Scope and arrangement
The Ewart Guinier Papers document Guinier's professional and political career as a progressive labor leader and community organizer from 1938 to 1962, and his role in the founding and development of Harvard University's Afro-American Studies Department from 1969 to 1975. Divided into 7 series and 26 subseries, the collection chronicles in substance the origin, administration and curriculum of one of the leading black studies programs in the United States. The present arrangement follows Guinier's original order as closely as possible.
The Ewart Guinier papers are arranged in ten series:
This series documents Guinier's career as Secretary-Treasurer of the United Public Workers union (UPW), his association with the American Labor Party as a candidate for the Manhattan Borough presidency in 1949, and his work in the 1950s and early 1960s with the Harlem Affairs Committee and the Jamaica Coordinating Council. The series consists primarily of correspondence, articles and speeches by Guinier, minutes and reports of UPW's Executive Council, publications and newspapers clippings. The correspondence is scant and relates mostly to the 1947 Loyalty Act and its impact on labor and blacks. A typed report on UPW work in the South entitled "The Meaning of the South to the Labor and Progressive Movement of the United States" is also located in the correspondence file.
Guinier's articles written during this period and present in this series were published in March of Labor. The National Guardian and New York Teacher News. His speeches usually relate to the campaign for a permanent Fair Employment Practice act in the late 1940s and 1950s, and include his 1948 statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Mundt-Nixon Bill. The Speech file also includes the minutes of a February 1952 UPW executive board meeting with extensive verbatim comments by Abraham Flaxer, Guinier and other participants on the CIO expulsion of radical unions, on African-American unemployment, and the Negro Labor Council.
At its peak, UPW membership came from three different constituencies: the Welfare Bureau and other social service agencies in New York City, the Bureau of Engraving in Washington, D. C., and the Silver Workers (non-white labor force) in the Panama Canal Zone. Materials on these three areas are located in extensive printed matter files ranging from 1946 to 1955. Additional printed matter also exists on the 1950 CIO expulsion of the UPW, on the Harlem Trade Union Council, the Negro Labor Committee and the National Negro Labor Council.
Arranged chronologically, the substantive part of this series deals with Guinier's tenure as chairman of the Afro-American Studies Department at Harvard. Letters preceding that period relate to business and civic matters, especially Guinier's association with the Urban League in the 1960s. The correspondence throughout the series is general in character; more topical letters will be found throughout the collection. The correspondence for 1969 and 1970 consists mostly of congratulatory letters from former labor and business associates, former colleagues at Columbia University, and Harvard faculty and black studies professionals in general. Many incoming letters came from American and overseas graduate and undergraduate students inquiring about admission procedures and scholarship opportunities, and from educators and writers seeking an appointment in the department. Many such letters include dissertation outlines and research proposals. Student groups throughout the country wrote to Guinier seeking his assistance in establishing black studies programs at their schools. He also corresponded with black studies program directors and administrators on what many perceived as a backlash at many colleges and universities in the 1970s. Correspondents in the field included James Turner, Molefi Asante, John Henrik Clarke, Louis Lomax, C. L. R. James, Ronald Walters and Sterling Stuckey.
An important part of the correspondence deals with the day to day operation of the department and with Guinier's various points of contention with the University. A January 1971 letter to Dean Dunlop evokes, in characteristic fashion, the broad Faculty Senate mandate which led to the creation of the department, the better to deplore the lack of institutional support in the present. The series also comprises administrative letters and memoranda to the staff of the department. The December 1971 file includes letters from over twenty chairmen of academic centers, departments and divisions within Harvard, in reply to an inquiry by Guinier on their operation and administration and on the matter of student representation on their executive committees. This file also includes letters to and from members of the Visiting Committee to Evaluate the Afro-American Studies Department and the Commission of Inquiry which investigated the unauthorized exclusion of whites from a lecture by Mrs. Shirley Graham DuBois sponsored by the department. Harvard correspondents include deans John Dunlop, Franklin Ford and Henry Rosovsky of the Faculty of Art and Sciences, President Derek Bok, financial officers, deans of other schools and Harvard houses, and Walter Leonard, a special assistant to president Bok for affirmative action and minority affairs.
The correspondence between 1976 and 1988 is very sparse and comprises few outgoing letters. Included within this period are letters from Louise Patterson, secretary of the William Patterson Foundation, and correspondence with attachments relating to a gift of books from Guinier's library to the University of Senegal. The latter group includes a letter from President Leopold Sedar Senghor (June 1984). A separate group of letters and research notes by Waring Cuney is located at the end of the series. Occasional correspondents include George Murphy, publisher of the Afro-American newspaper; Adelaide Hill of Boston University; Irene Diggs, a personal friend and former associate of W. E. B. DuBois; Rosa Guy, an African-American writer, Mabel Smythe, the Jimmy Carter administration's Commissioner on Civil Rights; and John O. Killens, Marguerite Cartwright, John Henrik Clarke, Bernice Reagon, Derrick Bell, Jacob Lawrence and Alvin Poussaint. Guinier also wrote letters of recommendation on behalf of former students and employees, colleagues and friends, and junior black studies instructors. These letters are arranged alphabetically are restricted until 2041.
