The Daily Worker and The Daily World Photographs Collection
Language of Materials
The official organ of the Communist Party, USA, the Daily Worker's editorial positions reflected the policies of the Communist Party. At the same time the paper also attempted to speak to the broad left-wing community in the United States that included labor, civil rights, and peace activists, with stories covering a wide range of events, organizations and individuals in the United States and around the world. As a daily newspaper, it covered the major stories of the twentieth century. However, the paper always placed an emphasis on radical social movements, social and economic conditions particularly in working class and minority communities, poverty, labor struggles, racial discrimination, right wing extremism with an emphasis on fascist and Nazi movements, and of course the Soviet Union and the world-wide Communist movement. The paper has had a succession of names and has been published in varying frequences between daily to weekly over the course of its existence. In 2010 it ceased print publication and became an electronic, online-only, weekly publication titled the People's World. The bulk of the collection consists of printed photographic images produced through a variety of processes, collected by the photography editors of the Daily Worker and its successor newspapers as a means of maintaining an organized collection of images for use in publication. Images of many important people, groups and events associated with the CPUSA and the American Left are present in the collection, as well as images of a wide variety of people, subjects and events not explicitly linked with the CPUSA or Left politics.
The Daily Worker traces its origins to the Communist Labor Party, founded in Chicago in 1919, and its newspaper the Toiler. When the Communist Labor Party merged with the Workers Party in 1921 the Toiler became the weekly paper The Worker. On January 13, 1924 it changed its name to the Daily Worker. It continued to be published in Chicago until 1927, when the Communist Party moved to New York City. As the official organ of the Communist Party, USA, the Daily Worker's editorial positions reflected the policies of the Communist Party. At the same time the paper also attempted to speak to the broad left-wing community in the United States that included labor, civil rights, and peace activists, with stories covering a wide range of events, organizations and individuals in the United States and around the world. As a daily newspaper, it covered the major stories of the twentieth century. However, there was always an emphasis on radical social movements, social and economic conditions particularly in working class and minority communities, poverty, labor struggles, racial discrimination, right wing extremism with an emphasis on fascist and Nazi movements, and of course the Soviet Union and the world-wide Communist movement.
After the Communist Party moved its operations to New York City the Daily Worker became one of the most influential papers on the American Left. In the late 1920s its circulation was estimated at 17,000 and at its peak in the late 1930s it may have been as high as 35,000.
In October 1935 the Daily Worker began to publish a Sunday edition, later known as the Sunday Worker. That same year, it also added comic strips such as Louis Ferstadt's Little Lefty, a countercultural retort to the mainstream press' Little Orphan Annie. In 1938 it added a women's page edited by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. Over the years, the paper would publish the work of many notable graphic artists and cartoonists, including prominent figures such as Fred Ellis, who also contributed artwork The New Majority, The Liberator and The Labor Herald; radical illustrator and muralist Hugo Gellert; painter, journalist and cartoonist Robert Minor; and Ollie Harrington, an African American cartoonist who lived in exile in East Germany for much of his life.
In the mid-1930s the Daily Worker established a sports page that combined extensive sports coverage with incisive social criticism. Sports page editor Lester Rodney led the campaign for the desegregation of professional sports in the United States, particularly baseball. Featuring regular articles on the accomplishments of African American athletes, such as Joe Louis and Jesse Owens, the Daily Worker made the case that all sports would benefit from integration. As part of this campaign it sponsored a basketball team made up of Harlem's top high school players and persuaded a black professional football team to play a benefit game to raise funds for the paper.
With their leadership role in the Southern Negro Youth Congress, the Communist Party and the Daily Worker played a central role in the early civil rights movement and the anti-lynching campaigns of the 1930s and 1940s, including the campaign to free the Scottsboro Boys, the Angelo Herndon trial, and the work of the International Labor Defense. The Daily Worker denounced the Jim Crow laws of the Southern United States, focusing its coverage on violence directed against the black community and on the emerging struggles to end segregation and racial intimidation.
