Scope and arrangement
The Pettis Perry Papers have been arranged in three series: Personal Papers; Communist Party; and the Smith Act Trial.
The Pettis Perry papers are arranged in three series:
The PERSONAL PAPERS series, 1950-1967, (.5 linear ft.)includes a folder of biographical information which contains Perry's passport; statements concerning his death, including those from the Soviet Communist Party, William L. Patterson, and Gus Hall; obituaries; notes and draft for a eulogy; a typescript and printed copy of Richard O. Boyer's 1951 profile, “Pettis Perry, the Story of a Working Class Leader;” and correspondence from Rose Perry to Chicago librarian Margaret Burroughs regarding Perry's death and the disposition of his library. Additional biographical information may be found in a folder containing an outline for Perry's planned autobiography in this series, as well as in his statements to the jury in the SMITH ACT TRIALseries.
There are four folders of letters written by Perry to his wife and children from January 1955 to April 1957, during his term in federal prison. They discuss his health, family matters, and current events such as the Emmett Till trial, colonialism, the civil rights movement, political campaigns, and the Brooklyn Dodgers. A folder of general correspondence includes post cards from Perry's last trip to Europe; a letter to his aunt discussing his indictment; letters to Freedomwayseditor Esther Jackson and W.E.B. DuBois regarding his work on a book about Africa; and requests for research materials.
The series also contains material for a course taught by Perry at the Jefferson School of Social Science, 1952-1953; the detailed outline for his planned autobiography; and notes, an incomplete preliminary article, and reference materials for an unfinished book about the Congo (now Zaire.)
The COMMUNIST PARTY series, 1942-1965, (1 linear ft.)comprises the bulk of the Perry Papers. It documents his tenure in New York, from 1948 to 1955, as Secretary of the Negro Commission, Chairman of the Farm Commission, and Alternate Member of the Executive Committee, and his membership on the Southern California District Board upon his return to California in 1957. A folder of general correspondence includes letters from Claude Lightfoot, Eugene Dennis, Eslanda Robeson, and others discussing such subjects as relations with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and African-American community, anti-colonial movements, and party meetings. The National Executive Committee folder consists of assorted speeches, reports, and memoranda sent to Perry by William Z. Foster and others concerning tactics, organization, and ideology. It includes a transcript of discussions by party leaders concerning labor unions in preparation for the national convention of 1954.
The series also contains Perry's writings regarding the Communist Party-USA's position on the “Negro Question” and the issue of self-determination, debated at length throughout the 1940s and 1950s. These discussions may be found in the folders of both the Negro Commission and the Southern California District Board. In addition, there are memoranda, reports, and speeches concerning a variety of topics such as the role of African Americans in World War II, elections campaigns from 1944 to 1958, colonialism, labor unions, and ideological questions.
Subject files have been created reflecting a variety of printed material and other writings retained by Perry concerning such topics as the Walter-McCarran Act, Mexican workers, regional Communist Parties, school desegregation, Jewish organizations, and trade unions. A folder for Cuba includes excerpts of writings by Blas Roca Calderio and Fabio Grobart on socialism and discrimination and a speech by Fidel Castro. A miscellaneous international folder includes articles by Eslanda Robeson on world events for publication in Freedomand a booklet of speeches and reports from the 1952 World Peace Council in Berlin. The Southern Christian Leadership folder contains a draft report by John Henry discussing the Party's relationship with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The SMITH ACT TRIAL series, 1952-1953, (.5 linear ft.)contains manuscripts and reprints of Perry's opening and closing statements to the jury and motions in the nine-month conspiracy trial of seventeen Communist leaders at which he represented himself. The statements provide substantial biographical information and outline Perry's political philosophy and goals.
Also of significance are newsletters and correspondence from the Families of the Smith Act Victims, an organization founded in August 1951 to give financial and moral support to relatives of those indicted or imprisoned under the Act. Money was raised to send their children to summer camp, print pamphlets decrying the treatment of Smith Act families, subsidize family visits to prisoners, and join amnesty movements. There is also a folder for the National Trade Union Committee for the Repeal of the Smith Act containing lists, memoranda, and resolutions. Additional material regarding the “New York Seventeen” case (United States v. Flynn, et al.)and the Families of Smith Act Victims committee may be found in the microfilmed records of the Civil Rights Congress.