New Collection: Ted Sahl Collection

The Ted Sahl Collection is a selection of 1091 photographs from the original digital collection housed in San Jose State University Special Collections and Archives .

Ted Sahl is an award winning photojournalist from San Jose who has documented social and political events in the Bay area since 1970s*. He is known for his engagement with the LGBT community and photographic work depicting the LGBT movement and also gay and lesbian life from 1976-2010. Sahl has also authored the book From Closet to Community: A Quest for Gay and Lesbian Liberation in San José & Santa Clara County (2002).

Ted Sahl talks about the inspiration for his work in this interview on Outlook Video from 2007:

* Sahl (Ted) Archives: A Collection of San José Gay and Lesbian History, Online Archives of California

New Collection: Radical America

SiRO just added a new collection- Radical America, 1967-1999, a political magazine by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) founded in 1967. The content of the magazine spanned across themes of working -class radicalism, feminism, racism, marxism etc.

The magazine initially served as an unofficial journal of the SDS and was edited by historians Paul Buhle and Mari Jo Buhle in Madison, Wisconsin. In the 1970’s the magazine became more concerned with issues of the New Left. As historians left its editorial board in the 1980s and prices of printing increased, Radical America had to close its office in 1999.

” It left behind a proud history of thought-provoking articles and a testament to a social movement that long outlived its initial organizational form, namely, Students for a Democratic Society. “**

SDS was one of the largest student radical organizations in the US and built a membership of 300 chapters across the country by the time it closed in 1969.* A new SDS was formed in 2006 in the wake of anti-war demonstrations against the US.

Read more about the collection here.

*Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS: The Rise and Development of The Students for a Democratic Society, pp. 529-530. Random House (1973), Hardcover, Vintage Books (January 1, 1974)

**Radical America, 1967-1999, Brown University Library Center for Digital Scholarship

Bi-Weekly Round Up November 5: The American Indian Movement (AIM)

In honor of November being American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month, this week’s post will be focusing on the history of the American Indian Movement (AIM). Although activism in the American Indian community had been occurring before the establishment of AIM, the movement gained significant attention and was instrumental in using the news media to spread their message and activism.

Founded in July 1968 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the group was initially formed to address Native American treaty issues, racism, police harassment, and to achieve economic independence and sovereignty for Native American people. Other areas of focus were spirituality, affirmation, and leadership for the American Indian and Alaska Native community. Rather than focusing on traditional lobbying strategies, AIM members chose to take their message directly to the American public by holding events, creating their own press through the use of zines and other newsletters, and its leaders often sought out opportunities for the explicit purpose of creating more visibility for the movement.

From its inception in 1968, AIM members led protests, sit-ins, and other forms of public activism to gain visibility and attention from the larger American public toward the plight of the American Indian. In 1970, around Thanksgiving, members seized a replica of the Mayflower; in 1971, members occupied Mount Rushmore, which was carved into the mountainside of sacred Lakota land. Also in 1971, members also occupied the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) building in Washington, D.C., citing the poor management and problems with the administration for their treatment of Native Americans and reservations.

Free Leonard Peltier page from NARP newsletter

From the NARP Newsletter, MSU Libraries

AIM, in their 20 point list to summarize issues with federal treaties and promises, had twelve points directly related to treaty responsibilities that the U.S. government had failed to fulfill and uphold. In 1972, AIM members and other Indian groups gathered together for a protest named “The Trail of Broken Treaties” in Washington, D.C. Their high visibility, achieved through events like protests, occupations, and other forms of activism, gave the members a platform but also made the movement a target for government intervention. What AIM is probably best known for in current times are the events that occurred at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation at Wounded Knee, where around 200 to 300 AIM activists and FBI agents were in an armed stand-off for 71 days in 1973.

