Scope and Content
Material Cataloged Separately
Title: Elaine Black Yoneda Collection,
Date (inclusive): ca. 1900-1991 (Predominantly 1930-1988)
Accession number: 1992/033 & 1992/055
Yoneda, Elaine Black, 1906-1988
Extent: 3.75 cubic feet
San Francisco State University. Labor Archives & Research Center
San Francisco, California 94132
Shelf location: For current information on the location of these
materials, please consult the Center's online catalog.
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
[Identification of item], Elaine Black Yoneda Collection, 1992/033 & 1992/055, Labor
Archives & Research Center, San Francisco State University.
The collection consists of accessions from two donors, Karl Yoneda and Vivian McGuckin
Rainieri, the biographer of Elaine Black Yoneda. Material donated to the Labor Archives
by Rainieri consists of documents and visual images collected in the process of writing
The Red Angel: The Life and Times of Elaine Black Yoneda, 1906-1988 (N.Y.,
International Publishers, 1991). Most of the biographical information below is from that
work. The accessions, 1992/033 and 1993/017 from Ms Rainieri and 1992/055 from Mr.
Yoneda, are grouped together for the convenience of researchers. The collection was
processed in fall 1992 by Olive James.
Rose Elaine Buchman was born in Connecticut to Nathan Buchman and Mollie Kvetnay, who had
met as child laborers in a Russian match factory. Elaine was raised in a predominantly
Jewish section of Brooklyn, New York, in a strongly pro-labor (and non-religious)
environment. In 1920, the family moved to the San Diego area and in 1924 to Los Angeles.
A "spoiled and ornery child," Elaine did not realize till age 15 that her parents
actively supported the Russian revolution and related causes --which were apparently of
no interest to the teenager. She quit high school in her senior year and took her first
job with an elegant residential hotel, where Elaine maintained her own sartorial elegance
while the world protested the convictions of Tom Mooney, Warren Billings, J.B.McNamara,
Sacco and Vanzetti.
At the urging of her parents, Elaine attended a meeting of the Young Workers League.
There she met Edward Francis Russell, Jr., also the child of a labor activist. Neither
young person was interested in the movement. They married in 1925. In 1927, daughter
Joyce Russell was born.
Intending to go on to dinner and a show, Ed and the 23-year-old Elaine agreed to meet
another couple at a demonstration of the unemployed. The demonstration was the first time
Elaine saw the Los Angeles "Red Squad" in action, or that her (second) husband-to-be,
Karl "Hama" Yoneda, caught sight of her. In answer to a police inquiry, Elaine quickly
changed Ed's nickname, Blackie, into a surname; thus, Elaine "Black" came into being.
On March 6, 1930, she went to observe a demonstration, part of a national day of protest
over unemployment. She saw police brutalize an elderly woman, learned that the
International Labor Defense would defend the woman, and went to offer herself as a
witness. Despite Elaine's testimony as to the woman's innocence, the garment worker was
convicted. Following this experience in court, Elaine joined the International Labor
Defense. In 1931, she took a job with ILD. The next day, "Karl Hama" was arrested and
beaten by the police. According to Rainieri:
On the third day after the demonstration, "Red" Hynes [Squad Captain] called the ILD
and said, "Come and pick up the Jap, he's dying anyway." Elaine...rushed to the jail,
posted bail, and took the badly-injured Hama to a doctor. "He was a bloody mess," Elaine
said...The meeting in jail marked the first time that Elaine and Karl exchanged
words...He was intrigued...and wrote her a poem while in jail...
Elaine soon became ILD district secretary and, shortly thereafter, she joined the
Communist Party. She proudly maintained party membership until her death in 1988, a fact
of enduring interest to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As uncertain situations
arose with police, Elaine used a number of aliases, including "Betsy Ross." She was
involved in ILD activity surrounding a number of agricultural strikes: cotton workers in
Tulare, grape workers in Lodi, apple workers in Santa Rosa. Elaine was active in the ILD
prisoner support program and made monthly visits to prisoners who included Tom Mooney,
Jim McNamara, and others arrested under Criminal Syndicalism laws.
See Series, " Labor Trials/Bail/Defense."
By this time, Elaine had separated from Ed Russell and was living in San Francisco with
Karl. They took part in the waterfront activities of 1934. She had an appointment to meet
Nick Bordoise when he and Howard Sperry were killed in a police attack on "Bloody
Thursday," July 5, 1934. The General Strike followed.
In her fight against the Criminal Syndicalism legislation, Elaine was arrested at the
Dolores Park rally of March 1935. She made court appearances with Leo Gallagher and
George Anderson. Later that year she was involved with the Lumber and Sawmill Workers
Strike in Eureka. Prior to the Dolores Park trial, Karl and Elaine took a train (separate
cars, because of the Mann Act) to Washington state, where they could be legally married.
