Scope and Content
Title: Holland Roberts Collection,
Date (inclusive): 1944-1957
Accession number: 1987/088
Extent: 0.60 cubic feet
San Francisco State University. Labor Archives & Research Center
San Francisco, California 94132
Shelf location: For current information on the location of these
materials, please consult the Center's online catalog.
Collection is open for research.
Copyright has not been assigned to the Labor Archives & Research Center. All requests for
permission to publish or quote from materials must be submitted in writing
to the Director of the Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf
of the Labor Archives & Research Center as the owner of the physical items and is not intended
to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be
obtained by the reader.
[Identification of item], Holland Roberts Collection, 1987/088, Labor Archives & Research Center,
San Francisco State University.
This collection was donated to the Labor Archives and Research
Center in 1987 by Fiona St. John, the daughter of Holland
Roberts. This collection has great significance for patrons
researching the California Labor School Collection (1988/043) as
it contains the first draft of memoirs by Holland Roberts (ca.
1971) which provide a retrospective view of the School and Dr.
Roberts' life. This collection was processed by Carol Cuénod in
Holland Roberts' higher education was at the University of
Chicago where he received advanced degrees in English (1919) and
Education (1925). During his early career, he taught English at
various midwest colleges and in New York City at Columbia
University. In 1934 he came to Stanford University as an
assistant professor of education for English teachers and by
1939, he was an associate professor. Dr. Roberts professional
affiliations included the National Council of Teachers of
English; he served as president in 1937-38 and again in 1944. He
was the author of textbooks, articles and research studies in the
field of education. His extra-curricular interests and
activities included a lifelong study of the USSR, AFT organizing
at Stanford, campaigning for the freedom of Tom Mooney, and
promoting a school for trade unionists and the new workers in
WWII industries. These activities served to identify Holland
Roberts as a left-wing radical and Stanford University responded
by refusing to renew his contract in the Spring of 1944. As he
was not tenured, the action served as dismissal without recourse.
Following his termination at Stanford, Dr. Roberts began his
staff affiliation with the California Labor School by accepting
the post of educational director. When Dave Jenkins left as
director in 1949, Roberts took that position and remained as the
head until the government closed the School in 1957.
Holland Roberts had been actively involved with the School prior
to his employment as educational director. He writes of participating in meetings which led to the establishment in 1942
of what was then known as the Tom Mooney Labor School, and he was
listed on the Board of Directors in the 1944 School catalog.
Throughout his life, Holland Roberts was an active leader in the
peace movement and worked for friendship and cultural exchange
with socialist countries. His service as president of the
American Russian Institute for 20 years gained him recognition as
an expert on the USSR. On his 80th birthday, he was commended by
President Ford for his work improving relations between the US
and the USSR. The Supreme Soviet of the USSR also gave him the
high honor of the Friendship of the Peoples Award.
Scope and Content
The major part of this collection is a first draft of Holland
Roberts' memoirs centering on his time at the California Labor
School. Most material is handwritten or typed with handwritten
revisions. There are 28 folders representing material for
approximately 23 chapters. The memoirs start with his career as
an associate professor at Stanford and continue to the closing of
the School. There are post-California Labor School chapter
fragments on academic freedom and the HUAC hearing in San
Francisco in 1960. A "Tentative Table of Contents" guided the
organization of these folders.
Researchers will gain insight into the thinking and motivation of
a radical academic in a period of intense repression. They will
find information on Holland Roberts' career at Stanford and the
reason for his leaving that institution and becoming a full-time
staff member at the California Labor School. His writing is
replete with rhetoric of the left-wing movement of this period.
Holland Roberts tells of prominent and interesting teachers,
students and supporters the California Labor School attracted.
There are pieces on Anton Refrigier (muralist), Bill Freeman
(student) and William Crocker (banker). The spirited social and
cultural life is described in Chapters titled "The School as a
Social Learning Center," "Personalities Around the School," and
"1948: The School at its Peak."
An inside view of political oppression is told in "Escaping
Subpoena Servers: Dave Goes Through the Skylight." Along with a
humorous view of Dave's attempt to avoid a server, Roberts tells
of the dangerous implications of receiving a subpoena from a
touring investigating committee. Challenging the basic
assumptions of government attacks is his chapter, "Were We
Dominated by the Communist Party?" Other chapters describe the
action which led to the closing of the school.
Series III: "The California Labor School" has similar
arrangement as the California Labor School Collection (1988/034)
and can be researched as a supplement to that collection.
Correspondence contained in several different folders is by Dr.
Roberts as well as David Jenkins. Of interest is the folder
titled "Veterans Program, Correspondence," which gives insight
into the reason for this program being discontinued after barely
two years. There are six folders with class outlines on US
History and other classes Roberts taught. One folder is a
criticism of his outline by a colleague. These outlines provide
a classroom view of the instruction which students received. A
last folder has class outlines from the Jefferson School of
Social Science in New York which Holland Roberts collected.