Celeste Strack Kaplan Papers, 1931-1996

Processed by Julia Bazar
Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research
6120 South Vermont Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90044
Phone: (323) 759-6063
Fax: (323) 759-2252
Email: archives@socallib.org
URL: http://www.socallib.org/
© 2001
Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research. All rights reserved.

Register of the Celeste Strack Kaplan Papers, 1931-1996

Collection number: MSS 035

Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research

Los Angeles, California

Contact Information:

  • Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research
  • 6120 South Vermont Avenue
  • Los Angeles, CA, 90044
  • Phone: (323) 759-6063
  • Fax: (323) 759-2252
  • Email: archives@socallib.org
  • URL: http://www.socallib.org/
Processed by:
Julia Bazar
Date Completed:
Jan. 2001
Encoded by:
Julia Bazar
© 2001 Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research. All rights reserved.

Descriptive Summary

Title: Celeste Strack Kaplan Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1931-1996
Collection number: MSS 035
Creator: Kaplan, Celeste Strack, 1915-1998
Extent: 3 boxes, 1 half-box, 1 oversize box

3 linear feet
Repository: Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research
Los Angeles, CA 90044
Abstract: Papers of a 1930s student radical and Communist Party member. The collection covers her activities from her undergraduate debating career through her resignation from the party in 1958.
Language: English.

Administrative Information


Donated to the Library by Celeste Strack Kaplan's husband, Leon Kaplan, November 10, 1999.


The collection is available for research only at the Library's facility in Los Angeles. The Library is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Researchers are encouraged to call or email the Library indicating the nature of their research query prior to making a visit.

Publication Rights

Copyright has not been assigned to The Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research. Researchers may make single copies of any portion of the collection, but publication from the collection will be allowed only with the express written permission of the Library's director. It is not necessary to obtain written permission to quote from a collection. When the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research gives permission for publication, it is 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], Celeste Strack Kaplan Papers, The Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research, Los Angeles, California.


Celeste Strack Kaplan was born in 1915 in Chicago; the Strack family moved to San Diego during her childhood. After graduating from high school (1932), she earned a full scholarship to the University of Southern California (USC) where she was the only member of the freshman class to achieve an A average. She was a member of the championship women's debate team. Raised in a Republican household, Kaplan became involved in radical student politics at USC and was expelled in 1934 for her political activities. During the summer, Kaplan returned to San Diego and worked with the National Student League (NSL) and the American League Against War and Fascism, organizing in the local high schools before enrolling in UCLA. She also covered the 1934 San Francisco General Strike for the NSL's newspaper.
As a UCLA student, Kaplan continued her association with the NSL (organizing at UCLA and Los Angeles Junior College). She had worked on organizing the 1934 Student Strike for Peace at USC, and also the 1935 Student Strike for Peace at UCLA. Kaplan and four male students (including the Student Body President) were suspended in November 1934 for attempting to arrange an open student forum. Kaplan specifically was charged with "persistent violation of university regulations including the holding of communistic meetings on its grounds." A large scale, negative publicity campaign was launched with support from a number of liberal organizations. Kaplan and the other students were reinstated with full credit in December 1934. In 1935, she was part of a 24-member delegation to Cuba in response to a request from the outlawed National Labor Federation of Cuba (pre-revolutionary Cuba was controlled by U.S. corporate interests). The delegation included various labor union leaders, writer Clifford Odets, and others; Kaplan was the NSL delegate. The delegation was arrested upon their arrival and deported. Kaplan graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor of Arts and went on to receive a Masters of Economics from UC Berkeley and a Masters of Social Work from UCLA. While in graduate school Kaplan continued to work on youth related projects including the American Youth Congress, American Student Union movement, and the YWCA's work on the Federal Youth Act.
Kaplan was a member of the YCL (Young Communist League) as early as the summer of 1934, though she denied party membership at the time of her suspension. She married fellow party member, Leon Kaplan sometime in the 1940s. She continued to use her maiden name (Strack) through the 1950s. During the 1940s and 1950s, Kaplan wrote regularly for Political Affairs magazine, which was sub-titled "A magazine devoted to the theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism," under her own name and two pen names: Catherine Welland and Mary Norris. Her writing also appeared in New Masses and Mainstream. In 1948, as the Educational Director of the Communist Party of California, Kaplan testified in Hawaii in defense of John and Aiko Reinecke, a husband and wife both dismissed from teaching jobs for alleged communist affiliation. Kaplan also went on a speaking tour of the islands sponsored by the Hawaii Civil Liberties Committee (HCLC). 1948 was also the year she taught a class in "The History of Socialism in the United States" at the California Labor School. During this time period, Kaplan's husband was Labor Secretary for the party. In the early 1950's, the couple was sent underground, moving all over the country, sometime separated, and unable to contact their families. Their only daughter, Anna was born (1954) during this time. In 1955, they re-emerged (it was at this point that Kaplan returned to UCLA for her Masters of Social Work). In 1958, the Kaplans left the party as part of a mass resignation. This was a period that found many disillusioned with the Communist Party who went on to create other alternative political organizations
After leaving the party, Kaplan went on to become the director of EL NIDO, a multi-ethnic social service agency serving children and families in Los Angeles County. She retired for the first time in 1983, going on to become founder and first president of the Los Angeles Roundtable for Children (1983-1990), help create the County Department of Children and Family Services (1984), and teach at the USC School of Social Work. In 1990, she retired again, moving with her husband to Ventura County to be near their daughter and her family, but Kaplan still taught at the Ventura County USC School of Social Work. She died in 1998.

