Fred Halstead Papers, 1956-1978


Fred Halstead was born in Los Angeles, California in 1927. His mother was an immigrant Jewish garment worker and a Debs Socialist and his father was an early American Trotskyist and a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. Halstead joined the navy at age 18 and participated in the “Going Home” movement while stationed in Chinese waters. After his discharge he attended UCLA, studying to become a schoolteacher and working as a merchant seaman between semesters. In 1948, Halstead joined the Socialist Workers Party. When the SWP was named on the U.S. Attorney General's list of subversive organizations, Halstead was denied clearance as a seaman and unable to work as a teacher. In 1953, Halstead moved to Detroit where he worked in automobile factories as an upholstery cutter and began writing articles for the Militant, the publication of the Socialist Workers Party. He was an active member of the trade union and participated in strikes and organizing drives of the National Farm Labor Union, the United Auto Workers, and the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. Halstead was also active in the civil rights movement in the 1950's, visiting Montgomery, Alabama in 1956 to cover the bus boycott. Halstead moved to the New York City office of the Militant that year and continued working in the garment cutting industry there.

In the 1960's, Halstead was one of the central organizers in the movement against U.S. involvement in Vietnam. He was an active SWP representative for a number of national anti-war organizations, including the Fifth Avenue Vietnam Peace Parade Committee, the National Coordinating Committee to End the War in Vietnam, the National and New Mobilization Committees to End the War in Vietnam, and the National Peace Action Coalition (NPAC). He participated in the planning of the first big protest demonstrations in 1965-1966, worked with Jerry Rubin and Dave Dellinger to plan the Pentagon Demonstration in October 1967, and was in charge of logistics for the November 15, 1969 March on Washington, in which 750,000 participated.

In 1968, he was the SWP presidential candidate, with running mate Paul Boutelle, receiving 41,000 votes. In 1971, Halstead returned to Los Angeles and conducted an unsuccessful bid for Governor of California in 1978. In addition to his frequent contributions to the Militant, his publications include: Harlem Stirs (1966), GI's Speak Out Against the War: The Case of the Ft. Jackson Eight (1970), and Out Now: A Participant's Account of the American Movement Against the Vietnam War (1978), a somewhat biased account of the Vietnam anti-war movement. Halstead died in June of 1988 from liver cancer at the age of 61, leaving behind a wife and six children.