With the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections just around the corner, we’ve been having fun answering the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration’s #ElectionCollection challenges on Twitter. The timing also seemed right to put some of our elections-related memorabilia on display here at Mudd. Our lobby exhibit case now holds a variety of elections-related materials from diverse collections in the Princeton University Archives and the Public Policy Papers, with a date range spanning nearly a century from William McKinley’s 1896 campaign to Bill Clinton’s in 1992.
By Sarah Robey
[We recently digitized a campaign film from the Adlai E. Stevenson Papers, located in our Public Policy Papers. The film, “Nuclear Test Ban,” was produced as a televised campaign program for Stevenson’s 1956 presidential bid against Dwight D. Eisenhower. The film speaks to an important transitional moment in the American encounter with nuclear weapons.]
With a deafening roar, a mushroom cloud blossoms on the screen. As viewers watch the cloud of smoke, dust, and water vapor take its awful form, a narrator declares, “this is the H-Bomb at work… This is the means for destroying all living things on earth.”
The scene cuts to Adlai Stevenson, Democratic candidate in the 1956 presidential election, as he makes his case to the American public for a ban on hydrogen bomb testing. Stevenson is quick to dispel the notion that his proposal is simply an election maneuver: the issue “was and it is too serious for that,” despite then-Vice President Richard Nixon’s assertion that a ban was “catastrophic nonsense.”
For the next twenty-three minutes, Stevenson and a group of experts in the field present a grim assessment of the possible consequences of America’s nuclear testing: sickness, war, and horrors unknown.
The film ends with Stevenson’s disquieting appeal: “I believe we must somehow guarantee mankind against the horrible destructiveness of the hydrogen bomb… I believe we have no alternative.”
By Dan Linke and Brenda Tindal
A recently donated film long thought lost has been digitized and is now viewable online. “Segregation and the South,” a film produced in 1957 by the Fund for the Republic, reported on race issues in the South since the 1954 Supreme Court decision in the Brown v. Board of Education case. It examined the slow progress of integration at elementary and secondary schools and colleges, as well as the white backlash to the decision. It also documented the Montgomery bus boycott. Much of the footage came from news organizations like CBS and NBC that was re-packaged, but some original material was filmed in Clarksdale, Mississippi, by writer and director James Peck. Broadcast on June 16, 1957, a Sunday, from 5-6 p.m., it aired on over 30 ABC affiliates, 12 in the South, but none in the Deep South.
Narrated by prominent voice actor Paul Frees, pioneer television journalist George Martin Jr. served as executive producer, and it was Martin’s son who donated his father’s copy of the 16mm film to the Mudd Manuscript Library.
Many notable civil rights figures of the time are featured (though some are not identified) including Ralph Abernathy (31:56: “No we’re not tired”), UN diplomat Ralph Bunche (16:35: “No one has ever been known to enjoy rights posthumously”), NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall (7:10 and 16:56), Rosa Parks (31:17 where she tells of her refusal to give up her seat on a bus that sparked the boycott), and NAACP executive secretary Roy Wilkins (7:51 and 10:03). In addition, the prominent union leader within the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, A. Phillip Randolph, is featured (10:07).
Martin Luther King is featured prominently several times (7:42: “There is a brand new Negro in the South, with a new sense of dignity and destiny;” 34:02; 36:56; 38:30; 38:46; and at 39:07 responding to the violent backlash that followed the end of segregated buses in Montgomery: “Yes, it might even mean physical death , but if physical death is the price that some must pay to free our children from a permanent life of psychological death, then nothing could be more honorable.”)
The recent debates over wiretapping are not new, as this film “Are Wiretapping Laws Helping Criminals?” demonstrates. Broadcast as an episode of All America Wants to Know, this segment features a debate about an issue that is as relevant to the ACLU today as it was during this 1962 broadcast.
All America Wants to Know was a monthly debate show which focused on current events and legal issues. Presented by The Reader’s Digest and the Freedoms Foundation, this program was created and moderated by Theodore Granik, best known for creating several other radio and television panel discussion programs including “Youth Wants to Know,” “Women Want to Know,” and perhaps most famously, “American Forum of the Air.”
The inspiration for this episode was the March 1962 Reader’s Digest article by Senator Kenneth Keating (R-NY), called “Change the Law that Fosters Crime.” Keating, a long time advocate of expanding federal surveillance powers, was known for having introduced a 1954 bill that sought to allow the FBI and military intelligence services to intercept telephone conversations in national-security cases, as well as Senate bill S. 3340 (86th Congress, 1960), which aimed to make it easier for state law enforcement to place taps.
In addition to Senator Keating, this episode’s panel featured Senator John A. Carroll (D-CO), Virgil W. Peterson, the Operating Director of the Chicago Crime Commission; Frank O’Connor, Queens County District Attorney; and Lawrence Speiser, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington, D.C. office.
