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McWilliams (Carey) Papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biography
  • Processing Information:
  • Preferred Citation
  • Related Collections
  • Scope and Content
  • Material Cataloged Separately
  • Publication Rights
  • Additional Collection Guide

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: The Bancroft Library
    Title: Carey McWilliams Papers
    creator: McWilliams, Carey, 1905-
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS C-H 46
    Physical Description: 35 linear feet (27 cartons, 1 oversize box, and 1 volume)
    Date (inclusive): 1921-1980
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.


    Collection is open for research.

    Acquisition Information

    The Carey McWilliams Papers were given to The Bancroft Library by Carey McWilliams in December 1975, with additions made by his wife, Iris Dornfield McWilliams in December 1982.


    Carey McWilliams was born December 13, 1905, in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, to Jeremiah Newby and Harriet Casley McWilliams. Jeremiah McWilliams was elected to the State Legislature in 1910, and the family moved to Denver. Carey was enrolled in Wolfe Hall Military Academy, and graduated from there in 1921, three months after the death of his father.
    McWilliams arrived in California to join his mother and brother in the spring of 1922. He received his J.D. from the University of Southern California in 1927. He passed the California bar and joined the law firm of Black and Hammack, which became Black, Hammack and McWilliams before his departure.
    In 1930, McWilliams married Dorothy Hedrick, daughter of an eminent mathematician and UCLA administrator. Their son, Wilson Carey McWilliams, is a professor of political science. In 1941, they were divorced, and he married Iris Dornfield, the author. Their son, Jerry is an authority on the technology of recording equipment.
    In 1938, McWilliams was appointed California's Commissioner of Immigration and Housing by Governor Cuthbert Olson. Stunned by the living conditions of migrant workers and by their treatment when they tried to organize labor unions, he became an enemy of the Associated Farmers, the greatest single power bloc in California politics at the time. When Earl Warren was elected governor in 1942, with support of the Associated Farmers, McWilliams was dismissed as Commissioner.
    After leaving state government, McWilliams dedicated himself to social and political causes. Although primarily a writer and journalist, he applied his legal skills where he felt them to be appropriate. During the Zoot Suit riots of 1942 and 1943 in Los Angeles, he participated in the fight to free convicted teenagers in the Sleepy Lagoon case. He was also active with the Committee for the Foreign-Born to protect the rights of aliens during World War II.
    McWilliams met Freda Kirchwey, editor of The Nation, in 1945. She appointed him contributing editor in 1948 and in 1951 asked him to come to New York to edit a special issue on civil liberties: he never left. After a year as associate editor and three years as editorial director, McWilliams became editor of the magazine in 1955 and retained that post until his retirement in 1975.
    Author of more than 20 books, Carey McWilliams wrote in detail on the plight of migrant workers in California, Japanese-American internment during World War II, anti-Semitism and the status regarding several minority groups in America. He often mentioned that writing was his occupation, injustice his preoccupation. In his retirement, McWilliams continued to write and speak out against injustice. He died at University Hospital in Manhattan on June 27, 1980.

    Additional Note

    Contact Information:

    1. The Bancroft Library.
    2. University of California, Berkeley
    3. Berkeley, California, 94720-6000
    4. Phone: (510) 642-6481
    5. Fax: (510) 642-7589
    6. Email: bancref@library.berkeley.edu
    7. URL: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu

    Processing Information:

    Processed by:
    Linda Jordan and Alex Hardy
    Date Completed:
    December 1999
    Encoded by:
    James Lake

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Carey McWilliams papers, BANC MSS C-H 46, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Related Collections

    Honorable in All Things: The Memoirs of Carey McWilliams [oral history transcript],BANC MSS 82/109 c Carey McWilliams. Papers relating to the Western Writers Congress, 1936-1937, BANC MSS 81/100 c
    Carey McWilliams miscellaneous correspondence, 1969-1977, BANC MSS 95/101 z California. Governor (1939-1943: Olson). Letters to Fulmer Mood: Sacramento, Calif.: 1941 June 18 and July 24, BANC MSS C-Z 13
    Rowe, Frank A. The Levering oath: a memoir of McCarthyism: 1978, BANC MSS 78/157 c Carey McWilliams Papers (Collection 1319). Department of Special Collections, University Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles. Carey McWilliams Papers (Collection 1243). Department of Special Collections, University Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles. A collection of material about Carey McWilliams, 1925-1948 (Collection 2023). Department of Special Collections, University Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.

    Scope and Content

    The Carey McWilliams Papers, 1921-1980, provide a selective view of the writing and research gathering process of a prolific journalist and author of non-fiction works concerning racial minorities and migrant farm workers in the U.S., particularly in California and the West. The collection consists of manuscripts, notes, outlines, and related correspondence for a variety of McWilliams' books and other writings, along with extensive background research materials, including pamphlets, printed material, and clippings.
    McWilliams' manuscripts for Brothers Under the Skin and Factories in the Field are included, along with several other titles. Other writings include articles, speeches, and contributions written before and after (but not during) his tenure as editor of The Nation, from 1955-1975. The bulk of materials date from the 1940s and early 1950s. The original manuscript for McWilliams' last article, "Los Angeles: A Very Special City," is also contained in the collection.
    A significant number and variety of pamphlets were retained in McWilliams' Subject Files, which also include notes, correspondence, other printed materials, and clippings. Collected over a period of many years, these files illustrate his search for an understanding of issues from multiple perspectives and his need to re-evaluate and update his themes throughout his career. Many of these materials have been heavily annotated.
    Finally, the collection also contains a small amount of correspondence and memorabilia from the 1970s. Researchers should be aware of the significant holdings of papers by and about Carey McWilliams at the University of California, Los Angeles.

    Material Cataloged Separately

    1. Printed materials, other than McWilliams' extensive pamphlet collection, have been transferred to the book collection of The Bancroft Library.
    2. Microfilm has been transferred to the Microforms Collection of The Bancroft Library.

    Publication Rights

    Some materials in these collections may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.). In addition, the reproduction of some materials may be restricted by terms of University of California gift or purchase agreements, donor restrictions, privacy and publicity rights, licensing and trademarks. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owner. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user. For additional information about the University of California, Berkeley Library's permissions policy please see: http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/about/permissions-policies

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    McWilliams, Carey, 1905-

    Additional Collection Guide