The Daily Worker's coverage of the unemployment marches in the early years of the Great Depression and the fight for social security and unemployment insurance made it one of the most influential papers on the American Left. Its coverage of the labor battles of the 1930s shaped the way many Americans thought about organized labor. Its reporters and photographers captured the struggles textile workers in Gastonia, North Carolina in 1929; Illinois miners in 1930; California lettuce workers and Flint, Michigan autoworkers in 1931; coal miners in Harlan County, West Virginia ("Bloody Harlan") and teamsters in Minneapolis in 1934. During these years, the paper also documented the impact of the Great Depression on American working people, with stories on housing conditions in Harlem, Hunger Marches and unemployed movement organizing across the country, the campaign for social security, the "Don't Buy Where You Can't Work Campaign," and mobilizations for improved housing. The paper was noted for its investigative reporting about slum housing and block busting in Harlem. Civil rights was an important part of the Daily Worker's agenda and the paper covered most of the major lynching cases of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. The campaign to free the Scottsboro Boys was on its front pages for nearly seven years.
The news coverage in the Daily Worker almost always reflected Communist Party policies. During the Trade Union Educational League years of the 1920s this meant support for revolutionary unionism. During the Popular Front years the paper was a leading voice for industrial unionism and the Congress for Industrial Organizations.
As the organ for the Communist Party, USA the Daily Worker provided extensive coverage about the international Communist movement. For the Communist Party the Soviet Union was the center of the world's revolutionary movement. The Daily Worker's coverage of Soviet life, foreign, and domestic policies reflected an uncritical perspective on the Soviet system, as it celebrated life in what it called the "Socialist" countries. These stories often highlighted the miracles of Soviet economic development and ethnic harmony under Socialism. This internationalist perspective often resulted in extensive coverage of the struggles for declonialization in Asia, Africa, and Latin America which were largely invisible in the mainstream press. The Daily Worker often focused on revolutionary nationalism in its various forms from Pan Africanism to the self determination struggles in the Middle East.
With the ascendancy of Adolph Hitler, the fight against Nazism and fascism moved to the center of the Communist Party's agenda in the late 1930s. It reported on Nazi atrocities, and the rising tide of anti-Semitism. In 1936 the Daily Worker sent teams of photographers and reporters to Spain, as it tried to rally the American people to support the Spanish Republic in its brutal civil war with the Falange of General Francisco Franco. These teams returned with images and stories depicting the lives of ordinary Spanish people resisting fascism, the relationship between the Republican army and the International Brigades, and the impact of the fascist bombing in cities such as Guernica.
With the fall of Spain and the signing of the 1939 Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact, the CPUSA aligned itself with the new course in Soviet foreign policy, as World War II became an "imperialist war." Between September 1939 and June 1941, the Daily Worker refocused on the domestic scene and the peace movement as a way of trying to divert attention from the Soviet Union's pact with Germany. The paper highlighted campaigns for union rights, job security, and civil liberties.
When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June of 1941, the Daily Worker's interpretation of the war changed dramatically. The message, as depicted in the articles and photography of the Daily Worker, became World War II as an epic struggle against the Nazis, the role of the Soviet Union as the major battlefield of the war, and the impact of the German invasion on Russia's civilian population. On the cultural front, the paper documented the relationship between politics, folk music and folk dance, covering individuals such as Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Leadbelly, Sophie Maslow and Martha Graham.
However, the post-war period saw the rise of McCarthyism and the Communist Party under relentless attack. As a result, the Daily Worker experienced a dramatic decrease in circulation and the paper's financial health, always tenuous at best, took a decided turn for the worse. The daily paper closed in January 1958 during the period when the Communist Party was forced to go underground as a result of the repression of the Red Scare. In 1960 it resumed publication as a weekly under the name of The Worker and, although it began biweekly publication several years later, it never again achieved the level of popularity or circulation it enjoyed in the 1930s and 1940s.
In 1967 the paper, now renamed the Daily World, resumed daily publication. It reported on the rebirth of the civil rights movement, including sit-ins, voter registration campaigns and the Freedom Rides, following figures including Martin Luther King, Jr, Ralph Abernathy, Rosa Parks and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. In the late 1960s and 1970s, as the CPUSA aligned itself with the anti-Vietnam War movement and Black Nationalist movements including the Black Panthers, the paper covered important events of that period, including the Soledad Brothers trial, the subsequent arrest and imprisonment of Angela Davis, demonstrations against the war in Vietnam – including massive Moratorium Day demonstrations – on college campuses in New York City and across the country, and the Black Panther Breakfast Program in Harlem.