Following the Wounded Knee incident, violence and deaths abounded within the AIM community with suspicions of members being FBI informants and garnered significant media attention to the protest. Notably, in 1973 during the Academy Awards, Marlon Brando refused to attend the event and in his place sent Sacheen Littlefeather, a Native American actress, to accept his award and to use the platform to speak about the movement. During the occupation of Wounded Knee, activists Dennis Banks and Russell Means were often the spokespersons for the organization, and the motivation for going to Pine Ridge was due to the high levels of poverty, the tribal chairman Richard Wilson’s corrupt activities, and failure of the U.S. government to uphold its end of the treaties. Wilson’s supporters, known as Guardians of the Oglala Nation (GOONs), are believed to have murdered 60 opponents of the tribal government.

Despite the protests, Wilson was re-elected in 1974 amid voter corruption scandals, intimidation, and other means of coercing the election in his favor. Violence on the reservation erupted during this time between opponents of his presidency and his supporters. Means and Banks were indicted by the South Dakota government for their participation in the occupation and protest, which later was ruled a mistrial with all charges being dropped against them. However, Leonard Peltier, another member of AIM, was arrested and imprisoned in 1975 following a shootout with two FBI agents on the reservation. Peltier has long maintained his innocence and was most recently denied clemency by the Obama administration. He is currently still in prison.

The movement continues to exist today and has grown to encompass a number of other organizations all focused on the same issues. At Michigan State University, there are materials in the radicalism special collection from the early days of AIM (accesible through SiRO), and a number of other resources exist for scholars and other interested persons to learn more about the movement and its impact.


University of Minnesota American Indian Movement Archives and Records

Michigan State University Radicalism Collection – American Indian Movement

Smithsonian Institution – American Indian Movement

Freedom Archives – AIM

Digital Public Library of America – AIM

GALE – AIM and Native American Radicalism


Bi-Weekly Round Up October 22: The Chicano Movement

The Chicano Movement of the 1960s, also known as El Movimento or the Chicano civil rights movement, extended the Mexican American movement with the goal of achieving Mexican American empowerment. Originally a deragatory term for referring to children with Mexican migrant parents, the term was embraced as a symbol of self-determination and pride. Famous figures like Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez are well known for their involvement with Chicano activism, particularly farm workers’ rights. The movement began in the late 1800s after the U.S.-Mexican War and gained momentum after World War II, with Chicano activists winning major landmark cases like Mendez v. Westminster, which ruled segregation of children of Mexican and Latino descent unconstitutional, and Hernandez v. Texas, which ruled that Mexican Americans and other subordinated peoples were guaranteed to equal protection under the 14th amendment.

In the 1960s, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) was founded to engage in political advocacy and training of future leaders. Similar to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the MALDEF now covers the roles of many other

From the MSU Libraries MICHILAC Collection

organizations and continues to engage in activism today. In the 1970s, Chicana women engaged in reproductive rights activism by fighting against compulsory sterilization and succeeding in requiring the use of bilingual consent forms. The Chicano movement was not focused on any one organization or specific cause, and rather encompasses a number of sub-movements dedicated to issues that affected Chicano populations differently. Regardless, the influence of the movement is still felt today and ongoing.

Although the Southwest is the epicenter of the movement, Colorado is where people point to the movement’s beginnings. In California, however, many scholars note that the state had the most student organizations across university campuses engaged in Chicano activism, whereas other states did not participate in the same forms of student activism. In the midwest, Chicago was a hub for Chicano activism, and there were efforts throughout the rest of the midwest particularly for the United Farm Workers (which will be covered more in depth next week).

The initial goals of the movement were Chicano empowerment, anti-war, voting and political rights, police brutality, and more. In the 21st Century, the major focus of the Chicano Movement is still focused on empowering Chicano and Latinx peoples in elections and participating in government, representation of Chicano and Latinx persons in media, as well as immigration rights. Chicano art, literature, and presses fluorished during the beginning of the movement and continue to serve as a creative space for political expression. The history of the movement is rich and multi-faceted, and is complicated by a number of social and geographic variables that affected the way the various sub-movements took shape and shaped the larger movement.

