Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Group of people in distress. Click to enlarge.

Harry Mattison, After bomb explosion near cathedral, people try to escape being trampled, March 30, 1980.

Human Rights Collections

Oliver LaFarge (1901-1963) was an anthropologist and novelist who helped draft a constitution for the Hopi Indians, documented in his 116-page manuscript, Running Narrative of the Organization of the Hopi Tribe of Indians (1936). The LaFarge collection contains papers, manuscripts, and correspondence relating to Indian rights and the Hopi Constitution. The collection also includes works of non-fiction, novels and short stories, photographs, and the book A Pictorial History of the American Indians.

Following a decade of work in post-World War II Europe with various U.S. government offices, Michael Josselson (1908-1978) decided to help lead the newly created Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), a liberal, anti-Communist organization founded by American and European intellectuals to expose Communist cultural oppression and oppose all forms of totalitarian rule. As the Administrative Secretary of the CCF, Josselson arranged for financing of organizations that operated as fronts to channel CIA funds. Documents in his papers include research notes, reports, maps, and correspondence related to his work for the CCF. After his resignation, Josselson continued to informally advise former CCF associates who created a new organization, the International Association for Cultural Freedom, which disavowed the CCF and the CIA but continued many of the CCF's programs.

Jessica Mitford (1917-1996) worked as executive secretary for the Civil Rights Congress and taught sociology at San Jose State University. After resigning from the Communist Party in 1958, she devoted her time to writing. Her first book, The American Way of Death (1963), exposed the avarice and unscrupulous practices of the American funeral industry. Mitford's second investigative study, The Trial of Dr. Spock (1969), documented the 1968 conspiracy trial of Dr. Benjamin Spock, the famous pediatrician and vocal opponent of the Vietnam War, in order to illustrate the American legal system's intolerance of civil disobedience. In Kind and Usual Punishment: The Prison Business (1973), her book about the American penal system, Mitford condemned sentencing procedures, the parole system, and the use of prisoners in psychological and physiological research. These three books are represented in the 67 boxes of correspondence, printed material, reports, notes, interviews, manuscripts, legal documents, and other materials in the Jessica Mitford Papers at the Ransom Center.

Erle Stanley Gardner (1889-1970) was a lawyer, detective fiction writer, novelist, and screenwriter perhaps most well known for his Perry Mason television series. He co-founded The Case Review Committee, commonly referred to as The Court of Last Resort, which was a professional association devoted to re-examining convictions that may have resulted from poor legal representation or the misinterpretation of evidence. The Ransom Center's vast Gardner collection contains files from the Court of Last Resort, including legal cases, reference files, and morgue files.

Morris Ernst (1888-1976) was an American lawyer and co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). He practiced law in New York for more than 60 years and was one of the leading advocates of civil liberties in 20th-century America. As counsel to the ACLU, and later director emeritus, Ernst defended individual rights and freedom in numerous landmark federal cases on privacy, libel, slander, obscenity, censorship, birth control, and abortion. The Morris Ernst Papers include manuscripts for his books and articles, as well as trial transcripts, briefs, correspondence, and legal papers dealing with the various public movements with which he was involved. Over 600 pieces of correspondence, memoranda, and legal briefs chronicle the censorship battle over James Joyce's Ulysses.

The records of PEN International, a writers' organization, consist of letters and documents dating from 1921 to 1972, including correspondence from writer-members, as well as files relating to the organization's political and social activities. The aims of PEN, as outlined on their website, are to promote literature, defend freedom of expression, and develop a community of writers worldwide. To that end, PEN "acts as a powerful voice in opposing political censorship and speaking for writers harassed, imprisoned, sometimes murdered for the expression of their views." The 228 boxes of records at the Ransom Center include materials related to Writers in Exile, BLED (an international gathering organized by the Slovene PEN Centre and the Writers for Peace Committee of International PEN), the Fund for Intellectual Freedom, and the London Fund for Exiled Writers.

Fannie Hurst (1889-1968) was an American short story writer and novelist who was also engaged with social and political issues such as racial equality, women's rights, Jewish causes, and anti-Fascism. The incoming correspondence series of the Fannie Hurst Papers at the Ransom Center reflects these interests and contains correspondence from a variety of people and organizations, including: the American Birth Control League, the ACLU, the American Jewish Congress, Authors League of America, the City Wide Citizens' Committee on Harlem, the Democratic National Party, Theodore Dreiser, Marie Dressler, Edna Ferber, Daniel Frohman, Hadassah, the Constance Hope Foundation, Zora Neale Hurston, Blanche Knopf, Fiorella H. La Guardia, Sinclair Lewis, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, PEN, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, the Salvation Army, Carl Van Vechten, and many others.

The photography collection Inside El Salvador, 1979-1983 consists of original materials from an exhibition excerpted from the book El Salvador: Work of Thirty Photographers, including 69 gelatin silver prints by various photographers, one large chromogenic color print of the image from the book's cover, 13 bilingual text panels written by Carolyn Forché, and the paper work and comments book from the original exhibition tour. The first section of the exhibition was made up of 67 images taken by 30 international photojournalists during the intensely brutal period of conflict between 1979 and 1983. Photographers Susan Meiselas and Harry Mattison gathered these images into a traveling exhibition and book in 1983 to raise global awareness about the conflict. At a time when the Reagan administration insisted that military aid to El Salvador's government was essential to stopping the spread of communism and that progress was being made on human rights, the photographs contributed to the debate by providing a contrary eyewitness account. The images are accompanied by texts written by poet Carolyn Forché. For more information about the Ransom Center exhibition and Rapoport Center conference, please see: Inside El Salvador.

The papers of Maurice Cranston (1920-1993) span his professional career as an author, free-lance reviewer, and professor of political philosophy. In 1967, Cranston published the influential essay "Human Rights, Real and Supposed." His papers include the page proofs for What are Human Rights? (The Bodley Head Ltd., 1973), as well as subject files related to human rights.

The Transcription Centre began its brief but significant life in February 1962 under the direction of Dennis Duerden (1927-2006), producing and distributing radio programs for and about Africa. The organization was created with funding provided initially by the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) to foster non-totalitarian cultural values in sub-Saharan Africa in implicit opposition to Soviet-encouraged committed political attitudes among African writers and artists. The records of the Transcription Centre comprise scripts and manuscripts, correspondence, legal documents, business records, ephemera, photographs, and clippings. Particularly noteworthy is a large file of scripts and script fragments arranged topically as a broadcast and publishing resource, including material not represented elsewhere in the papers. Making up about a quarter of the papers, the correspondence series contains significant evidence of the Transcription Centre's efforts on behalf of African art, writing, and scholarship through broadcasting, conferences, and cultural festivals. The correspondence files include artists (Jimo Akolo, Julian Bienart) and writers (Chinua Achebe, Ezekiel Mphahlele, Rajat Neogy, David Rubadiri), as well as academics and other scholars (Ulli Beier, Sillaty K. Dabo, Gerhard Kubik, Margaret Laurence, Ivan van Sertima). The extensive body of correspondence with Wole Soyinka is especially noteworthy.