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

Bi-Weekly Round Up July 16: The LGBTQIA+ Movement

As Pride Month (June) has come to an end, the opportunity to reflect on this year’s events and activism reminds us how far the movement has come and where it still has to go.

This week’s weekly roundup is dedicated to providing resources regarding the LGBTQIA+ (stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, and more) movement in the United States and beyond, as well as to reflect on the history of the establishment of June as the month of Pride. At SiRO, we have quite a few items related to the movement, and are currently working on adding more.

A brief history of Pride

On June 28, 1969, a group of LGBTQ people rioted after a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City. Subsequent, the riots extended to the days immediately following this initial act of resistance. Later that year, in November, The Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee proposed the first pride march to be held in New York City to commemorate the June riots. The first Pride parade was held on June 28, 1970, despite threats of violence from outsiders.

People march into New York's Central Park during the nation's first gay pride parade on June 28, 1970. The event was held on the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall riots, when members of the gay community clashed with police who had raided the <a href="" target="_blank">Stonewall Inn</a> in Manhattan.
Source: CNN

Similar marches and events swiftly spread across the United States, with cities like San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Dallas, and international cities like London, Paris, West Berlin, and Stockholm.

The gay rights movement notably become more organized and less radical during the 1980s and 1990s, and the marches began dropping the words “Freedom” and “Liberation” from their names and replaced it with the more overarching term of “Gay Pride.”

Criticisms of Pride

Pride, since its initial inception in the late 1960s, has radically changed from its initial goals and has been criticized of becoming too commercialized and too “merchandized,” with many massive corporations known for human rights abuses using the imagery of Pride (the rainbow, particularly) to sell more products. Further, since Pride events have become larger and larger, organizers of these events often rely on corporate sponsorship of the event, which has drawn significant criticism as well (see here for more information on this topic).

There has also been backlash in regards to “Straight Pride”, with the total lack of awareness from those that lament the inclusion of a “Gay Pride” but not a “Straight Pride” that heterosexual and cissexual persons have never been discriminated against, beaten, arrested, killed, or harassed for their sexuality and gender identity.

Pride Today

Despite the criticism, Pride and the month of June are important events and times for the LGBTQIA+ community all over the world. The events have spread all over the globe with participants in places like Uganda, Turkey, South Korea, and other countries where being LGBTQIA+ comes not only with intense discrimination and harassment, but also the risk of imprisonment or death (it is illegal to be gay in 73 countries).

Pride is an event that allows LGBTQIA+ persons to engage in activism, to be around like others, and to celebrate the activists of the past, the present, and of the future. As such, this week’s “weekly roundup” has collected online resources about the LGBTQIA+ movement, to allow further reflection and access to resources to learn more about the month of Pride and LGBTQIA+ rights. This list is by no means exhaustive and is meant to merely be a place to begin accessing organizations and historical societies where one can learn more.

Although it is now July, Happy Pride to all.



GLBT Historical Society Archives

LGBT National History Archive

ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Archive at UNT Libraries

LGBT Records in the National Archives

Gerber/Hart Library and Archives (Chicago)

LGBTQ Archive (Free Library of Philadelphia)

LGBTQ Video Game Archive

New Collections Added to SiRO in October 2017

Studies in Radicalism Online added two new collections in October 2017, bringing the total number of federated items to 67,233.

The University of Michigan’s Joseph A. Labadie Collection

The University of Michigan’s Joseph A. Labadie Collection “document[s] the history of social protest movements and marginalized political communities from the 19th century to the present.” Digital items from the Labadie Collection consist of anarchist pamphlets, historic photographs, political “pin-back” buttons, and posters. The broader Labadie collection, which includes analog materials, consists of books, pamphlets, newspapers, magazines, manuscripts, and memorabilia.

The Illinois State University’s Voices of Extremism

The Illinois State University’s Voices of Extremism: Conflicting Ideologies in United States Politics in the Decades Following WWII collection provides audio recordings of interviews with prominent figures in extremist organizations and speeches from political rallies. The collection covers the period of time between 1946 and 1980, reflecting both Far Left and Far Right movements.


Studies in Radicalism Online (SiRO) is a scholarly organization devoted to forging links between the material archive of resources for the study of radicalism and the digital research environment. Read more about SiRO.