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HIST 272J / ER&M 326: Militia and State Violence in British and American Empires: Archives in the Yale Library

This guide is intended for students in Kate Birkbeck's course and provides an overview of key resources in the Yale Library for your research papers this semester.

Library Special Collections and the Archives at Yale Database

The Yale Library has several special collections units, all of which hold archival collections in addition to rare and unique books and other published materials.

  • The Guide to Using Special Collections at Yale University is a great introduction to finding and using special collections and archives held at Yale for your research projects. 
  • The Archives at Yale database searches guides ("finding aids") to over 8,000 archival collections held within Yale's special collections. You can use this database to find and request boxes from archival collections, which can then be viewed in the special collections reading rooms. Special collections materials, including archives, cannot be checked out.
  • The Primary Sources at Yale website is a great resource if you're not sure what types of materials might serve as primary sources for your research project. Please note that you may find primary sources in databases, books in Sterling, and other places beyond the library's special collections units!

Collections in Manuscripts and Archives, SML

The following are some collections of potential interest in the Manuscripts and Archives department of Sterling Memorial Library:

Library contact: Joshua Cochran, Archivist for American Diplomacy, Manuscripts and Archives, SML -

•    Henry Lewis Stimson Papers (MS 465): Of interest might be Stimson's appointment and tenure as Governor-General of the Philippines in the late 1920s. Other material on his time as Secretary of War and State may also be of interest. 

•    Elisha Spenser Benton Diary (MS 2026): Consists of the diary of Elisha Spencer Benton, which he kept during his service with the U.S. Army Seventh Artillery in Puerto Rico during the Spanish American War. Entries concern his unit's movements, the supply situation, and measures to fight the spread of yellow fever among the soldiers. Benton also includes observations on the countryside, settlements, and people of Puerto Rico. Much of the journal concerns the period after the U.S. military campaign ended on August 15, 1898. 

•    Arthur Llewellyn Griffiths Papers (MS 1352): Memoirs, stories, poems, a novel and essays by Griffiths based on his experiences in the Philippines, where he served under Governor-General William Howard Taft from 1901-1903. Also included is a memoir about Herbert Lucker, another Yale graduate, who served with Griffiths in the Philippines.

•    Harry Weinberger Papers (MS 553): The papers cover Weinberger's professional career from around 1915 until the early 1940s. In that time, Weinberger handled many types of cases, but he took a special interest in people whom he believed had been deprived of their civil liberties and defended many immigrants, anarchists, and radicals. Two of Weinberger's most celebrated clients were the anarchists Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman. Most of Weinberger's clients were, however, neither famous nor wealthy. Many were referred to Weinberger by service agencies like the American Civil Liberties Union, the League for Amnesty of Political Prisoners, and the Worker's Defense Fund.

•    Gus Hall Papers (MS 2113): Recently opened for research, this collection includes Hall's correspondence from jail during the years 1950 to 1957, when he was incarcerated for violating the Smith Act. This correspondence contains both Hall's original handwritten manuscript correspondence, as well as later transcribed typescript copies. This correspondence does not contain any material relating to the Communist Party of the United States, as Hall was only permitted to send letters of a personal nature during his incarceration. As a result, these letters are to his wife, Elizabeth Hall, and their two children, Barbara and Arvo.

•    United States War Relocation Authority. Poston, Arizona Relocation Center collection (MS 803): Poston Relocation Center was a War Relocation Authority (WRA) American concentration camp located in Yuma County (now La Paz County) in southwestern Arizona. The camp was established in 1942, and was the largest geographically of the ten American concentration camps where the WRA incarcerated Japanese Americans during WWII. Poston was built on the Colorado River Indian Reservation, despite the objections of the Tribal Council. Those incarcerated at Poston came largely from agricultural areas in Central and Southern California.

•    May Day Rally and Yale Collection (RU 86):  The materials consist of correspondence, press releases, oral history transcripts, objects, and printed material documenting Yale student involvement in the 1970 May Day rally in New Haven, Connecticut and published materials collected by the donor as a stringer for the "New York Times" related to Yale's student strike, the anti-war movement, and the Black Panthers trial in New Haven.  

•    James F. Ahern Papers (MS 2086): Papers documenting Ahern's position as chief of police for New Haven, Connecticut. Included are materials related to student and police activities during May Day 1970 at Yale University, wiretapping by the New Haven police, and Ahern's role as a member of the President's Commission on Campus Unrest in 1970. Also included are photographs of Ahern, posters, magazine articles authored by and concerning Ahern, audio and visual recordings of Ahern's media appearances, scrapbooks with speeches and news clippings, correspondence by Ahern and family, and Rolodex cards with names and contact information for Ahern’s colleagues in police administration

•    John R. Williams Papers (MS 1398): Consist of photocopies of Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) files concerning the activities of the Black Panther Party in New Haven, Connecticut. The photocopied materials include correspondence, memoranda, informants' reports, transcripts of phone conversations, clippings, photographs, printed material, and other papers from Black Panther Party files at the F.B.I. headquarters in Washington, D.C., and the New Haven, Connecticut, office of the FBI. Williams was an attorney for several New Haven area Black Panther Party members; he learned that his phone conversations with clients were recorded by the F.B.I. during the late 1960s and early 1970s. He obtained declassified material from these files in 1981 and donated the material to Yale University Library in 1984.

•    Frank J. Donner Papers (MS 1706): Documents the history and use of political surveillance in the United States, primarily from the late 1940s through the early 1990s. The collection also generally serves as a resource for researchers studying the history of the twentieth century American left, civil liberties struggles and the lawyers who fought them, and the American political intelligence establishment. The papers reflect Donner's political and intellectual work and interests in civil liberties, progressive political movements, and the government's use of surveillance and informers. 

•    Kent State Collection (MS 804): The Kent State Collection contains two feet of newspaper clippings, spanning from 1970 to 1978; several thousand pages of photostatic copies of F. B. I. documents, acquired by Yale under the Freedom of Information Act; many publications from Kent State, including newspapers, yearbooks, leaflets, and commemorative booklets; and legal briefs, transcripts, and other documents related to various legal proceedings. These materials thoroughly document the public perception of Kent State, and provide direct access to much information that is otherwise available only in widely scattered sources.

•    Ohio ACLU Kent State Project (MS 1800): Records of ACLU of Ohio attorneys document preparation for the re-trial of Krause v. Rhodes in 1978.  Because the re-trial was the culmination of a long, difficult legal battle for accountability in the deaths of four students and the injury of nine others, the collection includes not only materials assembled specifically for the 1978 trial, but also materials gathered for previous lawsuits related to the May 4th, 1970, shootings at Kent State University. The collection includes documents filed in various courts such as briefs, memoranda and motions, transcripts of trial proceedings, and depositions. It also includes materials produced by the attorneys and their staff, such as correspondence, research memoranda, legal strategy communications, and witness files of individuals who testified at one or more trials.

•    Kwangju Incident Records (MS 1766): The records are comprised of photocopies of telegrams between the United States Embassy in Seoul and the U.S. State Department before, during, and after the Kwangju Uprising of 1980. The telegrams primarily discuss the stability of Seoul's government and human rights. Particular topics include the use of martial law, the restructuring of the government, the formation of a constitution, the arrests of dissidents, the trials of political prisoners, student protests, and labor issues.