Among Elaine's activities in the late 30s were participation in the Free Tom Mooney
movement, National Scottsboro Week, the Angelo Herndon appeal, the Salinas Lettuce
Strike, and Spanish Civil War relief. Supported by the Communist Party, Elaine in 1939
ran with Archie Brown ("Black and Brown") for San Francisco Supervisor. Her platform
called for free day nurseries, low cost housing, an anti-racism stance, protection of
civil rights, and protest against the "Imperialist War" gathering in Europe. The two
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Karl and 2-year-old Tommy (named for
Tom Mooney) were to be interned; Elaine was not included in the order because she was
white. Her daughter Joyce, from her marriage with Ed Russell, was sent to live with
Elaine's parents. Elaine insisted on remaining with Karl and baby Tom when they were
shipped to Manzanar. The account of those days may be found in her testimony, and Karl's,
before the Commission on Wartime Relocation.
"Japanese American Wartime Relocation."
After Karl was accepted in the
U.S.Army, Tommy and Elaine returned to San Francisco. She and her husband began a
diligent and revealing correspondence.
"Correspondence," Folders labeled, "Letters to Karl, 1942-43," and "...1944-45."
After the war, the family bought a chicken ranch near Petaluma. When a Sonoma chapter of
the Civil Rights Congress was formed in 1947, Elaine became chair. During the Cold War
years, the Yonedas continued their usual political activities; and the FBI continued its
surveillance. In 1960 the farm was sold and the Yonedas returned to San Francisco. Elaine
was active with ILWU Auxiliary No. 16. She served as officer and regional and
international delegate. Karl's mother lived in Hiroshima, and the couple were
particularly active in the "Ban the Bomb" and other peace movements. Elaine pursued
equal-pay issues, spoke at Negro History Week, celebrated
benefits, supported striking workers, etc. She became a member of Local 29, AFL-CIO
Office and Professional Employes Union (and picketed ILWU).
The Yonedas took part in annual pilgrimages to the site of the Manzanar internment camp.
With the Japanese American Citizens League and others, they successfully campaigned for
the repeal of Title 2 (emergency detention) of the McCarran Internal Security Act.
Rainieri writes that "Elaine's last major work before her death was participation in the
campaign for Redress-Reparations for incarcerated Japanese Americans." Elaine Black
Yoneda died in San Francisco in 1988. Many tributes from family, friends, and colleagues
may be found in the Series "Articles, Clippings, Remembrances."
Scope and Content
The Elaine Black Yoneda Collection is divided into eleven series:
- Series I.
Unions and Union Activities
- Series II. Political Activities
- Series III. Labor Trials/Bail/Defense
- Series IV. Japanese
- Series V. Correspondence
- Series VI. Buchman
- Series VII. Yoneda Family
- Series VIII.
Oral Histories and Interviews
- Series IX. Articles, Clippings,
- Series X. FBI Files
- Series XI. Vivian
McGuckin Rainieri Research Materials
While the earliest material dates from 1908, the majority of documents cover the 1930s
through 70s, with remembrances from the death of Elaine Yoneda in 1988.
Among original documents of particular historical interest are notes for a history of
ILWU Auxiliary No. 16 and a report entitled "The ILA and the Courts During the 1934
Strike," the latter compiled by the ILA Defense Committee. It is a carbon typescript with
a pencilled list of seaman arrested, country of origin, deportation notes, etc. This
report numbers 39 pages.
There is considerable documentation on the internment camp at Manzanar, including the
text of a 1942 address to the Commonwealth Club by the camp director. The address was
called "Manzanar from the Inside." Other views of the "inside" may be found in the
testimonies by Elaine and Karl before the U.S. Commission on Wartime and Civilian
Internment, and in the compilation, "A Few Reminders of Manzanar, 1941-1992."
Among family papers may be found a sizeable correspondence from Elaine to Karl during his
service in World War II.
A few letters from daughter Joyce
appear in Elaine's handwriting. They appear to have been copied by Elaine for re-mailing
There are oral histories, photographs, audiotapes, and articles, and
a number of tributes gathered in eulogy upon Elaine's death. And there are substantial
files from the FBI, secured under the Freedom of Information Act.
Material Cataloged Separately
- Photographs, 3 folders -Relocated to LARC Photograph Collection #5, "People A-Z," under "Yoneda, Elaine Black"
- Audiotapes, 13 -Relocated to the LARC Audiotape Collection
Women's Rights Handbook, California Department of Justice, Information Pamphlet No. 9, 1976
- Newspapers, 6 issues of
Union W.A.G.E., May-June 1975 through Nov.-Dec/ 1976, nos. 29; 32-35; 38
- Buttons and badges
- "Free Mooney" material, including Poster (in LARC Poster Collection), Photo, and Book, E. E. Ward's
The Gentle Dynamiter (in LARC Reference Collection)
Beside the Yonedas, a number of labor leaders are highlighted in this collection (e.g.,
Tom Gallagher, "Blackie" Myers, Tom Mooney), particularly in Series 2, "Labor Trials/Bail