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Anarchist Collections in the Tamiment Library

A guide to the Tamiment Library's holdings related to anarchism.

Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archive

The Abraham Lincoln Archives Collection is an ongoing project begun by the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (VALB) in the late 1970s. These Spanish Civil War veterans recognized the importance of preserving the history of the role of North American volunteers. They formed the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives organization (ALBA) and began to collect letters, writings, oral histories, photographs, posters, artifacts, and ephemera that would preserve this history and contextualize it within the ongoing struggle for radical social change. The Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives Collection was initially deposited with Brandeis University. In December of 2000 it was relocated to New York University's Tamiment Library.

The core of the archive is the roughly 300 individual collections documenting the life stories of Lincoln Brigade and Medical Bureau volunteers. Soldiers, nurses, and doctors are represented in these collections which contain documentation on approximately 10% of the U.S. volunteers who fought in Spain. There are also more than 10,000 photographs, 200 full color posters, postcards, oral history interviews, biographical materials, radio scripts, and artifacts (buttons, badges, uniforms, and a rifle).

The ALBA collections include manuscripts, serials, posters, flyers and ephemera produced by anarchists, both in Spain and abroad during the Spanish Civil War.  

ALBA Vertical Files

The ALBA Vertical Files are a rich source for background information on the people, events and topics related to the ALBA collections in the Tamiment Library and include coverage of the International Brigades as well. The files contain a variety of documents such as newspaper clippings, flyers, brochures, biographical material, anniversary and exhibit programs, obituaries, and other items.

The materials are divided into two separate collections:

  1. The ALBA Vertical File on Individuals collection contains biographical material related to specific people.
  2. The ALBA Vertical File on Subjects contains material related to topics and events.

ALBA Posters

A selection of ca. 35 Spanish posters from Tamiment's collections which were produced by different (and sometimes opposing) leftist political parties, labor unions, and other organizations that supported the Spanish Republican government during Spain's Civil War from 1936 to 1938, have been digitized and are on display via ARTstor (available to NYU-affiliated researchers only). Some, but not all, of these digitized images may be reproduced.

The full Spanish Civil War Poster Collection ALBA.GRAPHICS.001 collection consists of more than 230 items.  See the finding aid for the collection for complete details.

Spanish Refugee Aid Records

The Spanish Refugee Aid (SRA) Records, 1917-2006 (TAM.326)

Life-long leftist and self-proclaimed anarchist, Nancy Gardiner Macdonald (1910-1996), founded Spanish Refugee Aid in 1953, and remained at the organization’s helm until her retirement in 1983.

Macdonald’s contact with refugees of the Spanish Civil War began when she initiated politics’ Packages Abroad (PPA), a project associated with the journal politics, of which her then husband, Dwight Macdonald (1906-1982), was editor. PPA sent packages of food and clothing, provided limited financial aid, and lent moral support to a handful of refugees throughout Europe in the years immediately after World War II. Following her tenure at PPA, Macdonald took a position with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and from there began to focus specifically on Spanish refugees. After a four-month-long trip to Europe in 1952 to assess needs of the refugees, Macdonald raised a committee to support non-communist Spanish refugees, most of whom were then living in France. Macdonald contended that non-communist Spanish refugees had been over looked by aid organizations, and that pro-communist refugees were supported by fellow communists. From its founding in 1953 until its dissolution in 2006, SRA handled the cases of nearly 6,000 Spanish refugees through its New York office and French offices in Paris, Montauban and Toulouse.

The SRA Records contain:

  • case files 
  • correspondence 
  • administrative and financial records
  • photographs.

Materials are in:

  • English
  • French
  • Spanish
  • Catalan

The bulk of the SRA Records consist of case files. These case files run the gamut of the briefest of files consisting of only a routine intake form to case files that contain correspondence and records spanning decades, and occasionally even generations within one family.

The case files are a rich source of demographic data. Intake forms include:

  • information regarding the aid recipient’s date and place of birth,
  • pre-Spanish Civil War occupation and home, as well as the refugee’s occupation
  • address in France 
  • the name of the person or agency who referred the refugee to SRA for assistance.

Often included are names and birth dates of family members. Many of the intake forms also include a narrative. Some of these narratives simply state the refugee’s current tribulations. Other narratives detail everything from the refugee’s status in France to the refugee’s associations with the Republican Army or Government, role during the Spanish Civil War, stints in French internment camps, and life in German labor camps during World War II.

The correspondence series are also significant. Nancy Macdonald was a prolific correspondent and the correspondence in this collection reflects both her concern for individual refugees, and the many networks with other aid organizations, political groups and individual donors that she developed to assist the refugees.