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Perske, Robert

Robert and Martha Perske Papers

13 boxes 19.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 772
Image of Bob and Martha Perske with their dog, Wolfie, 2004
Bob and Martha Perske with their dog, Wolfie, 2004

While serving with the U.S. Navy in the Philippines during World War II, the teenaged Bob Perske became aware of the vulnerable and disabled in society and turned his life toward advocacy on their behalf. Studying for the ministry after returning to civilian life, Perske was appointed chaplain at the Kansas Neurological Institute, serving children with intellectual disabilities for 11 years, after which he became a full-time street, court, and prison worker — a citizen advocate — laboring in the cause of deinstitutionalization and civil rights of persons with disabilities, particularly those caught in the legal system. After Bob married his wife Martha in 1971, the two became partners in work, with Martha often illustrating Bob’s numerous books and articles. In 2002, Perske was recognized by the American Bar Association as the only non-lawyer to ever receive the Paul Hearne Award for Services to Persons with Disabilities.

The Perske Papers contains a fifty year record of published and unpublished writings by Bob Perske on issues surrounding persons with disabilities, along with correspondence, photographs, and other materials relating to the Perskes’ activism. The correspondence includes a particularly rich set of letters with a fellow advocate for persons with disabilities, Robert R. Williams.

Gift of Robert and Martha Perske, 2013
  • Mental retardation--Social aspects
  • People with disabilities--Deinstitutionalization
  • People with disabilities--Legal status, laws, etc.
  • Perske, Martha
  • Williams, Robert R.
Types of material
  • Photographs

Post-War World Council

Post War World Council Collection

1 box 0.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 307

Founded and chaired by Norman Thomas in 1942, the Post-War World Council sought to lay the groundwork for a democratic and anti-imperialist end to the Second World War. As the face of the organization, Thomas promoted the pacifist ideals of internationalism, disarmament, and decolonization, however his failing health in the early 1960s led to the decline of the Council and its formal dissolution in 1967.

This collection consists of pamphlets from the Post War World Council that document a range of opinions concerning the war and the world, including titles such as “Saboteurs of Victory,” “The Case Against Compulsory Peacetime Military Training,” “The Future of the Far East,” and “Disarmament in the Post War World.”

Gift of Stephen Siteman, 1990
  • Anti-imperialist movements
  • Peace movements
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Post-War World Council
Types of material
  • Pamphlets

Povirk, Eugene

Eugene Povirk Collection of ACLU Press Releases

3 boxes 4.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 925

The American Civil Liberties Union has played a significant role in working with the courts, legislatures, and the public to protect civil liberties in the United States. Founded in 1920, the organization has a membership of more than a million.

An extensive run of press releases issued by the national office of the ACLU between 1961 and 1984, this collection reflects the organization’s priorities and public communications strategies during a critical time in the struggle for civil liberties. The topics range from organizational changes within the ACLU to the major issues in civil liberties of the day, including those pertaining to the civil rights movement, civic unrest, freedom of the press, the Vietnam War, and the counterculture.

Gift of Eugene Povirk, Mar. 2016
  • Civil rights--United States
  • Freedom of the press
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements
Types of material
  • Press releases

Primus, Pearl

Pearl Primus Collection

3 boxes 1.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 912

A pioneer of African dance in the United States and a vital scholarly voice, Pearl Primus burst onto the scene in the early 1940s as a choreographer, performer, composer, and teacher. Born in Trinidad in 1919 and raised in New York City, Primus was introduced to performance through the National Youth Administration and the New Dance Group. Her interest in the dance cultures of Africa and the African diaspora formed the conceptual center of her work throughout her career, drawing upon her deep scholarly research. In addition to her creative work, Primus earned a doctorate in anthropology from NYU and taught at a number of universities, including the Five Colleges. She died in New Rochelle, N.Y., in October 1994.

Conducted with Pearl Primus’ fellow dancers, musicians, friends, and collaborators between 1995 and 2005, the interviews comprising this collection were recorded by Peggy and Murray Schwartz for use in their book, The Dance Claimed Me: A Biography of Pearl Primus (New Haven, 2011). The oral histories provide insights into Primus’s sometimes controversial life career, her performances, teaching, and legacy.

Gift of Peggy and Murray Schwartz, Dec. 2013
  • Choreographers
  • Dance--Africa
  • Dancers
  • Nash, Joe, 1919-2005
  • Washington, Donald
Types of material
  • Audiocassettes
  • Betacam-SP
  • Videotapes

Radical Right Collection

Radical Right Collection

1966-1995 Bulk: 1978-1993
5 boxes 3.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 816

The sharp revival of the U.S. political right in the late 1970s and early 1980s was accompanied by a proliferation of white supremacist and other extremist organizations. Drawing on an mix of Neo-Nazi, white supremacist, Christian supremacist, and Libertarian ideologies, long-established organizations such as the John Birch Society, newly formed coalitions, and a new generation of leaders such as David Duke sought to shift the American political spectrum rightward through both formal political means and underground agitation.

