A collection documenting the history of social protest movements and marginalized political communities from the 19th century to the present
In the 1930s, the U-M Library’s Joseph A. Labadie Collection — the oldest such collection in America — was called “probably the most complete record of the social unrest of our times that has ever been assembled."
Since then, the collection has only grown, expanding from its original focus on anarchism to also encompass:
the New Left
radical environmental movements
national liberation movements
LGBT equality campaigns
and many others
The collection is named for Detroit labor organizer and anarchist Joseph Antoine Labadie (1850-1933), who in 1911 donated the books, pamphlets, newspapers, magazines, manuscripts, and memorabilia he had assembled over the years.
Today, the Labadie Collection is the most widely used of all of the library’s special collections and serves as a unique and important resource for students and researchers at U-M and around the world.
“This is a collection that documents history from below,” says curator Julie Herrada. “We are preserving, and making available to the public, the activities of under-represented groups, people whose ideas are considered marginal or dangerous.”
Labadie Collection materials have been used in numerous publications and exhibits. A single poster from the collection, for example, was recently sought out for inclusion in art book, as well as displayed in exhibits at Cornell University and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia.
And new materials are being added to the collection all the time. “Not long ago we received a large donation of transgender rights research materials that greatly add to our existing strength in LGBT topics,” she adds.
Along with physical access to rare and unique archival materials, a host of materials are available digitally including scans of anarchist pamphlets, historic photographs and more than 1,000 political “pin-back” buttons on topics ranging from pacifism to sexual freedom, communism to student protest.
Because of the collection’s breadth and depth, several finding aids and guides to its holdings are available, including to many of the uncataloged manuscripts and letters.
"Melba Joyce Boyd, a well-known author and Wayne State University professor, says that an activist is a person with a certain level of consciousness who then incorporates that consciousness into what they do. So, I see my work as a curator as a kind of activism,” says Herrada, who has overseen the collection since 2000.
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