Scope and Content

This collection contains correspondence, flyers, articles, teaching materials, manuscript drafts, a thesis, a book, clippings and periodicals. The collection is divided fairly evenly between clippings, published articles and unpublished letters and other collected materials. The materials give an inside view of the radical student movement of the 1930s through correspondence, flyers and periodicals, and the life and achievements of a specific, gifted student, including her prize winning record as a debater at USC. It also documents some of her activities as the Educational Director of the Communist Party of California in the 1940s. It contains no reference to her period underground except for one undated letter in which she tells her correspondent where she is really staying as opposed to where she is "officially" staying. The collection ends with her resignation from the party in 1958. It contains no information on her later career as a social worker and teacher.
The collection also contains fairly extensive clippings and periodicals files. Besides the usual materials the collection contains two volumes, a 1960 thesis about the New Deal and Youth, in which Kaplan is mentioned, and a well annotated book (both directly on the page and on detailed strips of paper stuck between the pages), The Political Economy of Growth by Paul A. Baran, which Kaplan apparently used in writing State Monopoly Capitalism. Serril Gerber, who is also mentioned in the Blacklisted Teachers Collections, and radical lawyer Richard Gladstein, also make appearances in Kaplan's papers.


The collection is divided into three series: Student Period, Communist Party Period , and Clippings and Periodicals

Related Material at the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research

Title: Richard Gladstein Papers,
Date: 1930-1969
Physical Description: 10 boxes
Title: Abraham Minkus Papers: Blacklisted Teachers in Los Angeles,
Date: 1945-1983
Physical Description: 4 boxes


Kaplan, Anna L. Born Underground, in Red Diapers: Growing Up in the Communist Leftedited by Kaplan, Judy and Shapiro, LinnUrbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1998.

Collection Contents


Series 1. Student Period, 1933-1945

Physical Description: 16 folders, 1 oversize folder

*Box 5 is an oversize newspaper box

Scope and Content Note

This series covers the period that Kaplan was a student at the University of Southern California (USC) and the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), as well as her graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Materials deal primarily with her political activities while at UCLA, though one folder refers to political activities at USC and several folders concern her work with American Student Union (ASU) and the YWCA, concerning the Federal Youth Act. For more information on her debating career and other academic honors see the Clippings and Periodicals series. Of special interest are materials relating to her 1935 trip to Cuba, her correspondence with Mary Beard, and several student papers including her 1945 Masters Thesis in Economics.