The Radical Right Collection consists of newspapers, newsletters, and other publications from far-right organizations during the late 1960s through 1980s, along with associated ephemera and lists of extremist literature. The collection includes a significant run of the white supremacist magazine Instauration, the Neo-Nazi newspapers Attack and National Vanguard, the National Alliance Bulletin, and Richard Berkeley Cotten’s Conservative Viewpoint, along with publications from Christian rightists Gerald L. K. Smith (The Cross and the Flag), Billy James Hargis (Christian Crusade), and Chick Publications.

  • Antisemitism--Periodicals
  • Duke, David Ernest
  • Racism--Periodicals
  • Radicalism
  • Right-wing extremists
  • Cotten, Richard Berkeley
  • National Association for the Advancement of White People
  • National Vanguard (Organization)
Types of material
  • Newsletters

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.

  • Anti-apartheid movements--Massachusetts
  • Central America--Foreign relations--United States
  • College students--Political activity
  • Communism
  • El Salvador--History--1979-1992
  • Guatemala--History--1945-1982
  • Iraq War, 2003-
  • Nicaragua--History--1979-1990
  • Peace movements--Massachusetts
  • Persian Gulf War, 1991
  • Political activists--Massachusetts--History
  • Racism
  • Socialism
  • Student movements
  • United States--Foreign relations--Central America
  • United States. Central Intelligence Agency
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Progressive Student Network
  • Radical Student Union
  • Revolutionary Student Brigade
Types of material
  • Banners

Rare book collections

Votes for women, Enfield Collection
Votes for Women, ca.1919 (Enfield Collection)

The Department of Special Collections and University Archives houses approximately 40,000 volumes reflecting an evolving history of collecting at UMass Amherst. Beginning in the late 1860s with a focus on agriculture and the natural sciences, SCUA has developed into a resource for the study of regional and local history in New England, emphasizing our varied cultural, social, religious, and political histories.

Beyond New England, SCUA has developed strength in several distinct areas, ranging from the literature of social change to the extraordinary collection of Japanese rarities collected by the geologist Benjamin Smith Lyman during the Meiji era and the works of an eclectic assortment of poets and writers. Other noteworthy collections include those pertaining to Cold War culture: a growing collection of books printed in East Germany and one of the largest collections of materials in the United States from the Solidarity movement in Poland.


All books and periodicals held by SCUA are cataloged in the Library’s online catalog and summary descriptions of most major book collections, but not individual titles, are included in SCUA’s own online catalog, UMarmot.

Notice: due to renovations in the library, much of SCUA’s collection of printed materials (books and periodicals) will be unavailable until further notice. Please contact our archivists to see whether we can assist.

Selected areas of collecting interest:

Agriculture, horticulture, natural history

The library holds key works in apiculture, entomology, gardening, landscape design, organic agriculture, pomology, sustainability, and viticulture, with numerous works in animal husbandry. Materials date back to the 16th century, however the strength of the collections lies in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

Cookery in New England

Knox gelatin
The Collection

The collections of Beatrice A. McIntosh, Athena Savas, and Lynette Foucher, among others, include books, pamphlets, and ephemera relating to the culinary history of New England, including many thousands of cookbooks published by church and community organizations.

European history and culture

Diverse collections ranging from materials on Revolutionary-era Europe, 1789-1848 (the Binet and Brabançonne Collections); Anglo-American Political Economy; twentieth century German history (the Harold Gordon Collection on the Interwar period and the Hans Joachim Ring Collection on East German cinema); and Communist-era Poland (Basia Jakubowska Schlatner Solidarity Collection).

Gay and Lesbian Literature

The centerpiece extensive of our holdings is the collection of gay rights pioneer Barbara Gittings and her partner, Kay Tobin Lahusen, which includes books on the history of homosexuality in America, works by and about gay writers, gay activism, and related topics.

Literary collections

Books by and about Robert Francis, Archibald MacLeish, William Manchester, William Lederer, and the Broadside Press; records of the Cummington School for the Arts and Massachusetts Review; and the poetry libraries of Francis, Wallace Stevens, and Anne Halley. Although the literary collections focus largely on New England writers, SCUA houses fine collections of the works of Charles Lamb, William Morris, and William Butler Yeats, signed first editions of works by Thomas Mann, and collections of French and Scottish writers. We are stewards of the papers of several writers from New England and collect their works comprehensively, including Andrew Coburn, Mary Doyle Curran, Mary McGarry Morris, Raymond Mungo, Jodi Picoult, and Harvey Swados.

