings and little if any personal involvement is documented. Others contain substantial and important historical documentation, in many cases the record files of the organization. Generally, the files represent contacts with a broad spectrum of individuals and organizations active in the social justice movement with whom the Bradens had some contact. Although they opposed the war in Vietnam, peace issues are secondary to racial justice documentation in the files.

Individual correspondents of note in these files include leaders such as Ben Chavis, Jesse and Harvey O'Connor, Jack O'Dell, Gwen Patton, Fred Shuttlesworth, Connie Tucker, and C. T. Vivian. The subject files include correspondence, memoranda, flyers and publications, minutes, convention materials, grant applications, notes, and draft writings. After Carl Braden's death in 1975 (early in the time span of the subject files) Anne's activities comprise the focus of the section. Carl's activity is seen in the files on the Training Institute for Propaganda and Organizing (TIPO), the National Alliance against Racist and Political Repression (NAARPR), and on various victims of racist and political repression. Although Anne was less involved with NAARPR administration, she was actively involved in several cases which the National Alliance supported such as the defense of Eddie Carthan, Johnny “Imani” Harris, Delbert Tibbs, and the Wilmington 10. There are also two cubic feet of records about the Kentucky Alliance (KA), the local chapter of the NAARRP, although more extensive records about KA are held by the University of Louisville Special Collections Department. The KAARPR records and other records scattered throughout the subject files document Braden's increasing involvement during the post-SCEF era in local and Kentucky issues and organizations. The collection includes substantial information about her response to racial violence and police abuse in Louisville and to issues arising from the desegregation of the city schools.

Most of Anne Braden's work after Carl's death focused on the Southern Organizing Committee for Economic and Social Justice (SOC) which she organized with Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and others in 1975. SOC was an inter-racial, south-wide organization, and its formation was a response to concern over fragmentation within the civil rights movement and an increase in racist violence. The records filed here alphabetically under Southern Organizing Committee for Economic and Social Justice Administrative Records consist of board minutes, correspondence, financial and fundraising files, workshop and conference planning files, and mailings and publications. As previously noted, the administrative records are not complete. It is presumed that the missing files are in the hands of SOC officers who were based in Birmingham and Atlanta. In keeping with the SOC purpose as an organizing committee, there is good documentation about several community organizing projects, particularly the Gulf Coast Tenant Leadership Project, the North Carolina Organizing Project on Military Spending and Human Needs, and the Southeast Project on Human Needs and Peace. SOC later added environmental justice to its organizing, but this subject is less thoroughly documented. Anne Braden's role in these projects consisted of participation in the overall administrative policy and writing the grants that supported the SOC programs. SOC was also actively involved in many social justice defense cases either alone or in association with other organizations. In addition to the previously mentioned NAARPP cases there are files on the vote fraud charges brought against Maggie Bozeman and Julia Wilder and the Alabama Black Belt officials.

Throughout these post-SCEF SOC records there is ample documentation of the way in which Carl and Anne Braden used their skills as journalists to shape the manner in which movement issues were expressed. This is evident in the editorial files on Fight-Back, the SOC newsletter, and in numerous other publications, brochures, and public statements. Records dating to the late 1970s document Anne Braden's concern with increased racial violence by the Ku Klux Klan. In addition to clippings, legal documents, Klan literature, and other information that she gathered, there are files on the National Anti-Klan Network (NAKN), of which she was a founder in 1979. The NAKN later became known as the Center for Democratic Renewal, and there are files about this organization as well.

In 1984 and 1988 Anne Braden was an active supporter of the presidential candidacy of Jesse Jackson. About her political activities are files of correspondence, convention materials, clippings, issue papers, and files on the Jackson campaign in Kentucky. The National Rainbow Coalition, which grew out of Jackson's 1984 presidential campaign, is also well represented.

The James Dombrowski Files subseries in the 2007 addition consist of correspondence he received during the last years of his life, financial miscellany, and a journal-like binder covering the years 1966-1974. In the binder Dombrowski listed painting titles as well as occasional reflections about personal and political events.

The third subseries of the 2007 Addition, Other Records, consists of files of Helen Greever, who succeeded the Bradens as director of SCEF, and records of the SCEF friends organizations in New York, Los Angeles, and Massachusetts. All of these records were solicited for the Wisconsin Historical Society by the Bradens and transferred to the Historical Society between 1974 and 1978. Unfortunately, Helen Greever's files are smaller and more fragmentary than might be anticipated. Most useful here are mimeographed mailings and staff memoranda dating from the final months of the “old” SCEF and the transcript of a 1973 interview with Anne Braden concerning a trip Greever made to the Soviet Union. As with the earlier records of this type, the more recently received local friends office records primarily concern fundraising.


The Photographs are divided into three subseries: 1) Mounted photographs, 1960-1967, that probably represent an exhibit about the Southern Conference Educational Fund (call number PH 3499 (5)), 2) General photographs, 1930s-1990s (call number PH 3299), and 3) Posters, circa 1960-1970 (call number PH 5-6466). PH 3499 (5) includes photographs of Anne and Carl Braden, Ella Baker, Martin Luther King Jr., Aubrey Williams, and several other activists, as well as a photograph of Tent City, Fayette County, Tennessee, which was established with SCEF funds. PH 3499 includes formal and informal portraits of Anne and Carl Braden and photographs documenting events in their lives such as the bombing of the Wade House in Louisville, Kentucky, their sedition trials, and participation in numerous rallies, demonstrations, and meetings. The Bradens are pictured with civil rights leaders such as Ben Chavis, Angela Davis, Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Fred Shuttlesworth, and C.T. Vivian. Several organizations in which the Bradens were leaders are represented, with the Southern Organizing Committee (SOC) being the most extensive. Photo documentation of the Kentucky Alliance, the National Anti-Klan Network (NAKN), the Southern Conference Education Fund (SCEF), and the Southern Conference for Human Welfare (SCHW) is spotty. Numerous photographs of demonstrations and marches, labor union strikes, and conferences dating from the 1970s to the 1990s were probably submitted for publication in the Southern Patriot and Fight-Back, but the collection contains only a small portion of the total number that are thought to have been submitted for publication. Posters were collected by Carl and Ann Braden and relate to the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement, announcement of Labor History Week, activities in Philadelphia, Lowndes County, Alabama, and the Freedom Organization campaign, along with half-tone photographs.


The Sound Recordings, both tapes and discs, are arranged in a single chronological order. They include speeches and presentations by both Carl and Anne Braden as well as many others including Amzie Moore, Robert Moses, Howard Zinn, William Howard Melish, and Stokely Carmichael; interviews with the Bradens and interviews with others by them; music by Pete Seeger; recorded meetings and informal discussions; Carl Braden's memorial services in 1975; and undated memoirs by Anne Braden. Also present is a group of interviews done by Jim Braden for a research paper on Louisville civil disorders.


The film and 5 videorecordings in the collection date between 1966 and 2003 and are diverse in subject matter. Details are provided in the contents list. Note: A 16 mm film about Jim Dombrowski noted in the accession records was missing in 2008.