Series is arranged chronologically.
Box-folder 1/1

USC - Student's Cooperative League Petition, c. 1933

Box-folder 1/2

NSL, YCL (inc. UCLA Suspension), 1934

Box-folder 1/3

San Francisco General Strike, 1934

Box-folder 1/4

Miscellaneous Flyers and Other Information, c. 1934-1935

Box-folder 1/5

Strike for Peace, 1935

Box-folder *5/10

Strike Against War Poster, April 12, [1935?]

Box-folder 1/6

Delegation to Cuba, 1935

Box-folder 1/7-1/8

American Youth Congress (AYC)

Box-folder 1/7

Flyers, Proceedings, 1935-1939

Box-folder 1/8

Congressional Record, 1937

Box-folder 1/9

American Student Union (ASU), 1935-1938, 1996

Box-folder 1/10

YWCA and The Woman's Press - Federal Youth Act, 1937, n.d.

Box-folder 1/11

Letter from Mary Beard (wife of Charles Beard), 1939

Box-folder 1/12

Paper on American Agriculture for a Business Cycles Class, 1939

Box-folder 1/13

Paper on American Capitalism versus American Democracy, 1940

Box-folder 1/14

American Youth for Democracy, 1944

Box-folder 1/15-1/16

Master's Thesis - The Industrial Development of the West from 1929 to 1944, 1945


Series 2. Communist Party Period, 1948-1960, n.d.

Physical Description: 19 folders, 2 volumes

Scope and Content Note

This series covers Kaplan's period as an active member of the Communist Party of California, including her teaching and writing activities, as well as her resignation from the party in 1958. A significant percentage of the series concerns her appearance as a witness at the John and Aiko Reinecke Trial in Hawaii. These materials (which documents an early blacklisted teacher case, the political and social climate in Hawaii before statehood, and Kaplan's political beliefs and responses to her environment), include background material on Hawaii, correspondence, and a draft copy of her Hawaii Journal that was published in the People's Daily World (see Clippings and Periodicals series for published version).
Of special interest are the class notes from the class she taught at the California Labor School, and correspondence concerning articles written for New Masses, Political Affairs, and Mainstream (for the actual articles see the Clippings and Periodicals series), the partial draft of a book-length manuscript State Monopoly Capitalism in the United States. This series also contains a small set of subject files (containing quotes from and summaries of written materials ranging from Lincoln to Marx), which may relate either to her teaching or writing activities.


This series is arranged chronologically, except for the undated Subject files at the end of the series which are arranged alphabetically.
Box-folder 1/17

New Masses - Correspondence re: Central Valley Project Articles (unpublished), 1945

Box-folder 2/1

History of Socialism in the United States, California Labor School, taught by Celeste Strack Kaplan, 1948

Box-folder 2/2-2/6


Box-folder 2/2-2/3

Reinecke Case

Box-folder 2/2

Speaking tour and Hawaii Diary (Draft Manuscript), 1948, n.d.

Box-folder 2/3

Background and Follow-up (also Statehood), 1946-1976, n.d.

Box-folder 2/4

Charles Fujimoto - Correspondence, Speeches, Professional Papers, 1948

Box-folder 2/5

Hawaii Civil Liberties Committee (HCLC), 1948

Box-folder 2/6

Background: Statehood and Smith Act, c. 1952

Box-folder 2/7

Political Affairs - Response to Letters to the Editor re: an Article by "Catherine Welland," 1954

Box-folder 2/8

Resignation from the Communist Party - Correspondence, etc., 1952-1958

Box-folder 2/9-2/11

State Monopoly Capitalism in the United States - Draft Manuscript

Box-folder 2/9

Chapters 1-2, c. 1958

Box-folder 2/10

Chapters 3-4, c. 1958

Box-folder 2/11

Chapter 5 (two versions), c. 1958

Box-folder 3/1-3/9

Subject Files

Box-folder 3/1

Confiscation of Property, n.d.

