As an undergraduate at the University of California Berkeley in the late 1950s, Alvin P. Cohen planned on a career in engineering, but after earning his bachelors degree and working as a laboratory technician, he returned to undergraduate status and then to graduate school in Chinese. Cohen’s time at Berkeley coincided with the turbulence of the first wave of student revolt, the civil rights and antiwar movements, and the Free Speech Movement, however as a married man with children, he was more an observer than activist. After completing his dissertation, The Avenging Ghost: Moral Judgment in Chinese Historical Texts, in 1971, he joined the faculty at UMass Amherst, initially with a split appointment teaching Chinese and working as East Asian bibliographer in the library. Over the next three and a half decades, he helped build the Program in Asian Languages and Literature, becoming its Chair in the 1990s and President of the Warring States Project.
Consisting of newsclippings, fliers, and other ephemera collected as the Free Speech Movement was at its height, the Cohen collection provides a valuable window on 1960s activism and the cross-fertilization between the various student movements. The materials cover a range of issues from free speech on campus to the California legislature, civil rights, the war in Vietnam, and the House Un-American Activities Committee. Of particular interest is a letter received by Cohen from a friend Doug Wachter in 1960, shortly after Wachter had been called before HUAC.
- College students--United States--Political activity
- Student movements--California
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Program in Asian Languages and Literatures
- Vietnam War, 1961-1975