Robert Louis Stephenson once wrote that to travel hopefully is better than to arrive. And the true reward is to labor. I have travelled hopefully for all these years. So has the ACLU. Some day, some time, but the goal is clear, the road is hard, and progress painful. We are approaching — we are beginning to approach — a tolerable world of peace, order, and justice.
-Roger Baldwin, 95th Birthday Celebration, 1979
Reel Mudd’s showcase of the audiovisual materials from the Records of the American Civil Liberties Union continues with Travelling Hopefully. This 28 minute documentary tells the life story of Roger Baldwin, the ACLU director from 1920 to 1950. The film intersperses interviews of Baldwin by Gail Sheehy and Norman Lear with praise for Baldwin’s actions by Ira Glasser, Andrew Young, Norman Dorsen, Ted Kennedy and others. Much of the praise for Baldwin comes from a 1979 dinner honoring Baldwin’s 95th birthday.
This week Reel Mudd brings you a double feature with Operation Abolition and Operation Correction! Perhaps the term double feature is inaccurate — each film contains the same footage but tells a different story. Operation Abolition describes how Communist infiltrators led riots while the House Un-American Activities Committee convened in San Francisco. Operation Correction, however, talks of misrepresentation by a government agency desperate to remain relevant while its raison d’être faced public scrutiny.
Operation Abolition, a 1960 documentary produced by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (a.k.a House Un-American Activities Committee or HUAC), focused on an incident on May 13, 1960 when the Committee convened in San Francisco’s City Hall. While the committee met, students protested in the hallways and outside the building, leading to clashes with the police and the arrest of 64 students. Operation Abolition shows footage of the incident taken from subpoenaed San Francisco TV station newsreels, using that footage to allege that the students were Communists and/or instigated by Communist agents. The film’s narrators, Representative Francis E. Walter, Chairman of HUAC, and Fulton Lewis III, son of a prominent anti-communist radio commentator, suggest that the protesters were members of and/or “duped” by groups whose ultimate goal was to destroy the committee, weaken the FBI, and reduce the enforcement powers of the Federal government. Despite being a newsreel produced by a government agency, Operation Abolition was surprisingly popular. According to Time Magazine, an estimated 15 million people saw this film.
This Reel Mudd highlights a 1955 television pilot known as The Challenge. Intended to be the start of a weekly series highlighting controversial social issues, this episode was co-produced by the Fund for the Republic and noted TV producer Worthington Miner. This pilot shows the story of a school bus driver who is fired from his job and brought before the school board to justify his refusal to sign a loyalty oath.
The program’s co-producer, the Fund for the Republic, was an organization spun-off from the Ford Foundation. The Fund issued grants, commissioned studies, and created original works seeking to explore social issues such as racial discrimination, blacklisting, academic freedom, and the legality and effectiveness of loyalty oaths. As part of these activities, the Fund created a variety of documentaries and shorts for radio and television aimed at helping educate the American public about these issues.
The Challenge’s exploration of loyalty oaths mirrors the arguments raised in Fund for the Republic studies of the issue. It questions whether loyalty oaths were effective in their efforts to prevent Communists from subverting American institutions, whether they were constitutional, and if they led to additional rights or ethics violations.
One of the largest and most frequently used Public Policy collections at Mudd Manuscript Library is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) records. (For a description of the ACLU and its documents, see our previous library blog entry). The ACLU’s Audiovisual Materials Series, however, has been little used, but a few films that were recently digitized will be featured on this blog in the coming weeks. As an introduction, here is a public service announcement (PSA), part of the first television advertising campaign in the history of the ACLU, a result of the organization being drawn into the 1988 U.S. Presidential campaign.
Not many collections in the Public Policy Papers at Mudd Manuscript Library contain audiovisual materials. John Van Antwerp MacMurray’s films of China, which were featured over the past nine weeks, and the American Civil Liberties Union records are an exception. So we were very excited when a preservation survey led to the discovery of an unlabeled film reel in one of the most researched collections: the papers of John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State under President Dwight Eisenhower from 1953 until his death in 1959. But the canister smelled nasty, a sign that it contained highly combustible nitrate film.
The film, however, was in stable enough condition to be digitized. It turned out to be a Pathé newsreel from around 1934, in which a very young Dulles, an international lawyer at the time who served as American representative at the German Debt Conferences of 1933-1934, discusses France’s “war debts.” France was one of the many European nations who were indebted to the US Treasury for loans made during and immediately after World War I (a total of over 10 billion dollars for all countries). Dulles had participated in the American Commission to Negotiate Peace in Versailles (1918-1919), and in the Reparations Commission (1919).