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Robert Colodny Papers

Call Number



1937-2002, inclusive
; 1960-1995, bulk


Colodny, Robert Garland.


5.25 Linear Feet (6 boxes)

Language of Materials

English .


Robert Colodny (1915-1997) fought with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. He returned to the U.S. in 1938 with a severe head injury. He recovered and served in with the U.S. Army in Alaska during World War II. Colodny received his Ph.D. in history and philosophy in 1950 and joined the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh in 1959. In 1961, a Pennsylvania State representative accused Colodny of being a Communist sympathizer, jeopardizing his faculty position at the University of Pittsburgh. After a HUAC hearing and a University inquiry, Colodny was cleared and his position secured. This collection documents Colodny's writings from World War II; his work as a writer and editor of academic, political and historical material; his correspondence and activities with the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigades (VALB); and his lifelong involvement in a range of progressive causes.

Historical/Biographical Note

Robert Garland Colodny (1915-1997) was born in Phoenix, Arizona. In 1936, after having been expelled from Columbia University for refusing to take certain courses, Colodny became a chemistry student at the University of Chicago; there he expressly sought out recruiters for the International Brigades. In February 1937, Colodny sailed for Spain on the Isle de France. By late summer, he had been shot between the eyes, contracted gangrene of the brain, and was expected to die. But he recovered, and, though bandaged, weak and blind in one eye, was sent back to a front in the Aragon Mountains. It was not long before he was stricken with a high fever, however, and in March 1938, Colodny was granted permission to leave Spain on a sealed train to Paris. He sailed for the U.S. in April, partially paralyzed and blinded on the left side.

Despite his health history, Colodny joined the U.S. Army in 1941, and served for four years, stationed in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska in Army Intelligence alongside fellow-sergeant Dashiell Hammett. With Hammett, Colodny produced a Company newsletter, The Adakian, designed to boost troop morale, and co-authored a book commissioned by the Army, The Battle of the Aleutians; they also co-wrote and broadcast a radio program.

Colodny earned his doctorate in history and philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley in 1950. His Masters Thesis on the Spanish Civil War was later published as The Struggle for Madrid(1958). In 1959, Colodny joined the history faculty of the University of Pittsburgh. Two years later, Pennsylvania State Representative John T. Walsh accused Colodny of being a Communist sympathizer for having made a statement supporting the Cuban revolution. This was one of the last anti-Communist investigations in the nation's history. His career in jeopardy, Colodny fought a year-long battle to clear his name. In addition to his appearances before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), where he was cleared after stating that he had been misquoted on Cuba and denying membership in the Communist Party, Colodny underwent a separate investigation by the University of Pittsburgh. Ultimately Chancellor Edward Litchfield stood behind Colodny, declaring the University's strong commitment to protecting academic freedom. Colodny taught at the University of Pittsburgh until his retirement in 1984.

Colodny remained politically involved with progressive causes, including the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements, throughout his life. His expertise in the many aspects of the history of science led to his activism for a number of environmental causes. Colodny was a member of VALB, regularly contributing to the group's publication, The Volunteer, and dedicating his energy especially to preserving the memory and lessons of the Spanish Civil War. He also served on VALB's historical preservation committee.

In addition to his voluminous scientific writing and book reviewing, Colodny wrote and lectured extensively on the political implications of the Spanish Civil War. He also edited, consulted and contributed to many book, radio, film, and television projects on the subject, including work on Death in the Olive Groves: The Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil Warby Arthur Landis; and Prisoners of the Good Fightby Carl Geiser.

Colodny died in 1997 of colon cancer.


The Struggle for Madrid: The Central Epic of the Spanish Conflict, 1936-37(New York: Paine-Whitman, 1958)Spain: The Glory and the Tragedy(New York: Humanities Press, 1970)Spain and Vietnam: The Fight for Freedom(New York : Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, 1967)


Arranged alphabetically.

