Robert S. Gabriner Papers, 1961-1981 (bulk 1965-1979)

Scope and Content Note

The Robert S. Gabriner papers document Gabriner's life as a graduate student, educator, writer, and social activist. The papers date approximately from 1961-1981, with the bulk of the documentation dating from 1965-1979 and consists of correspondence, subject files and personal writings. The papers are divided into three series: PERSONAL PAPERS, SUBJECT FILES, and VISUAL MATERIALS. Some correspondence and newspaper clippings are found throughout the collection. These materials have not been separated out so as to maintain their original order within the appropriate files of the collection.

The PERSONAL PAPERS series includes four subseries: Correspondence, Academics, Personal Research Files, and Tape Recordings. The Correspondence subseries is arranged chronologically and documents Gabriner's personal communications with family, friends, and activist organizations from the 1960s through 1978. The Academics subseries is arranged chronologically and the Personal Research Files subseries is arranged alphabetically by the name of the file. These subseries contain information about Gabriner while he was a graduate student and teaching assistant in the history department at the University of Wisconsin, and as an editor and writer for underground student newspapers in Madison in the late 1960s. These subseries also document his teaching and research while at Laney Community College and other educational settings when he relocated to San Francisco in the 1970s. Included in the Personal Research Files subseries are files documenting the activities of Gabriner and friends that the FBI produced. The Tape Recordings include interviews with Robert Gabriner and his wife Vicki in 1965 discussing the youth culture of the period as well as anti-government protest. A second tape recording is a re-broadcast of the 1934 General Strike in San Francisco that Robert Gabriner prepared and aired at a San Francisco radio station in the 1970s.

The SUBJECT FILES series includes twenty-four subseries. The Subject Files series documents Gabriner's interest and involvement in social action issues. The series spans the entire period of the collection and is arranged alphabetically by subject. Subseries include but are not limited to: African-Americans, Community Organizing, Robert Gabriner's Cuba Trip, Labor, Puerto Rico, Student Activism, Vietnam, and the Wisconsin Draft Resistance Movement.

The majority of the African-American subseries documents African-American rights, civil rights, and the time Gabriner spent as a field collector for the Wisconsin Historical Society during the civil rights movement in the south, specifically in Fayette County, Tennessee documenting the civil rights movement and the West Tennessee Voters Project. The project concerned itself with voter registration drives, discrimination in employment, school desegregation, and the formation of the Tennessee Freedom Labor Union in Tennessee.

The Community Organizing subseries documents Gabriner's involvement with grass roots and community organizing groups including the Laney Community Organizing Committee and the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee. The latter concerned with the struggle of colonized peoples around the world and in the fight against U.S. imperialism.

The Cuba Trip subseries covers Gabriner's 1972 and 1979 trips to Cuba to assess the workings of socialism with a group of like-minded people. He felt the United States was oppressing Cuba with its foreign policy, that Cuba was standing up to the United States, and that instituting a new political system was a way for the struggling country to resist U.S. oppression. Photographs related to this subseries are in the Visual Materials series.

The Labor subseries coves the period from the mid-1960s and the mid-1970s. Topics include farmers, Mexican workers, strikes, and labor unions.

The bulk of the Subject Files series deals with Puerto Rico. Robert Gabriner was active in the Puerto Rican Solidarity Committee (PRSC) from the 1970s until the early 1980s, supporting Puerto Rican liberation. This subseries documents Gabriner's involvement in the PRSC at the national level as well as at the local level with the Bay Area Chapter of the PRSC and includes meetings, conferences, and other organizational activities at each level of the committee. Along with other members of the PRSC, Gabriner put together a primer on Puerto Rican liberation; drafts and comments are included in these records.

The Student Activism subseries documents Gabriner's involvement in social action organizations. Gabriner was involved in Student Activism while he attended the University of Wisconsin in the late 1960s. Included in this subseries are papers of the Students for a Democratic Society as UW students were members of the local group on campus.

Two other subseries that are well documented within the Subject Files series are Vietnam and the Wisconsin Draft Resistance Movement (WDRU). Like many other social activists of his time, Gabriner protested the Vietnam War and the draft that went along with it. Included is information on protests and sit-ins as well as papers documenting the WDRU and their activities.

The VISUAL MATERIALS series documents Robert Gabriner's first trip to Cuba in 1972. The prints and negatives illustrate the Cuban people and geography of the areas Gabriner travelled to in the country. This includes sugar plantations, cities, schools, and various landscapes.