Guinier's early writings deal with issues of labor and electoral politics and include an article, "Careers for Negroes in Civil Service", published in the March 1940 edition of Opportunity, the magazine of the National Urban League. The remaining articles in this series were written between 1972 and 1978 and relate to labor and black studies issues. Included are several introductory articles for the Black Studies program at Harvard, "Black Studies Alive and Well at Harvard" published in the Pittsburgh Courier. "Impact of Unionization on Blacks", articles on the black experience at Harvard and on the need for a black perspective in history, and his blistering attack, "Bok's Blacks" against Harvard's administration and several prominent African- Americans at Harvard. His published and unpublished reviews encompass the work of David Levering Lewis and Nathan Huggins, Boris Bittker's book "The Case for Black Reparations", James Earl Jones's 1977 stage performance in the role of Paul Robeson at the Colonial Theater in Boston, and the film "Kongi's Harvest". Each file consists of various drafts of the manuscript and some correspondence with publishers. Printed versions of the articles are filed separately in a printed matter file.
The Harvard series forms the bulk of the collection. Divided into 12 subseries, it retains most of Guinier's original arrangement and purpose, though archival processing, mainly the weeding out of duplication, may have somewhat reduced the essentially polemical scheme of the original filing system. Guinier fought a war of documents against Harvard. Using the April 22, 1969 Faculty Senate resolution as his foundation, he cataloged every infraction against this original mandate and challenged the university relentlessly in order to secure full departmental status for the black studies program and the development of the proposed DuBois Institute. Copies of articles, reports, correspondence and documents interspersed throughout the series reveal a veritable war of attrition, with the same battles fought year after year during his entire tenure as chairman.
This series is divided into three categories: Correspondence, a Subject File, and Black Studies Programs arranged alphabetically under the heading of their schools. The bulk of the correspondence consists of letters of inquiry from administrators, educators and scholars involved in the implementation of similar programs at schools and universities across the country, and letters from graduate and undergraduate students seeking advice or information for their research projects or to supplement offerings at their schools.
Named the Vertical File by Ewart Guinier, this printed matter and clipping file was an important complement to the reading list for Guinier's classes, which often took the form of a comparative juxtaposition between past and present. The bulk of this series was arranged alphabetically according to subject headings selected by Guinier. Materials in the last box, however, are arranged by year (1969-1980), and reveal the permanence of certain themes in his curriculum. The entire series consists of newspaper and magazine articles, conference programs, mimeographed letters and reports, newsletters and factsheets, and selected student papers, and represents a valuable source of information on black politics and history from 1969 to 1975.
Broad headings such as Africa, art, politics, economics, employment, music, unions and Third World amount to a pot-pourri of materials on various topics. The general file on Africa, for example, includes a signed invitation with attachments from Alioune Diop for the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC 75), an open letter from Abdias do Nascimento, president of the Negro Experimental Theatre in Brazil to the First World Festival of Negro Arts (1966), background information on Ethiopia and Selassie University in Addis Ababa, three statements by Congressman Charles Diggs, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa in 1972, and a special issue of Binding Ties (September 1973) on famine in Africa. The Art folder deals partly with the Black Arts Movement. The section on Politics is divided into local New York, electoral and grassroots politics. The Cold War files, the largest in the series, include extensive notes and comments written by Guinier in reaction to a special Newsweek issue, "The Negro in America". The Communications folder deals for the most part with the cancellation of Tony Brown's educational television program "Black Journal" by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The Community Affairs file documents charges of racial discrimination brought by the Haralsan County Day Care Center, a black Appalachian community concern in Georgia, against the Appalachian Regional Council in the matter of early education of black and poor children. The Economics file includes some writings by the black economist Andrew Brimmer and articles on small black businesses and the issue of black reparations. The Employment folder includes articles on blacks in the railroad industry, unemployment in Harlem and Jim Crow practices in local and federal government in the 1940s and 1950s. The file Prisons and Prisoners consists mostly of printed matter on the 1971 Attica uprising and the Soledad Brothers. The files under Racism include a 124p. typescript "Character and Consequences of Race Relations in Twentieth Century America" (author unknown).
Finally, the Unions file includes the transcript of a 1974 interview with Cleveland Robinson.
Portraits of Ewart Guinier and family.
Ewart Guinier with CLR James, Herbert Aptheker, Lerone Bennett, with Derek Bok and Ephraim Isaac, and with participants at the Rosslyn Conference.
UPW officials, including Abram Flaxer and Thomas Richardson. UPW conventions, organizing conferences, fundraising affairs, meetings and demonstrations.
Also portraits of Helen Armstead Johnson, Hugh Mulzac, Robert Justice, Herbert Aptheker, Betty Shabbazz and her daughters (1972), Rosa Guy, A. B. Spellman and Sterling Stuckey.