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John Pittman Papers

Call Number



circa 1880s -1987, inclusive
; 1926-1983, bulk


Pittman, John
Pittman, Margrit (Role: Donor)


6.25 Linear Feet in 6 record cartons and 10 folders in one shared box

Language of Materials

Materials are in English


John Pittman (1906-1993) was an African-American communist journalist and writer born in Atlanta. He graduated from Morehouse College, and received an M.A. in Economics (1930) from the University of California at Berkeley. In 1931, he founded and served as editor of the San Francisco Spokesman, renamed The Spokesman. Pittman became an editor of the (daily) People's World. Pittman traveled to Europe as a correspondent for the Communist Party's newspapers: Daily Worker (New York), People's World, and for the Chicago Defender. He married fellow communist Margrit Adler and together were Moscow correspondents for the CPUSA press. Pittman was also the founding co-editor of the Daily World in New York. The collection includes biographical materials, correspondence, writings, documentation of his political activities, photographs, graphics, and realia.

Historical/Biographical Note

John Pittman (1906-1993), an African-American communist journalist, was born in Atlanta, graduated from Morehouse College, and received an M.A. in Economics (1930) from the University of California at Berkeley, with a thesis titled "Railroads and Negro Labor." After a brief stint at Stanford Law School, and jobs as a waiter on the Southern Pacific Railroad and as secretary to art patron Noel Sullivan, in October, 1931 he founded and served as editor of the San Francisco Spokesman (a weekly newspaper for the Bay Area African American community), which by 1934 had been renamed The Spokesman, reflecting Pittman's broader ambitions and leftward political evolution. During that year's San Francisco general strike, he lent The Spokesman's printing presses to the fledgling Communist Party newspaper, the Western Worker, resulting in their destruction by right-wing vigilantes. Then Pittman went to work for the Western Worker, becoming by 1941 the editor of its successor, the (daily) People's World. In this capacity, he was a frequent guest on radio station KSAN (San Francisco) in 1941-1942.

In 1945 he covered the founding conference of the United Nations, and in 1946 received his divorce from his first wife Merle Nance Pittman. In 1947 Pittman traveled to Europe as a correspondent for the Communist Party's newspapers Daily Worker (New York) and People's World, and for the Chicago Defender, a trip made possible by progressive notables including Lena Horne, Paul Jarrico, Albert Maltz, and Dalton Trumbo, whose financial support was coordinated by Los Angeles attorney Leo Gallagher. After his return he married fellow communist Margrit Adler, a German-Jewish antifascist refugee and German-American political activist. They remained in New York until 1955, when they moved to San Francisco with their two children, Carol and John Peter. There Pittman again worked for the People's World. From 1959-1961 the Pittmans were Moscow correspondents for the CPUSA press. In 1968 Pittman came to New York to become the founding co-editor of the Daily World (the result of the merger of the Party's West and East Coast weekly newspapers). In the late 1970s Pittman went to Prague as the Party's representative on the editorial board of the World Marxist Review, returning to New York in 1987. In addition to his newspaper writings, Pittman contributed some two dozen articles to the Party's monthly journal Political Affairs, and wrote Africa Calling, Isolate the Racists: The Liberation Struggle in Southern Africa(1973), and (with Margrit Pittman) Sense and Nonsense About Berlin(1962) and Peaceful Coexistence: Its Theory and Practice in the Soviet Union(1964).

Selected Bibliography (arranged chronologically):

Railroads and Negro Labor.Thesis (M.A. in Economics)--University of California, Berkeley, Dec 1930. 92 leaves.

"A Perspective for Forging Negro-White Unity." Communist23 (Jan, Feb 1944): 86-91, 174-181.

"The Negro People Spark the Fight for Peace." Political Affairs25 (Aug 1946): 724-733.

"War on Korea: Point IV in Action." Political Affairs29 (Aug 1950): 40-50.

"Africa and the United States." Political Affairs37(Feb 1958): 48-52.

"Books in Review: The Diplomacy of World War II." Political Affairs37 (Apr 1958): 46-53.

"The October Revolution and National Liberation." Political Affairs46 (Nov 1967): 27-38.

"Book Reviews: Toward Eradication of Colonialism." Political Affairs47 (Feb 1968): 90-97.

"Laos: Testing Ground of the Nixon Doctrine." Political Affairs49 (Oct 1970): 11-19.

"Indochina's 25 Year Struggle Against U.S. Imperialism." Political Affairs50 (Feb 1971): 1-13.

Africa Calling, Isolate the Racists: The Liberation Struggle in Southern Africa.New York: New Outlook Publishers, 1973. 31 pp.

"Arena of Class Struggle: The United Nations, Part I." Political Affairs52 (Mar 1973): 18-29.