SiRO and the Michigan State University Libraries have a number of resources on the history of the Chicano movement. Two highlights at MSU Libraries are the Midwest Chicano/Latino Activism Collection (housed in special collections and digitized in SiRO and here:, and the Cesar E. Chavez ( which is housed in the Main Library. Other collections exist, of course, and we provide a sample here for people wanting to learn more or access research materials to broaden their understanding of Chicano activism in the past and today.


MICHILAC Collection at MSU Libraries

Library of Congress Chicano Civil Rights Movement Collection

UC Santa Barbara Chicano and Latino Collections

Colorado Chicano Movement History Portal

Online Archive of California – Chicano Movement Newspapers

UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center

Bi-Weekly Round Up October 8: The Bolshevik Revolution

The Bolsheviks (often referred to colloquially as “the reds”) became a major political organization in 1905 under the leadership of Lenin and Alexander Bogdanov. They played a smaller role in the 1905 Revolution, which consisted primarily of worker strikes, peasant unrest, and military mutinies. The 1917 revolution was a response to the loss of life during World War I, orchestrated by Tsar Nicholas II’s drafting of thousands of Russian men – particularly peasants. The 1905 Revolution focused more on issues of labor, of nationality and particularly religious difference, and was the result of growing unrest within the nation.


In November 1917, Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin led his group of leftist revolutionaries against the provisional Russian government, which had been established after Tsar Nicholas II was overthrown from the monarchy in February 1917. Although it is often referred to as “Red October” or the “October Uprising”, the events actually occurred during November according to the Gregorian Calendar. Regardless, the Bolshevik uprising was only one small part of the great Russian Revolution, and the Bolsheviks were just one party within the larger movement who were the most visible and instrumental in organizing others.

In November 1917, after the successful capture of the Winter Palace in November 1917 as well as the successful occupation of multiple government buildings, elections were held on November 12, 1917. Despite their instrumental role in the revolution, the Bolsheviks only won 175 seats in the 715-seat legislative body, coming in second to the Socialist Revolutionary Party.

Despite the revolution’s success in overthrowing the provisional government, it was not universally accepted by all Russians. Following the 1917 revolution, Russia was thrown into a civil war from 1917 to 1922 among the “Reds” (Bolsheviks), the “Whites” (counter-revolutionaries), the independence movements and the non-Bolshevik socialists. After the Civil War, the Bolsheviks renamed themselves as the Communist Party, paving the way for the establishment of a new union. In 1922, the Soviet Union was established, with Lenin as the head of government. Lenin died in 1924 after a series of strokes, and his body remains on display to this day. In a way, the Russian Revolution paved the way for the establishment of the Soviet Union, and completely reshaped the world.

One blog post is not sufficient to capture the complexity of the Russian Revolution and the establishment of the Soviet Union after. So, for this week’s bi-weekly roundup, we put together some resources about Russian history.


The Joseph A. Labadie Collection – accessible through SiRO

The Modernist Journals Project – accesible through SiRO

History of Russia: Primary Documents

1917: Digital Resources on the Russian Revolution

The October Revolution

The Deepening of the Russian Revolution: 1917

Russia on the Web

The Russian Revolution

Russian History – Texts

Bi-Weekly Round Up September 24: Apartheid

global africa landscape.jpg

The Year of Global Africa was announced last year in November, and this week (the week of September 24th, 2018) MSU libraries will be hosting speakers and have an open house of activist archives related to Apartheid

Michigan State University Libraries’ Africana collection is one of the largest in the United States. There will be an open house in the special collections area in the MSU Main Library on September 26 for the African American History and Culture materials and on September 28 there will be an open house for the African and Student Activism materials.

