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American Radical Publishing 1917-45 & the Marx Memorial Library
The Marx Memorial Library is home to the John Williamson Collection comprising a phenomenal collection of CPUSA pamphlets and periodicals. This online panel brings together experts in the field - Jodie Collins & Dr Sue Currell - to discuss the history of radical publishing in America 1917-45.
1. Jodie Collins is an AHRC-funded collaborative doctoral student at the University of Sussex and the British Library, where she helps to collate and promote the hundreds of political pamphlets available in the the Library’s collection.
Between 1917 and 1945, Communists became the most prolific producers of pamphlets in the U.S., distributing tens of millions to workers across the country. Though typically labelled as simple ephemera, pamphlets would be shared, saved and reissued, and were a vital form of communication and education for radicals. This talk will explore the development of communist pamphleteering in America during this tumultuous period of political polarization, from the distribution of Lenin’s Letter to American Workingmen to the CPUSA’s pamphlets eagerly promoting the U.S. war effort.
2.Dr. Sue Currell is Reader in American Literature at the University of Sussex.
This talk surveys the Marxist avant-garde magazine New Masses, published in New York and distributed internationally between 1926-48. The MML has a unique collection of the magazine which forms part of the Williamson collection. Examining the cultural and political aesthetics and activities of the magazine from a period of economic abundance in the roaring twenties, through the economic crisis of the Great Depression, into World War II and the Cold War, this talk tracks and traces key shifts in the magazine's history as well as honing in on the contribution of women and African-Americans to the magazine. The talk will conclude by looking at how the magazine became a key target in anti-communist investigations, leading to its closure and the persecution or exile of its editors and contributors. The important Williamson collection enabled this significant magazine to survive across the Atlantic, but conservation issues surrounding it remain a threat to its physical existence today.