Scope and Contents
Title: Holland Roberts California Labor School collection
Roberts, Holland D. (Holland De Witte), 1895-1976
Date (inclusive): 1944-1957
Collection number: larc.ms.0243
Accession number: 1987/088
0.75 cubic ft.
Labor Archives and Research Center
J. Paul Leonard Library, Room 460
San Francisco State University
1630 Holloway Ave
San Francisco, CA 94132-1722
The bulk of the Holland Roberts California Labor School collection consists of the first draft of Roberts' memoirs, written
circa 1971, centering on his time at the California Labor School. The memoirs provide a retrospective view of the School and
Dr. Roberts' life, starting with his career as an associate professor at Stanford and through the closing of the School, and
concluding with post-California Labor School chapter fragments on academic freedom and the HUAC hearing in San Francisco in
1960. The collection also contains materials on the California Labor School, including correspondence by Dr. Roberts as well
as David Jenkins; class outlines on U.S. History and other classes Roberts taught; and a criticism of his outline by a colleague.
There is also a folder with class outlines from the Jefferson School of Social Science in New York which Roberts collected.
Location: Materials are stored onsite.
Collection is open for research.
Copyright has not been assigned to the Labor Archives & Research Center. All requests for permission to publish or quote from
materials must be submitted in writing to the Director of the Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the
Labor Archives & Research Center as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of
the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.
[Identification of item], Holland Roberts California Labor School Collection, larc.ms.0243, Labor Archives and Research Center,
San Francisco State University.
This collection was donated to the Labor Archives and Research Center in 1987 by Fiona St. John, the daughter of Holland Roberts,
accession number 1987/088.
This collection was processed by Carol Cuénod in June 1994.
Holland Roberts' higher education was at the University of Chicago where he received advanced degrees in English (1919) and
Education (1925). During his early career, he taught English at various midwest colleges and in New York City at Columbia
University. In 1934 he came to Stanford University as an assistant professor of education for English teachers and by 1939,
he was an associate professor. Dr. Roberts professional affiliations included the National Council of Teachers of English;
he served as president in 1937-38 and again in 1944. He was the author of textbooks, articles and research studies in the
field of education. His extra-curricular interests and activities included a lifelong study of the USSR, AFT organizing at
Stanford, campaigning for the freedom of Tom Mooney, and promoting a school for trade unionists and the new workers in WWII
industries. These activities served to identify Holland Roberts as a left-wing radical and Stanford University responded by
refusing to renew his contract in the Spring of 1944. As he was not tenured, the action served as dismissal without recourse.
Following his termination at Stanford, Dr. Roberts began his staff affiliation with the California Labor School by accepting
the post of educational director. When Dave Jenkins left as director in 1949, Roberts took that position and remained as the
head until the government closed the School in 1957.
Holland Roberts had been actively involved with the School prior to his employment as educational director. He writes of participating
in meetings which led to the establishment in 1942 of what was then known as the Tom Mooney Labor School, and he was listed
on the Board of Directors in the 1944 School catalog.
Throughout his life, Holland Roberts was an active leader in the peace movement and worked for friendship and cultural exchange
with socialist countries. His service as president of the American Russian Institute for 20 years gained him recognition as
an expert on the USSR. On his 80th birthday, he was commended by President Ford for his work improving relations between the
US and the USSR. The Supreme Soviet of the USSR also gave him the high honor of the Friendship of the Peoples Award.
The Holland Roberts California Labor School Collection is arranged in four series: Series 1: Memoirs; Series 2: Holland Roberts;
Series 3: California Labor School; and Series 4: Jefferson School of Social Science.
Scope and Contents
The bulk of the collection is a first draft of Holland Roberts' memoirs centering on his time at the California Labor School.
Most material is handwritten or typed with handwritten revisions. There are 28 folders representing material for approximately
23 chapters. The memoirs start with his career as an associate professor at Stanford and continue to the closing of the School.
There are post-California Labor School chapter fragments on academic freedom and the HUAC hearing in San Francisco in 1960.
A "Tentative Table of Contents" guided the organization of these folders.
Researchers will gain insight into the thinking and motivation of a radical academic in a period of intense repression. They
will find information on Holland Roberts' career at Stanford and the reason for his leaving that institution and becoming
a full-time staff member at the California Labor School. His writing is replete with rhetoric of the left-wing movement of
Holland Roberts tells of prominent and interesting teachers, students and supporters the California Labor School attracted.
There are pieces on Anton Refrigier (muralist), Bill Freeman (student) and William Crocker (banker). The spirited social and
cultural life is described in Chapters titled "The School as a Social Learning Center," "Personalities Around the School,"
and "1948: The School at its Peak."
An inside view of political oppression is told in "Escaping Subpoena Servers: Dave Goes Through the Skylight." Along with
a humorous view of Dave's attempt to avoid a server, Roberts tells of the dangerous implications of receiving a subpoena from
a touring investigating committee. Challenging the basic assumptions of government attacks is his chapter, "Were We Dominated
by the Communist Party?" Other chapters describe the action which led to the closing of the school.
Series III: "The California Labor School" has similar arrangement as the California Labor School Collection (1988/034) and
can be researched as a supplement to that collection. Correspondence contained in several different folders is by Dr. Roberts
as well as David Jenkins. Of interest is the folder titled "Veterans Program, Correspondence," which gives insight into the
reason for this program being discontinued after barely two years. There are six folders with class outlines on US History
and other classes Roberts taught. One folder is a criticism of his outline by a colleague. These outlines provide a classroom
view of the instruction which students received. A last folder has class outlines from the Jefferson School of Social Science
in New York which Holland Roberts collected.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
California Labor School.
Alternative schools--California--20th century.
Labor movement--Study and teaching.
Labor unions and education--United States.
Progressive education--California--20th century.