Box-folder 3/2

Constitutional Change, n.d.

Box-folder 3/3

Dialectical & Historical Materialism, n.d.

Box-folder 3/4

Dictatorship of Proletariat and Restraints on Loyalists (Tories), n.d.

Box-folder 3/5

Force and Violence, n.d.

Box-folder 3/6

Lincoln and Schurz on Unjust War, n.d.

Box-folder 3/7

Marxism - Not Dogma, n.d.

Box-folder 3/8

Monopolies Violate National Interests, n.d.

Box-folder 3/9

Right of Revolution, n.d.

Box-folder 4/1-4/2

Bound Volumes

Box-folder 4/1

Book with Extensive Annotation and Notes ( The Political Economy of Growth by Paul A. Baran), c. 1957-1958

Box-folder 4/2

Thesis: The New Deal and Youth by George Phillip Rawick, 1960


Series 3. Clippings and Periodicals, 1932-1958

Physical Description: 8 folders and 8 oversize folders

*Box 5 is an oversize newspaper box

Scope and Content Note

This series consists of a large number of clippings collected by Kaplan and/or her mother documenting her academic career focusing primarily on her debating successes and her suspension from UCLA. Other clippings include the printed version of her Hawaiian Diary (see the Communist Party series for manuscript version), and a 6-part series of articles by John Gates on Why I Quit the Communist Party, published in the New York Post around the time of Kaplan's own resignation from the Party. The periodicals include student publications (put out by the National Student League, local chapters and similar organizations) and Marxist periodicals that Kaplan wrote for under a variety of names. There are also single periodicals or articles within some of the clippings and other files.
Also of interest is an exchange of articles between J.G. Shaw, in Liberty Magazine entitled Will the Communists Get Our Girls in College? One Father's Story (Sept. 7, 1935), and his daughter, Nancy Bedford-Jones, whose response, My Father is a Liar, in the September 3, 1935 New Masses, identifies the actual author as H. Bedford-Jones and cites various distortions and lies in his article. The Liberty article can be found in the "Miscellaneous Articles" folder under Clippings and the New Masses article under Periodicals.
Box-folder *5/1-3/11


Box-folder *5/1-*5/2


Box-folder *5/1

Debate Club and Honors, 1931-1934

Box-folder *5/2

Development of Student Movement (including Anti-War Activities), 1932-1934

Box-folder *5/3

UCLA Expulsion and Aftermath, 1934

Box-folder *5/4

Cuba Trip, 1935

Box-folder *5/5

Other Publicity, 1935-1936, 1939, n.d.

Box-folder *5/6-*5/7, 3/10


Box-folder *5/6

Hawaiian Diary, People's Daily World, Oct. 8, 1948

Box-folder *5/7

Kaplan Trip, Reinecke Case and Fujimoto, 1948, n.d.

Box-folder 3/10

Background, 1952-1953

Box-folder 3/11

John Gates - 6 part Series: Why I Quit the Communist Party, New York Post, 1958

Box-folder 3/12-3/17, *5/8-*5/9


Box-folder 3/12

Student Review -National Student League, 1934

Box-folder 3/13

Other National Student League Publications and The Student Outlook: The Intercollegiate Socialist Review - League for Industrial Democracy, 1934

Box-folder 3/14

National Student Mirror - National Student Federation of America, 1934-1935

Box-folder *5/8

Student Outpost and College News, 1933-1935

Box-folder *5/9

New Masses and Time, 1934-1936, 1945

Box-folder 3/15-3/16

Political Affairs - Articles by Strack, "Welland," & "Norris"

Box-folder 3/15


Box-folder 3/16


Box-folder 3/17

Mainstream - Article by Strack, February 1957