Organized into 2 series:

Missing Title

  1. I: General Files
  2. II: Oversize Materials, Scrapbook, Audio- and Videotapes.

Scope and Content Note

Series I, General Files.

Files in Series I include Colodny's World War II writings, some co-written by Dashiell Hammett; materials from Colodny's academic career; papers related to his involvement in a range of progressive causes; writings analyzing and commemorating the Spanish Civil War; materials documenting conferences, lectures, and other Spanish Civil War-related activities; and typescripts and correspondence related to Colodny's work as contributing writer and editor on academic, political, and historical projects.

Files documenting Colodny's academic freedom case at the University of Pittsburgh include correspondence, hearing transcripts, and newspaper clippings. General correspondence includes exchanges with colleagues and students; correspondence with Russian mathematical linguist V.V. Nalimov, with typescripts of Nalimov's writings on the history of science edited by Colodny; and correspondence and typescripts of Colodny's work with Israeli academician Arie S. Issar on the philosophy of science and the evolution of water resources. Correspondence documents years of work with VALB and exchanges with Spanish Civil War veterans, including Moe Fishman, Harry Fisher, Edward Barsky, Alvah Bessie, Joseph Brandt, and Fredericka Martin. Other correspondence includes notes from Malcolm Cowley, and photocopies of notes from Lillian Hellman, Gore Vidal, and C.P. Snow.

Typescripts include Colodny's writings for the radio broadcast Corpus Duende: Echoes of the Spanish Civil War, which was performed by Eli Wallach; presentations at conferences on environmental issues, the Spanish Civil War, and global peace; and assorted book reviews. There are also a number of published book reviews of Colodny's work.

Colodny's work as an editor is further reflected in this series in the typescript of an anthology which he compiled and introduced, Fate and Hope: Echoes of the Anti-Fascist Struggles; as well as correspondence and partial typescripts of work by fellow veterans Arthur Landis and Carl Geiser. Writings by others include several essays by Willard C. Frank, Jr. about naval operations during the Spanish Civil War.

Other papers in this series document Colodny's tour in Alaska during World War II. Included here are typescripts for his radio show, "The World in Review"; and publications about battles in the Aleutians written with Hammett, including a reprint of The Capture of Attu: Tales of World War II in Alaska.

Series II, Oversize Materials, Scrapbook, Audio- and Videotapes.

This series is comprised of original issues of The Adakian, the newsletter produced and written by Colodny and Dashiell Hammett in Alaska during World War II, as well as typescripts for radio shows broadcast on July 4th and V-J Day, 1945. Also in this series is a scrapbook of news clippings dating principally from 1961, when Colodny was under investigation by HUAC; two videotaped talks by Colodny; and an undated audio-tape of a Teach-In.

Access Restrictions

Materials are open to researchers. Please contact the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives for more information and to schedule an appointment, or 212-998-2630.

Use Restrictions

Any rights (including copyright and related rights to publicity and privacy) held by the donor were transferred to New York University. Permission to publish or reproduce materials in this collection must be secured from the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives. For more information, contact or 212-998-2630.

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date; Collection name; Collection number; box number; folder number;
Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012, New York University Libraries.


The Robert Colodny Papers were donated to the Tamiment Library at New York University in 1997, by his wife, Margaret S. Colodny.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Access copies for some audiovisual materials are available by appointment for reading room viewing and listening only. Please contact the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives for more information, to request digitization of materials, and to schedule an appointment, or 212-998-2630.

Separated Material

Photographs from the Robert Colodny Collection have been transferred to the non-print section of the ALBA collection in the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives.

Related Material at the Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Carl Geiser Papers.

ALBA collections at the Tamiment Library.

Arthur H. Landis Papers.

Collection processed by

Jessika Drmacich and Wendy Scheir, 2004

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-20 16:37:22 -0400.
Language: Description is in English.

Edition of this Guide

This version was derived from Colodny ALBA 211.doc


Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012