In the 1930s, the U-M Library’s Joseph A. Labadie Collection—the oldest publicly accessible archive of its kind in America—was called “probably the most complete record of the social unrest of our times that has ever been assembled.”
Since then, the collection has only grown, expanding from its original focus on anarchism to also encompass antheism and free thought, anti-colonialist movements, anti-war and pacifist movements, civil liberties and civil rights, labor and workers’ rights, LGBTQ movements, prisons and prisoners, New Left, Spanish Civil War, youth and student protest, and many more.
The collection is named for Detroit labor activist and anarchist Joseph Antoine Labadie (1850-1933), who in 1911 donated the books, pamphlets, newspapers, magazines, manuscripts, and memorabilia he had assembled over the years.
Today, the Labadie Collection is the most widely used of all of the library’s special collections and serves as a unique and important resource for students and researchers at U-M and around the world.
“This is a collection that documents history from below,” says curator Julie Herrada. “We are preserving, and making available to the public, the activities of under-represented groups, people whose ideas are considered marginal or dangerous.”
New materials are being added to the collection all the time. “Not long ago we received a large donation of transgender rights research materials that greatly add to our existing strength in LGBT topics,” she adds.
Along with physical access to rare and unique archival materials, a host of materials are available digitally including scans of anarchist pamphlets, historic photographs,more than 1,000 political “pin-back” buttons and over 2,000 posters on topics we cover.
Because of the collection’s breadth and depth, several finding aids and guides to its holdings are available, including to many of the uncataloged manuscripts and letters.
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