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Finding aid to the Radical Elders Oral History Project records, 1947-1995
larc.ms.0423  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Preferred Citation
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition
  • Arrangement
  • Organizational History
  • Scope and Contents

  • Title: Radical Elders Oral History Project Records
    Date (inclusive): 1947-1995
    Date (bulk): 1978-1987
    Creator: Radical Elders Oral History Project
    Extent: 6.79 Cubic Feet (5 cartons and 2 manuscript boxes)
    Collection number: larc.ms.0423
    Accession number: 2020/001
    Repository: Labor Archives and Research Center
    J. Paul Leonard Library, Room 460
    San Francisco State University
    1630 Holloway Ave
    San Francisco, CA 94132-1722
    (415) 405-5571
    larc@sfsu.edu
    Abstract: The Radical Elders Oral History Project Records consist of audio recordings in cassette and reel-to-reel format, transcripts and project files documenting early twentieth century activists in the Communist Party as well as labor and other social justice movements. Interviewees include Sam Krieger, Emmy Lou Packard, Eluard Luchell McDaniel, Irving Fromer, Nori Ikeda Lafferty, Alice Quaytman, Carl Sullivan, Jack Wagner, Malvina Reynolds, William (Billy) Allan, Elaine Johnson, Frank Rowe, Stanley Koppel, Morris Sharnoff, Vaughn Love, and Ray Thompson. The bulk of the material dates from 1977-1987, and includes oral history recordings and transcripts, REOHP administrative documents, correspondence, budgets, progress reports, newsletters, newspaper clippings, and promotional materials, minutes and agendas, and other materials which document the activities of the REOHP and those who participated in the project, including interviewers, interviewees, and board members. Oher audio recordings in both reel-to-reel and cassette format are also present in the collection, some unidentified. These recordings appear to document lectures, radio broadcasts, conference presentations, social gatherings, and some miscellaneous music selections.
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English.

    Conditions Governing Access

    Collection is open for research.

    Conditions Governing Use

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Labor Archives and 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 and 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.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Radical Elders Oral History Project Records, larc.ms.0423, Labor Archives and Research Center, San Francisco State University.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Collection transferred from the Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library for Social Research to the Freedom Archives and then to the Labor Archives and Research Center in 2015; accession number 2015/016.

    Arrangement

    The records are arranged into three series. Series 1: Interviews, 1977-1995, undated; Series 2: Radical Elders Oral History Project Files; and Series 3: Other Recordings, 1947-1993, undated.

    Organizational History

    The Radical Elders Oral History Project (REOHP) was first organized in the mid-1970s by Bruce Kaiper and Lou Laub, owner of the Ark Bookshop in Berkeley; and Fred Cody of Cody's Books. The project sought to record the memories of elderly (defined as 65 or older) West Coast radicals and labor activists who were active in the social movements of the 1920s and 1930s, and to use their oral histories for educational purposes. Their goals were four-fold: to develop research archives, make interviews available to mass audiences through media and other educational forums, hold oral history training workshops for the public, and sponsor public events to celebrate this radical heritage. By offering younger radicals the opportunity to interview elders, organizers hoped the project would encourage intergenerational contact and solidarity. Interviewees included former Communist Party members, prominent labor organizers, anti-war activists, professors, journalists, writers, artists, and army veterans. Alongside the recording and transcribing of interviews, many of which could run ten hours or longer, REOHP organized oral history workshops, radio programs, slide shows, documentary films, a speaker series in schools and at union programs, and other educational forums. Between 1978-1981, the organization also conducted annual retreats at Camp Cazadero in Sonoma County, where participants could socialize and attend symposiums on social, political, and labor issues.
    REOHP was primarily volunteer-run, with one paid staff-person and a board of directors which provided executive oversight. The project depended on small grants, donations, and fundraising benefits to support its many initatives. In March 1978, REOHP successfully filed for incorporation as a nonprofit organization in the state of California.
    In 1979 Jeff Johnson replaced Bruce Kaiper as director; Kaiper was unable to keep working due in part to health issues and the limited income the organization was able to pay. Other personnel included, at one time or another, Marcia Perlstein, Sam Krieger (before his death in 1981), Tuz Mende, Richard Bermack, Pat and Fred Cody, Marge Lasky, Lou and Edith Laub, Al and Ann Wasserman, Virginia Malbin, Harold Rossman, Peter Carroll, Harry Sheer, Richard Bermack, Eleanor Walden, Hank Levi, and Laurie Zoloth. Additional interviewers included Peter Carroll, Mike Munoz, and Elaine Johnson (Zahan). Richard Bermack was the project's chief photographer.
    Transcribing the cassette tapes, before the age of personal computers, was a major obstacle. In about 1982 it was decided to stop interviewing people and conducting programs, a controversial decision. However, the project was known in the community and people started donating interviews they had done with their relatives and others whose history they felt should be recorded, as well as a variety of other materials. In about 1987, the holdings of the project and about $1500 in funds were given to the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute in Berkeley to finish the transcribing and to serve as a repository for the collection.

    Scope and Contents

    The Radical Elders Oral History Project collection consists of audio recordings in cassette and reel-to-reel format, transcripts and project files documenting early twentieth century activists in the Communist Party as well as labor and other social justice movements. Interviewees include Sam Krieger, Emmy Lou Packard, Eluard Luchell McDaniel, Irving Fromer, Nori Ikeda Lafferty, Alice Quaytman, Carl Sullivan, Jack Wagner, Malvina Reynolds, William (Billy) Allan, Elaine Johnson, Frank Rowe, Stanley Koppel, Morris Sharnoff, Vaughn Love, and Ray Thompson. The bulk of the material dates from 1977-1987, and includes oral history recordings and transcripts, REOHP administrative documents, correspondence, budgets, progress reports, newsletters, newspaper clippings, and promotional materials, minutes and agendas, and other materials which document the activities of the REOHP and those who participated in the project, including interviewers, interviewees, and board members. Oher audio recordings in both reel-to-reel and cassette format are also present in the collection, some unidentified. These recordings appear to document lectures, radio broadcasts, conference presentations, social gatherings, and some miscellaneous music selections.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Communists -- United States -- Interviews.
    Labor unions -- Organizing -- United States.
    Oral histories.
    Political activists -- California -- Interviews.
    San Francisco Bay Area (Calif.) -- History.
    Artists -- California -- San Francisco Bay Area.