James A. Dombrowski Papers, 1918-1983

Scope and Content Note

Most of the collection came directly to the Historical Society from Dombrowski in 1979 and was processed in 1981. Additional materials were received from Frank Adams in 1986, and a small amount of Dombrowski's personal files came to Wisconsin from the University of New Orleans in 1990. These additions were integrated into the collection in 1990.

The collection was microfilmed by Primary Source Media (an imprint of Gale and a part of Cengage Learning) in 2008 as part of the series Civil Rights and Social Activism in the South. For the microfilm the company assigned new folder numbers from 1 to 206, and it did not use a frame counter. It also prepared a name and subject index that is keyed to the new microfilm folder numbers. A copy of this guide can be found in the State Historical Society of Wisconsin Library (Pam 09-1349). To facilitate access, the container list which follows incorporates both the box and folder numbers for the paper collection and the new folder numbers assigned by the microfilm publisher. The new folder numbers are designated with the initials MF (for microfilm folder) at the end of each line in the container list. The following chart converts the new folder numbers to the appropriate reel numbers.

Reel Microfilm Folder (MF) Range
1 1-6
2 7-11
3 12-17
4 18-23
5 24-29
6 30-33
7 34-40
8 41-64
9 65-99
10 100-131
11 132-151
12 152-158
13 159-165
14 166-176
15 177-187
16 188-196
17 197-206

Virtually all of the Dombrowski collection either predates or follows his activity in SCEF. For the SCHW/SCEF years researchers should consult the papers of Carl and Anne Braden. In addition, a large collection of SCHW and SCEF records with documentation on Dombrowski is at Tuskegee Institute in Macon County, Alabama. Additional related records held by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin include the Highlander Research Center Records and the Frank Adams Papers. The collection consists of four series: BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION, CORRESPONDENCE, SUBJECT FILES, and FRANK ADAMS FILES.

The BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION series contains a small number of clippings concerning high points in Dombrowski's life and career with SCEF. Also included are clippings and a program from a memorial service. CORRESPONDENCE consists of personal letters to friends and associates such as Virginia Durr and Aubrey Williams following Dombrowski's retirement in 1966. Included are letters from Carl and Anne Braden about SCEF activites and arrangements for his retirement pay. Dombrowski continued to assist SCEF with fundraising, and this activity is also documented here. Also included are letters from the 1920s and early 1930s and exchanges with Reinhold Niebuhr, Albert Einstein, Lyndon Johnson, and John F. Kennedy. (The originals of these are stored in the State Historical Society of Wisconsin autograph file.)

The SUBJECT FILES primarily reflect Dombrowski's private life and interests. They include records of his art distributions, papers pertaining to Emory University, medical records and articles, as well as some documentation of his years with SCEF and SCHW. Also here are memorials to friends and speeches and writings by Dombrowski. The Frank Adams file contains correspondence from Adams regarding his attempts to find a publisher for the Dombrowski biography.

The FRANK ADAMS FILES contain materials collected by Adams while writing his biography of Dombrowski in the late 1970s. The files are divided under two headings: Correspondence and Subject Files. In the Correspondence are letters written by Dombrowski to Ethyl Clyde, a major financial supporter of SCHW and SCEF, describing his activities with these organizations from 1937 to 1976. Also included is Adams' correspondence with Dombrowski and his associates seeking material for his biography; these letters are a rich source of biographical information. Adams' Subject Files include Dombrowski's notes and diaries, 1937-1977, and assorted articles and speeches. Although the notes are fragmentary, the development of his writings and speeches can be seen. Also included is some documentation of Dombrowski's SCHW and SCEF years, especially the dissolution of SCHW in 1948 and the 1963 raid. The court files contain records of the cases Dombrowski was involved in following the raid. For further documentation on this topic, the Braden Papers should be consulted. Also included in the Subject Files are some materials on the Highlander Folk School, including lecture notes for Dombrowski's course in labor economics.