"Arena of Class Struggle: The United Nations, Part II." Political Affairs52 (Apr 1973): 31-40.

"A Guiding Ideology for Anti-Racist, Anti-Monopoly Struggle." Political Affairs52 (Aug 1973) 18-30.

"The United Nations and the Struggle for Détente." Political Affairs53 (Oct 1974): 44-54.

"Building the Communist Press." Political Affairs54 (Mar 1975): 24-37.

"What's New in Soviet Agriculture." Political Affairs54 (Jul 1975): 3-20.

"Book Reviews: A Man of Heroic Mold." Political Affairs55 (Feb 1976): 54-64.

"The Bonn Congress of the German Communist Party." Political Affairs55 (Jun 1976): 24-34.

"From Cradle of Bourgeois Freedom to State Monopoly Capitalism." Political Affairs55 (Jul 1976): 7-9.

"Racism and War." Political Affairs57 (May 1978): 22-27.

"Afro-American Struggle Today - A Framework." Political Affairs58 (Feb 1979): 14-22.

"Bulgarian Theoretical Conference: Agreement on Basic Principles." Political Affairs58 (Mar 1979): 2-7.

"Is Socialism Applicable to the U.S?" Political Affairs59 (Sep 1980): 12-18.

"Détente: The Only Sane Option." Political Affairs61 (May 1982): 2-8.

"The Class Role of Affirmative Action." Political Affairs62 (Mar 1983): 18-24.

"The American Heritage of Karl Marx." Political Affairs62 (Oct 1983): 15-23.

"Restructuring the World Economy." Political Affairs64 (Nov 1985): 18-24.

Pittman, John and Margrit.

Sense and Nonsense About Berlin.New York: New Century Publishers, 1962. 60 pp.

Peaceful Coexistence: Its Theory and Practice in the Soviet Union.New York: International Publishers, 1964. 156 pp.

Pittman, Margrit

"The San Francisco Peace Referendum." Political Affairs47 (1968): 58-63.

"25 Years of the German Democratic Republic." Political Affairs53 (Oct 1974): 55-62.

"Democracy in Czechoslovakia." Political Affairs56 (Mar 1977): 13-18.

"Women, Children, Marriage - the Experience of Socialism." Political Affairs61 (Mar 1982): 10-14.

"Women's Equality in the German Democratic Republic." Political Affairs66 (Mar 1987): 14-18.


The papers are organized into five series:

I. Biographical
II. Correspondence
III. Political Activities
IV. Writings
V. Photographs, Graphics, Realia

Folders are generally arranged alphabetically within each series.

Scope and Content Note

The bulk of the collection is comprised of John Pittman's writings and correspondence. The writings deal with the struggles of African Americans and people of color worldwide, the strategy and tactics of the communist movement and its relationship to the capitalist powers and developing countries; they consist mainly of typescripts, clippings, and photocopies of Pittman's columns and newspaper articles, pamphlets, papers and radio addresses. Correspondence includes letters from family members, friends, U.S. and foreign Communist cadre, and African American journalists, writers, activists, and public figures.

The collection also contains a small amount of biographical and visual materials, as well as materials documenting Pittman's political activities. Biographical materials include documents that pertain to Pittman's mother, Carrie Badger Pittman, and the Badger family, school records, and press credentials; materials on political activities include internal Communist Party documents and some of Pittman's notes on meetings, materials related to a course taught at the Jefferson School of Social Science (an adult education institution of the Communist Party USA located in New York City), and a file of documents relating to the Democratic Party of California in the elections of 1932. Visual materials include photographs--of Pittman, his family and friends-- documenting both personal and professional activities, and a handful of graphics and printing plates for Communist Party publications.


Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright (and related rights to publicity and privacy) to materials in this collection created by John Pittman was not transferred to New York University. Permission to use materials must be secured from the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date; John Pittman Papers; TAM 188; 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.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Margrit Pittman 1997. The accession numbers associated with this gift are 1997.021, 1997.042, and NPA.2003.039.

Collection processed by

Elliot Silver and Peter Meyer Filardo, 2003. Revised by Erika Gottfried to reflect the incorporation of photographs, graphics, and realia, and for compliance with DACS and Tamiment Required Elements for Archival Description, 2014.

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-20 16:56:04 -0400.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: Description is in English.

Processing Information

Photographs, graphics, and realia from this collection were separated from the Papers and established as a separate collection: the John Pittman Photographs (PHOTOS 179). In January 2014, this photograph collection was reincorporated into the John Pittman Papers.

Edition of this Guide

The first version was derived from Pittman Guide.doc; the next version was derived from the John Pittman Papers finding aid, with revisions as noted.


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