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American Studies Workshop with Professor Angie Diaz: Archives in the Yale Library

Archives in the Yale Library

The Yale Library has seven different special collections units, all of which hold archival collections in addition to rare and unique books and other published materials. Materials used in today's class session are from Manuscripts and Archives in Sterling Memorial Library. Feel free to contact Josh Cochran, if you have questions about finding and using materials in Manuscripts and Archives or other Yale Library special collections.

  • 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 to over 8,000 archival collections held within Yale's special collections. You use this database to find and request boxes from archival collections, that you will then use in the relevant special collections reading room. 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. Be aware that archives and special collections are often not where you'll find the primary sources you need!
  • MSSA Researcher Information has information on how to register and make reservations to conduct research in the research room

The entries on the rest of this page are linked to digitized materials from Yale archival holdings. Some questions to keep in mind when working with archival materials are:

  1. Who created this archival collection, when were the materials in it created, where were they created? 
  2. What is going on? What is the context for the document(s) you looked at?
  3. Whose perspective(s) comes through in the document(s)? Whose doesn’t?
  4. What can you know based on the sources you have in front of you? What do you not know?
  5. What questions do the sources raise that could lead you to further research?
  6. Did anything surprise you when looking at the folders in your collection?

Rachel Carson Papers (YCAL MSS 46), Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Link to the online finding aid for this collection

Overview:  Manuscripts, notebooks, letters, newspaper clippings, photos, and printed material relating to the research and publications of Rachel Carson (1907-1964). Carson, a biologist and environmentalist, who graduated from the Pennsylvania College for Women (later Chatham College) in 1929 and received an M.S. in genetics from Johns Hopkins University in 1932. Her work as an aquatic biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service led to a career as an author, including her international bestseller Silent Spring (1962), which explored the human destruction of the environment through the careless use of pesticides. Ruth Harrison was a British animal welfare activist and author.

Digitized collection material:

Catherine Roraback Collection of Ericka Huggins Papers (JWJ MSS 96), Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Link to the online finding aid

Overview: Documentation compiled by civil rights attorney and lead defense counsel Catherine Roraback (1920-2007) during the New Haven trial of Black Panther leader Ericka Huggins (born 1948), including Huggins’ prison writings, legal files, and other documentation of the trial and Huggins’ imprisonment. Huggins attended Lincoln University, where she met her future husband John Huggins, with whom she moved to California to join the Black Panthers. After the murder of her husband in Los Angeles in 1969, Huggins moved to New Haven and became a leader of that city’s Black Panther chapter. Her 1969-1971 arrest, incarceration, and trial in New Haven, along with Panther co-founder Bobby Seale and others, for the kidnapping and murder of Panther member Alex Rackley resulted in the 1970 May Day rally in New Haven. The trial ended in a mistrial and dismissal of all charges against Huggins in May 1971. Huggins moved back to California, where she was active with the Black Panthers and taught sociology and African American studies.

Digitized collection material:

Coalition to Stop Trident Records (MS 1696)

Link to the finding aid in Archives at Yale

Collection Overview: The records consist of administrative records, correspondence, publications, subject files, and photographs documenting the history, structure, philosophies, and activities of the Coalition to Stop Trident as well as other groups working to stop the production and deployment of Trident submarines and missiles in Connecticut and New England. There are also subject files which place the local activities of these Connecticut groups into the context of the national and international disarmament movement.    

Digitized collection material:

Lisbet Tellefsen Papers (GEN MSS 1431), Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Link to the online finding aid for this collection

Overview:  Materials created and collected by Lisbet Tellefsen (born 1961). Many of the materials center around the creation of Aché, which was first issued in 1989 as a journal and existed as a collective in the Bay Area until 1994. The rest of the materials generally relate to allied groups and other events that Tellefsen participated in and helped to organize, such as the National Black Gay and Lesbian Conference’s Video Project.  Tellefsen–a political activist, feminist, and community organizer–is a Bay Area native who co-founded Aché along with Pippa Fleming, and has worked as an editor, recording engineer, and producer, receiving a number of awards for her service to the lesbian and gay community.

Digitized collection material:

Walter A. Chapman Papers (MS 892)

Link to the finding aid in Archives at Yale

Collection Overview: Letters of Walter A. Chapman (1840-1865) describing his experience as a member of the 36th regiment, his participation in numerous battles (1862-1864), and the hardships of camp life due to shortages of food, clothing, and medicines. In 1864 he became lieutenant of a brigade of black troops and describes their conduct in a battle at Blakely, Alabama in April, 1865. The diary covers the period January, 1863 to March, 1864.  

Digitized collection material:

Office of the President, Yale University, records concerning the May Day rally (RU 16)

Link to the finding aid in Archives at Yale

Collection Overview: The records include background materials on the Black Panther party, information on the trial, and a series of Strike Newspapers issued by Dwight Hall. Also included are materials documenting Yale's approach and efforts toward organizing peaceful co-existence during the weekend events, as well as published information chronicling each day and summarizing media coverage. Other materials describe the faculty meeting held to address the issue of suspending academic activities during the trial, as well reaction to President Kingman Brewster, Jr.'s, famous speech before that assembly. A significant number of letters detailing positive and negative feedback from Yale alumni and those unrelated to Yale comprise the correspondence files. May Day weekend took place 1-3 May 1970 as a rally to protest the Black Panther murder trial of party chairman Bobby Seale and seven other party members. Normal academic activities were suspended so that Yale students, faculty, and staff could assist in planning and organizing cautionary measures. Yale University opened its doors to demonstrators by offering shelter, food, day care, and first aid throughout the weekend. Approximately 15,000 people attended the first day of rallies without significant disruption or disorder. Fewer remained the following days, and academic activities resumed around campus by Monday 4 May

Collection material:

Beecher Family Papers (MS 71)

Link to the online finding aid for this collection

Overview: Correspondence, writings, speeches, diaries, clippings, printed matter, sermons, and other papers of two centuries of Beecher family members. The papers relate principally to Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), popular 19th century clergyman abolitionist, and orator, and members of his family. Among those represented are his father, the Reverend Lyman Beecher (1775-1863), clergyman; his brothers, Edward Beecher (1803-1895), educator and antislavery leader, and Thomas Kinnicut Beecher (1824-1900) and Charles Beecher (1815-1900), both clergyman and antislavery activist; and his sisters, Harriett Elizabeth (Beecher) Stowe (1811-1896), author, Catherine Esther Beecher (1800-1878), pioneer educator and writer on ‘domestic economy,’ and Isabella Homes (Beecher) Hooker (1822-1907), well-known suffragist.

Digitized collection material:

William Sloane Coffin, Jr. Papers (MS 1665)

Link to the finding aid in Archives at Yale

Collection Overview: Correspondence, subject files, writings, clippings, audio and video recordings, and other materials that document the career of William Sloane Coffin, Jr (1924-2006). The collection includes documentation relating to the civil rights movement, Vietnam War protests, amnesty for war resisters, the Peace Corps, Operation Crossroads Africa, and Yale University during the time when Coffin served as chaplain of Yale University (1958-1975).

Digitized collection material:

May Day Rally and Yale collection (RU 86)

Link to the finding aid in Archives at Yale

Collection Overview: 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. Also included are publications related to anti-war activities nationally.

Collection material: