Collecting area: Prison issues

Radical Student Union (RSU)

Radical Student Union Records

1905-2006 Bulk: 1978-2005
22 boxes 14.5 linear feet
Call no.: RG 045/80 R1

Founded by Charles Bagli in 1976, the Revolutionary Student Brigade at UMass Amherst (later the Radical Student Union) has been a focal point for organization by politically radical students. RSU members have responded to issues of social justice, addressing both local, regional, and national concerns ranging from militarism to the environment, racism and sexism to globalization.

The RSU records document the history of a particularly long-lived organization of left-leaning student activists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Beginning in the mid-1970s, as students were searching for ways to build upon the legacy of the previous decade, the RSU has been a constant presence on campus, weathering the Reagan years, tough budgetary times, and dramatic changes in the political culture at the national and state levels. The RSU reached its peak during the 1980s with protests against American involvement in Central America, CIA recruitment on campus, American support for the Apartheid regime in South Africa, and government-funded weapons research, but in later years, the organization has continued to adapt, organizing against globalization, sweatshops, the Iraq War, and a host of other issues.

Subjects

Anti-apartheid movements--MassachusettsCentral America--Foreign relations--United StatesCollege students--Political activityCommunismEl Salvador--History--1979-1992Guatemala--History--1945-1982Iraq War, 2003-Nicaragua--History--1979-1990Peace movements--MassachusettsPersian Gulf War, 1991Political activists--Massachusetts--HistoryRacismSocialismStudent movementsUnited States--Foreign relations--Central AmericaUnited States. Central Intelligence AgencyUniversity of Massachusetts Amherst

Contributors

Progressive Student NetworkRadical Student UnionRevolutionary Student Brigade

Types of material

Banners
Ryan, Christina

Christina Ryan Collection

ca.1978-1995
15 boxes 8 linear feet
Call no.: MS 523

The collection includes publications, ephemera, periodicals, and other communications from a range of radical groups. Much of the collection relates to the sedition trial of Raymond Luc Levasseur and the Ohio Seven, but ranges into related topics, including political prisoners, Communist and revolutionary action, Puerto Rican independence, African liberation movements, and anti-Klan and antiracist activity. It is organized into six series: Ohio Seven (3 boxes), Political Prisoners (2 boxes), John Brown Anti-Klan Committee (1 box), Subject Files (5 boxes), and Radical Periodicals (4 boxes).

Gift of Christina Ryan, Nov. 2006

Subjects

Activists--MassachusettsAfrican Americans--Civil rightsAnti-imperialist movements--Massachusetts--AmherstBlack PowerCommunism--United States--HistoryLevasseur, Raymond LucPolitical activists--MassachusettsPolitical prisoners--United StatesRacismRadicalism--United StatesRevolutionaries--Puerto RicoSedition

Contributors

Ryan, Christina
Salah-El, Tiyo Attallah

Tiyo Attallah Salah-El Papers

1890-2018
26 boxes 16.67 linear feet
Call no.: MS 590
Depiction of Tiyo Attallah Salah-El playing saxophone in high school
Tiyo Attallah Salah-El playing saxophone in high school

While serving a life sentence in a Pennsylvania prison, Tiyo Attallah Salah-El transformed himself into an activist, scholar, and advocate for the abolition of prisons. An accomplished jazz musician, Salah-El has distinguished himself for educational and scholarly work, his musical career, his close relationship with activists and educators, and for the non-profit organization he founded, The Coalition for the Abolition of Prisons (CAP).

The Papers of Tiyo Attallah Salah-El document his experience in the State Correctional Institution in Dallas, Pennsylvania, from 1977 until his death in 2018 at the age of 85, providing information on his education, teaching, and activism. The bulk of the collection consists of his extensive correspondence with educators, musicians, and activists. Other highlights include a manuscript copy of his autobiography and the founding documents of the The Coalition for the Abolition of Prisons.

Subjects

Criminal justice, Administration ofJazz musiciansPrisoners--United StatesPrisons--United StatesQuakers

Contributors

Ahrens, LoisNagel, MechthildNeill, MontgomerySalah-El, Tiyo AttallahZinn, Howard, 1922-

Types of material

Letters (Correspondence)Photograph albumsPhotographsSheet music
Schultze, Robert and Waldemar

Robert and Waldemar Schultze Papers

1941-1950
1 box 0.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 528

Robert and Waldemar Schultze were brothers from Buffalo, New York, held in disciplinary army barracks because of their status as conscientious objectors during the Second World War. Both Robert and Waldemar wrote to their mother, Jennie Schultze, frequently, and she to them. The collection contains roughly 120 letters, almost all of them dated, spanning mainly from 1943 to 1944. Robert, the younger of the two Schultze boys, also wrote to his fiancee Helen Anne Rosen.

The letters concern everything from the family dog to the family business. Due to strictly enforced censorship, the brother’s were cautious in the official letters home to their mother. Waldemar and Robert were able to sneak a handful of letters out of prison to their mother, however, and in those letters they wrote honestly about the conditions they encountered. In one such letter, Waldemar wrote his mother and told her about the threat of postponing his good behavior release date if he should slip up and write something that had to be censored, or even if she wrote something to him that needed to be censored. A small amount of correspondence exists that is addressed to Jennie from Attorneys J. Barnsdall and J. Cornell, regarding Robert and Waldemar’s case.