In 1986 the paper merged with the CPUSA's West Coast weekly, the People's World. The newly formed People's Daily World was published from 1987 until 1991, when daily publication was abandoned in favor of a weekly edition, renamed the People's Weekly World. During this period the paper focused heavily on labor union activity, particularly in cities like Detroit and Chicago, as well as the growing anti-globalization movement.
Shifting its operations back to Chicago between 2001 and 2002, the paper changed its name to the People's World in 2009. In 2010, the paper ceased print publication and became an electronic, online-only, publication.
The collection is arranged into four series:
Series I: Biographical Files, Series II: Subject Files, Series III: Oversize Material, and Series IV: Indices
Materials are arranged alphabetically.
Scope and Content Note
The collection consists of approximately 178,000 photographic prints produced by a variety of processes, as well as clippings and graphic material. Although materials in the collection were gathered throughout the life of the paper, their bulk falls roughly between 1930-1948 and 1968-1990.
The collection was created by the photography editors of the Daily Worker and its successor newspapers as a means of maintaining an organized collection of images for use in publication. Many of these photographs were taken by staff photographers at the Daily Worker (usually noted by a "Daily Worker" stamp on the verso), including "Art" and "Pete" (whose full name was Peter Aprievesky) in the 1940s; Al Simon in the 1960s; Bill Andrews, Ted Reich, Terry Santana, Sheldon Ramsdell, and Mike Giocondo in the 1960s and 1970s; Maxine Orris in the 1970s to 1980s; and Ken BeSaw and Tim Wheeler from the 1960s through the 1990s. Images by photographers from other Communist Party newspapers and publications, such as Elmer Allen for the San Francisco-based People's World, are also present in the collection. Also included are images by freelance photographers, including significant individuals such as Arthur "Weegee" Fellig, Sid Grossman (co-founder of the Photo League) and Annie Liebovitz.
A large number of images in the collection come from news agencies, including United Press International, Associated Press, Wide World, International News Service, Sovfoto, TASS, ADN (for East Germany), and Japan Press Service. Although some of these images were created using silver gelatin printing processes, many of them were created by other photographic processes, including thermally processed silver materials, xerographic and electrolytic processes. Many of these images are of poor quality and generally unsuitable for reproduction.
In addition, a small number of photographic images clipped from newspapers and magazines and non-photographic materials, including cartoons, logos, other graphic material, and photocopies of original artwork, are also found in the collection. Many of these come from publications produced by Communist or Soviet bloc countries.
The different print formats present in the collection document the history of newspaper printing technologies, and the changing ways in which news services distributed images for publication. In addition, they reveal the process of the Daily Worker's image-making by documenting the collecting of images for publication, as well as the ways in which images were cropped, sized and captioned before being published in the paper.
Images of CPUSA activities, its leaders, members, and affiliated organizations form a significant part of the collection. There are also images photographs depicting the larger world of the American Left. Labor struggles were always central to the Daily Worker's news coverage. Some of the earliest photographs depict textile strikes in Paterson, New Jersey and Lawrence, Massachusetts in the years before World War I. Photographs from the 1920s depict activities of William Z. Foster's Trade Union Educational League, the work of the Chicago building trades unions, the 1922 coal and railroad shop workers strikes, labor conflict in the automobile and textile industries, Marcus Garvey's "Back-to-Africa" movement, the American Negro Labor Congress, and slum housing conditions in Harlem. There are also photographs documenting the Sacco and Vanzetti trial; missions to Moscow involving Earl Browder, Rose Pastor Stokes, and "Mother" Ella Bloor; Soviet Comintern meetings; and Moscow's community of color.