New England history and culture

Massachusetts Agricultural College postcard
Massachusetts Agricultural College postcard

Local and regional histories, novels, and other writing about Massachusetts from the eighteenth century to the present. These include an array of election, ordination, installation, dedication, fast-day, mission, farewell, and funeral sermons; Fourth of July orations; and addresses to or by benevolent, cultural, and civic organizations in the Commonwealth. The New England Yearly Meeting of Friends collection contains thousands of books, pamphlets, and periodicals relating to Quaker history from the seventeenth century to the present. With an emphasis on New England Quakerism, these collections include the libraries of Moses and Obadiah Brown and libraries amassed by several monthly and quarterly meetings. SCUA also collects works printed in small towns and rural districts of Massachusetts from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Social change

Valuable collections for the history of antislavery in New England and politics of the left. The John P. Roche and Steven Siteman Collections focus on the American left from the late 19th century through the 1950s, with some European materials and materials from the political right.

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Richardson, Charley

Charley Richardson Papers

32 boxes 48 linear feet
Call no.: MS 862

A shipfitter and union activist, Charley Richardson was a visonary labor educator. After working for a time in a machine shop and driving a school bus, Richardson hired on as a shipfitter at Sun Ship in Philadelphia in 1976, and grew active in the labor movement as a steward for the United Steelworkers. After relocating to the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy seven years later, he sustained a workplace injury that ended his career, but he remained active in the workers’ cause. Helping served as director of the Labor Extension Program at UMass Lowell and helped to create the Technology and Work Program where he and his wife Nancy Lessin developed educational programs to aid unions in countering harmful workplace changes and build strength and solidarity for the union. An advocate for social and economic justice, he became a vocal opponent of the U.S. war in Iraq in 2002, and was co-founder of Military Families Speak Out. After a long battle with cancer, Richardson passed away in May 2013.

The Richardson papers document over thirty years of work as a labor educator and United Steelworkers activist. At the heart of the collection are materials relating to Richardson’s research and instruction at UMass Lowell, teaching “continuous bargaining” and other techniques for unions coping with economic and political change. The collection is informed throughout by Richardson’s concerns for workplace safety and health and the impact of technology, downsizing, deregulation, and globalization.

Gift of Susan Winning, Apr. 2015
  • Industrial safety
  • Labor unions and education
  • United Steelworkers of America
  • University of Massachusetts at Lowell. Labor Education Prograss
  • Lessin, Nancy

Risser, Pat

Pat Risser Papers

1 box, 4 external drives 0.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 987

A leading voice in the psychiatric survivor movement, Pat Risser worked for years in the cause of civil rights and peer self-help for people with psychiatric disabilities. An Ohioan by birth, Risser suffered severe abuse as a child and was diagnosed with “schizophrenia” in his twenties, although he wrote that his diagnosis changed with each new doctor or therapist. Finding his condition worsen the deeper he became involved in the mental health system, Risser discovered the value of peer self-help in the early 1980s and became one of the first students in the Consumer Case Manager Aide program, where he trained to work as a professional mental health provider. A dynamic leader, he helped start dozens of self-help peer support groups in Colorado, founded several drop-in centers, and established seventeen Alliance for the Mentally Ill groups. His reputation led to his recruitment to become Director of Mental Health Consumer Concerns, a patients-rights advocacy program in California, with which he enjoyed enormous success. In 1996, he relocated to Oregon and although “semi-retired” due to poor health, he continued to work at the state and national level on mental health issues, becoming chair of Clackamas County Mental Health Council, acting as a mental health consultant, and writing and speaking on a range of topics. Risser died in 2016 at the age of 63.

Primarily a digital archive, the Pat Risser papers contain the writings and correspondence of a significant figure in the history of disability rights. Working in Colorado, California, Oregon, and Ohio, Risser was an early adopter of online technologies to communicate with fellow activists and to raise awareness about the pitfalls of the mental health system. The collection includes several important autobiographical essays by Risser.

Gift of Patricia Sandoval through Steve Stone, Oct. 2017
  • Antipsychiatry
  • Ex-mental patients
  • People with disabilities--Civil rights
  • Psychiatric survivors movement
Types of material
  • Born digital

Robinson, Frank B. (Frank Bruce), b. 1886

Psychiana Collection

1 box 0.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 502

Moved by a vision in which he saw himself as the head of a new religion, Frank Bruce Robinson established Psychiana soon after moving to Moscow, Idaho, in 1928-1929. Once established, word about the religion spread quickly, primarily through advertisements Robinson placed in newspapers and magazines. Within the first year more than 600,000 students in 67 countries were receiving his printed lessons. Robinson’s launching of Psychiana could not have been better timed. The Great Depression provided a ready-made audience eager to grasp onto his message of “health, wealth, and prosperity” achieved by positive affirmations and self help. This collection consists of 16 lessons in the Psychiana Advanced Course printed in 1932.

Acquired from Stephen Resnick, Apr. 2006
  • Psychiana movement
  • Robinson, Frank B. (Frank Bruce), b. 1886