Forty years ago, Michigan State University announced that it would be divesting from companies doing business with Apartheid South Africa, making MSU one of the first universities in the U.S. to take a stance on condemning the conditions. This subsequently led to Michigan passing more sanctions on South Africa than any other state. As a part of Year of Global Africa: Campus Activism for Justice, from Michigan to Southern Africa, MSU Libraries is hosting a two-day conference on September 27 and 28 (information and registration here) to reflect on the role of campus activism in political action, to place MSU’s divestments in the larger social context of other movements that came before it, and will feature a number of speakers.

The blog post this week, to reflect the goals of the conference, will feature archives that contain materials about the lives and conditions of people living under Apartheid. For over 50 years, South Africans lived in government-sanctioned, white supremacist segregation for the benefit of the nation’s minority white population. The legacy of this authoritarian policy still haunts the citizens of South Africa, but many may not know what life during apartheid was really like.

History of Apartheid

In Afrikaans (the Dutch dialect spoken by white colonial settlers in South Africa), apartheid means “separateness”. The region of South Africa was colonized by the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the British to engage in the slave trade and to mine the region’s natural resources (particularly diamonds and gold). In 1833, the UK abolished slavery, changing the status of enslaved South Africans to that of indentured servants. It is during this period into the early 20th century that we begin to see the legislation that we associate with Apartheid: restricting freedom of movement, depriving non-whites and native South Africans the right to vote, limiting the amount of land that could be owned, and even removing the rights of Black South Africans to have seats in parliament.

Apartheid is a monster

From the Joseph A. Labadie collection, housed at University of Michigan and accesible through SiRO

In effect, although slavery was abolished, the minority white population seized power and enacted legislation that intentionally kept the non-white and native South African population segregated from white communities, access to power, and to ensure white domination.

Apartheid laws can then be divided into two categories: grand apartheid and petty apartheid, with the former reflecting policies to compel people to live in geographically different areas based on race and the latter reflecting legislation like restricting the right to vote, placing non-whites into their own townships, and restricting access to land ownership. In 1950, the Grand Areas Act was passed and each race was segregated into its own area.

In Apartheid-era South Africa, there were four races: whites, Coloured (mixed race persons who adopted the Christian faith), Black, and Indian. Segregation, then, was not purely between Black and white but rather was enforced in separating these four groups. Separate universities, public transport, parks, beaches, restaurants, and even benches were segregated by race. Marriage and sexual acts between people of different races was a criminal offense, and there were even attempts to divide up the region into different “homelands” for each race.

The government thus enforced policies of resettlement, moving millions of people from their homes and forcing them into townships and shantytowns. The white supremacist government’s policies that segregated people by race in all areas of life left a profound impact on South Africa’s policies, government, and society that are still felt today, particularly since Apartheid only formally ended in the early 1990s.

Resources for Materials on Apartheid

SiRO has materials from the Apartheid era from both the John A. Labadie collection as well as from Adam Mathew Digital. In particular, “The three parts of the Adam Mathew Digital Apartheid South Africa cover the period between 1948 and 1980 and explore the inception and implementation of apartheid by Daniel Malan, the strengthening of policies by Hendrik Verwoerd and the eventual destabilization of the system under P. W. Botha. Documents, dispatches, reports, telegrams and handwritten embassy notes both from South Africa and from Britain, the United States and other powers provide first-hand analyses of South Africa’s relationship with the international community, her struggles with internal resistance, civil unrest and anti-apartheid organisations, and the implementation of policies to forcibly remove black Africans into independent ‘self-governing’ Bantustans.”

Other resources about Apartheid as well as Anti-Apartheid activism, at MSU and other places, include:

African Activist Archive

Overcoming Apartheid

Chicago Anti Apartheid Movement Collection

Art Against Apartheid Collection

Adam Mathew: Apartheid South Africa 1948-1980 (accessible through SiRO)

BBC Archives – Apartheid and South Africa

United Nations Center Against Apartheid, Notes and Documents

International Institute of Social History – Anti-Apartheid and Southern Africa

Apartheid: Global Perspectives 1946-1996

South Africa Under Apartheid, reports and research from a journalist, 1949-1995

MSU Libraries – Special Collections: Africana