Subjects

Conscientious objectors--New YorkPacifists--United StatesWorld War, 1939-1945

Contributors

Schultze, RobertSchultze, Waldemar
Siteman, Stephen

Stephen Siteman Papers

1942-1998
9 boxes 4.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 503

A member of the Post War World Council, an ardent pacifist, and anti-imperialist, Stephen Siteman was a long-time member of the Socialist Party of America, serving for seventeen years as secretary to the party’s leader Norman Thomas. In his late teens, Siteman was imprisoned as a conscientious objector during World War II. Although he was later pardoned, his time as a prisoner led him into active involvement in prison reform and the peace movement.

During his long involvement in the Socialist Party, Siteman collected a large quantity of material relating to important socialist issues, including Socialist Reform, the peace movement, conscientious objection, and prison reform. The collection also includes a small selection of Siteman’s personal correspondence with Frank Zeidler, former Socialist mayor of Milwaukee, and the novelist Mark Harris.

Subjects

Conscientious objectorsDemocratic Socialists of AmericaPacifists--United StatesPeace movements--United StatesPrison reformersPrisons--United StatesSocialists--United StatesThomas, Norman, 1884-1968War Resisters League of AmericaWorld War, 1939-1945

Contributors

Harris, Mark, 1922-2007Siteman, StephenZeidler, Frank P
Stack, Jonathan

Jonathan Stack Collection

1992-2000
36 boxes, films 65 linear feet
Call no.: MS 969
Depiction of Gabriel Films logo
Gabriel Films logo

A renowned independent film maker and founder of Gabriel Films, Jonathan Stack has written and produced over two dozen documentary films and fifty television programs. Born in New York City in 1957, Stack graduated from UMass Amherst in 1979. From the time of his film Damned in the USA (1992), Stack has taken on challenging subjects, earning a reputation for gaining access into forbidden and often dangerous situations, from crack dens in Harlem to war-torn Liberia. The recipient of numerous honors in his career, Stack has been awarded five Emmy Awards, has twice been nominated for the Academy Award, and his film The Farm, on Angola Prison, won Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize in 1998.

The films and videos in the Stack collection include copies of his work in Liberia and Haiti and material from his documentary on prison rodeos at Angola Prison. The collection includes film from Damned in the USA (1992), Final Judgment (1996), and The Farm (1998), as well as footage from Harlem, Angola Prison, St. Gabriel Women’s Prison, and on body piercing, rodeo, and the prisoner Vincent Simmons.

Gift of Jonathan Stack, April-Dec., 2017

Subjects

Documentary filmsLouisiana State PenitentiaryMotion picture producers and directors

Types of material

Videotapes
Stokes, Daniel M. J.

Daniel M. J. and Joyce Stokes Papers

1984-1996
3 boxes 1.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 661

From 1987 through early 1988, Daniel and Joyce Stokes published Into the Night, “a newsletter for freedom for political prisoners held in the United States.” Based in Brooklyn, N.Y., this simply-produced publication offered updates and commentary on Americans imprisoned for politically-motivated acts. Reflecting both the legacy of 1960s radicalism and the resurgent activism associated with U.S. imperialism in Central America, Into the Night offered news on the Ohio 7 sedition trial, the MOVE organization, and the fate of Plowshares war resisters.

The Stokes collection contains correspondence from subscribers and supporters of Into the Night, fleshing out their political philosophy and the conditions of imprisonment. Drawn from groups including the MOVE organization, the United Freedom Front, Black Liberation Army, and Plowshares, the correspondents include Ramona Africa, Alberto Aranda, Philip Berrigan, Marilyn Buck, Carl Kabat, Ray Luc Levasseur, Ruchell Cinque Magee, and Carol Manning. The collection also includes copies of other radical publications and a complete run of Into the Night itself.

Subjects

African American prisonersAfrican American radicalsAnti-imperialist movementsCommunistsInto the NightMOVE (Group)Ohio 7PlowsharesPolitical prisonersPrisonersRadicalsRevolutionariesUnited Freedom Front

Contributors

Africa, RamonaAranda, AlbertoBerrigan, PhilipBuck, MarilynGelabert, Ana LuciaHernandez, Alvaro LKabat, CarlLevasseur, Ray LucMagee, Ruchell CinqueStokes, Daniel M. J.Stokes, Joyce

Types of material

Newsletters
Thresholds to Life

Thresholds to Life Records

1983-1986
1 box 0.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 156

Thresholds to Life is a program developed by psychiatrist Milton Burglass for training prison inmates and offenders on probation about decision making, problem solving, and life planning. It is operated by volunteers in 30 locations in the United States.

The Thresholds to Life collection includes records of the program in Greenfield, Mass., and contains newsletters, minutes, by-laws, treasurer’s reports, correspondence, news clippings, brochures, and lists of volunteers, board members, and staff.

Subjects

Prisoners--Massachusetts--GreenfieldPrisoners--Rehabilitation--Massachusetts--Greenfield