Images from the 1930s depict the impact of the Great Depression on American working people and the movement to organize the unemployed including Hunger Marches in New York State and across the country. Photos of a large number of athletes from this period are also in the collection, including prominent African American athletes like Joe Louis and Jesse Owens, underscoring the Daily Worker's support for the desegregation of professional sports in the United States. The Daily Worker supported the CPUSA's efforts to end segregation and racial intimidation, depicting anti-lynching campaigns, the campaign to free the Scottsboro Boys, the Angelo Herndon trial, and the work of the International Labor Defense. Photographs documenting the Spanish Civil War, taken by the paper's teams of photographers, depict the lives of ordinary Spanish people resisting fascism, the relationship between the Republican army and the International Brigades, and the impact of the fascist bombing in cities such as Guernica. In 1939, with the fall of Spain and the signing of the 1939 Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact, the Daily Worker refocused on domestic labor and civil rights struggles in order to create a counter narrative at a time when most news coverage was focused on the Soviet Union's non-aggression pact with Germany and the early battles of World War II. Photographs from this period highlight campaigns for collective bargaining, job security, and higher wages in the steel, coal, and automobile industries among others.
One of the most historically significant portions of this collection is the many pictures of ordinary people at work in both industrial and rural America that exist in many folders throughout the collection. Depictions of urban street scenes in metropolitan centers including New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Cleveland; photos of farmers and migrant workers around the world; and images of minority and immigrant communities offer a window into daily life in the United States and abroad over the last century. Influenced by individuals such as Lewis Hine, Charles Rivers and other photographers associated with the Photo League, these pictures are part of the tradition of social realism that reached its apogee in the 1930s and was connected to the labor and progressive movements. Although these photos are not political in the usual sense, they clearly present a point of view, and are inspired by the belief that socially concerned photography could help change the world. As such, they are important sources for American social history.
Since the Daily Worker was located in New York City, coverage of the City's politics, labor, and civil rights struggles are very extensive. There is an emphasis on the New York garment industry which often reflects the perspective of the Communist-led International Fur and Leather Workers Union. Similarly, there is extensive coverage of many of the left unions, most notably the Transport Workers Union of American, United Automobile Workers, District Council 65, and the United Electrical Workers. Social conditions in Harlem, Brooklyn's Brownsville neighborhood, and the South East Bronx are a perennial subject.
After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June of 1941 the paper focused heavily on World War II, depicting it as an epic struggle against the Nazis, with the Soviet Union playing a major role as one of the primary battlefields of the war. The impact of the German invasion on the Soviet Union's civilian population was stressed, as were historic moments of cooperation between the Soviet Union and the United States such as the Elbe River Linkage of August 1945. On the cultural front, there are many photographs documenting the relationship between politics, folk music and folk dance. Photographs depicting performances of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Martha Graham, Sophie Maslow, Pearl Primus, and the Weavers show the ways in which the Communist Party sought to promote political folk music and careers of sympathetic performers in the 1940s and beyond.
The post-war period saw the rise of McCarthyism and the Communist Party under relentless attack. Although the paper closed briefly in the late 1950s, the collection is nonetheless a rich source of visual information about the Red Scare of the 1950s: the Smith Act trials, the Rosenberg case, the Alger Hiss trial, and the trial of the Hollywood Ten.
A significant fraction of the collection is the photographs depicting Communist countries, particularly the Soviet Union and the nations of Eastern Europe. Many of these photographs were produced by government controlled press services, and as a result depict life in these countries in an uncritically positive light, one that often crosses the line into propaganda. The Daily Worker reproduced these images both in an attempt to link American progressive political experience to the international Communist movement led by the Soviet Union as well as to construct a narrative to counter the Cold War discourse so dominant in the United States media. However, these images from the Soviet and Eastern European press services provide a perspective about life under Communism that is rarely seen in western sources and archives.
As McCarthyism began to come to and end in the early 1960s, the civil rights movement was gaining momentum. The paper (now a weekly known as The Worker) captured the rebirth of this movement with dramatic images of the Freedom Rides, sit-ins, and voter registration campaigns. The activities of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee were often highlighted. After 1965 coverage pivoted to the Vietnam War and the peace movements, including demonstrations on college campuses and Moratorium Day demonstrations in New York City and across the country. The paper's reporters and photographers had unusual access to North Vietnam and there are some extraordinary images of life in North Vietnam and wartime destruction in the collection. Black Nationalism, the Black Panther Party, and the campaign to free Angela Davis are well documented.
There is considerable documentation in the collection of movements in the 1980s to resist the policies of Ronald Reagan and efforts to roll back the labor protections that had been enacted during the New Deal. There is also coverage of the Iran hostage crisis, the first Iraq War and the continuing Arab-Israeli conflict.
Partial indices of images published in the Daily Worker and the Daily World, mostly during the late 1960s, include biographical indices and a topical index on Vietnam.
Conditions Governing Access
Materials are open without restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use
Copyright (or related rights to publicity and privacy) for materials in this collection, created by the Communist Party, USA was not transferred to New York University. Permission to use materials must be secured from the copyright holder.
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, New York University.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The bulk of the Daily Worker and Daily World Photographs Collection was transferred to the Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives as part of the donation of the Communist Party of the USA archives and the Library of the Reference Center for Marxist Studies in the summer of 2006. The accession numbers associated with the CPUSA material are 2006.052 and NPA.2007.010.
Additions to the collection include a small number of photographs separated from records of the Communist Party of the United States of America (TAM 132), as well as seven linear feet of material received from Daily World staff photographer and artist Bill Andrews in January 2010. The accession number associated with the Bill Andrews materials is 2011.120.
The indices that comprise Series IV were discovered in the repository and added to the collection in 2014. The accession number associated with these materials is 2014.134.
Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
The collection contains positive images produced using a number of photographic processes. The most common of these are black and white silver gelatin prints. Color prints are also present. These materials are stored in folders titled "Prints." Some of these prints were improperly fixed and are extremely discolored; in these cases they were separated from stable prints for preservation purposes and stored in separate folders titled, "Poorly Processed Prints."
In addition, the collection contains Unifax prints, which were produced by United Press International's first generation of Unifax machines. Characterized by an extremely thin fiber support and loss of highlight detail due to a continuing developing out process, these images are highly chemically unstable. These materials are stored in folders titled "Unifax Prints."
There are also pre-press proofs, which are camera-ready halftone images printed on resin coated paper, adhered to a backing. These are the images as they were cropped and captioned to appear in the Daily Worker or Daily World. Captions are usually attached with pressure sensitive tape or heat activated adhesives. These materials are stored in folders titled "Pre-Press Prints."
Two kinds of prints, both produced using thermal processes, are also present in the collection. The first set of these are images produced through United Press International's second generation of Unifax machines, printed on glossy white paper via a non-silver gelatin electrostatic process. Although not as unstable as other thermal prints, the images have faded slightly and have lost detail in the highlights. The second set comes from the Associated Press' LaserPhoto and LeafDesk service, and were reproduced with a silver thermal gelatin thermal process. These prints are highly light-sensitive, and are very discolored. They, also, have been separated from prints, and both types are stored in folders titled "Thermal Prints."
The collection also contains a small number of photographic images clipped from newspapers, magazines and journals, stored in folders titled "Clippings."
Finally, a small number of non-photographic material is present in the collection, including clippings of cartoons, logos and other graphical material, as well as photocopies of original artwork; these are stored in folders titled "Graphics."
Original cartoons and artwork were separated to the Daily Worker/Daily World Cartoons Collection (GRAPHICS 024). Printed ephemera was separated to the Communist Party of the United States of America Printed Ephemera Collection (PE 031). Negatives were separated to the Daily Worker/Daily World Negatives Collection (PHOTOS 223.1)
Although the Daily Worker and Daily World Photographs Collection and the Daily Worker and Daily World Negatives Collection have the same provenance, the original order of each collection was very different from the other. Negatives were arranged chronologically by shoot, while prints were arranged alphabetically by personal name or subject. As a result, finding a corresponding negative for a given print (or vice versa) is not always easy or even possible.
Detailed processing for this collection was made possible by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).
About this Guide
Materials were placed in new acid-free folders and boxes. Unifax, Pre-Press Prints and Poorly Processed Prints were placed in separate folders from Prints and Thermal Prints.
Most original folder titles were not changed, with the exception of forming personal names according the authorized version found in the Library of Congress' Name Authority File, and standardizing some terms with an eye to consistency and removing anachronistic, unclear or misleading language (for example, "Negro" and "Black" were replaced with "African American," and "Indian" was replaced with terms that more accurately describe the subjects' ethnicity). In addition, "See also" references written on the outside of the original folders were transferred to the container list.
Date spans of materials' creation or publication were also added to any folders originally lacking that information.
Indices discovered in the repository in 2014 were added to the collection as Series IV.
In 2021 names of events that had been changed to use "African American" instead of "Black" or "Negro" were restored.