Skip to main content Skip to main navigation

Sally Belfrage Papers

Call Number



1903-2000, inclusive
; 1960-1990, bulk


Belfrage, Sally, 1936-
Pomerance, Eve (Role: Donor)
Pomerance, Moby (Role: Donor)


21.5 Linear Feet in 44 boxes and 3 oversize folders in shared boxes.

Language of Materials

Materials are in English


Sally Mary Caroline Belfrage (1936-1994) was an independent leftist, world-traveling journalist, and writer born in Hollywood, California. She was the daughter of Cedric Belfrage and Molly Castle, two radical British writers. Her books include: A Room in Moscow; Un-American Activities: A Memoir of the Fifties; and Freedom Summer. The collection includes Belfrage's correspondence, manuscripts and documentation of her creative and political activities.

Historical/Biographical Note

Sally Mary Caroline Belfrage, independent leftist, world traveling journalist, and author of five books, was born in Hollywood, California on October 4, 1936. The daughter of Cedric Belfrage and Molly Castle, two radical British writers, she moved with her family in 1942 to the New York city area where they stayed until 1955. She went to Bronx Science High School, and briefly attended Hunter College. During their time in New York, Cedric started the independent weekly radical newspaper The National Guardian, Cedric and Molly were divorced, Cedric was arrested, and by 1955 both were deported under the provisions of the McCarran Act. Although an American citizen, Sally left with them. In London, she attended the London School of Economics and worked in publishing. In 1957, she attended the World Youth Festival in Moscow, where she then worked (editing English translations of Tolstoy) and lived for the better part of a year. During her stay she took part in a six-week tour of China, and appeared in a Russian movie, "Memories of the Heart."

Upon returning to London, she wrote her first book, A Room in Moscow (1958). While on a 1959 U.S. publicity tour, she befriended folksinger Millard Lampell, who encouraged her to visit Israel. Thus began another year of travels throughout the Near East, during which she worked on a kibbutz, met King Hussein of Jordan, and in 1960 married Sari Nashashibi, a Palestinian, so he could obtain a U.S. visa. Upon her return from the Near East; she spent the next two years traveling all over Europe (with Benjamin Sonnenberg, founder of the magazine Grand Street) before moving to New York in mid-1962.

In 1963 Belfrage traveled to Georgia and North Carolina to research the civil rights movement, and was inspired to participate in the SNCC-sponsored Freedom Summer organizing drive of 1964. She was assigned to Greenwood, Mississippi where she helped start a literacy school and a community library, participated in a voter registration drive, spent several days in jail, and went to the 1964 Democratic National Convention with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party delegation. Her memoir Freedom Summer was published in 1965.

In November of 1965 Belfrage married playwright Bernard Pomerance (author of The Elephant Man). In 1967 her daughter Eve was born, followed in 1969 by her son Moby. After the latter's birth, the four began renting the flat at 51 Randolph Avenue in London that was to remain Sally's home until her death. In 1970, she helped found a community-based "Women's Liberation Group" which remained in operation for more than twenty years. In 1980 she published Flowers of Emptiness, about her 1976 experiences during two-month visit to a guru's ashram in India. In 1975, Sally and Bernard Pomerance separated and he moved to the United States.

In 1983-1984 Belfrage was involved in the Greenham Common Women's Nuclear Disarmament movement, and helped edit its broadsheet "The Greenham Factor." Also in 1984, she began to visit Belfast, Northern Ireland, to research the effects of the longstanding civil conflict on Catholic and Protestant women. The resulting book, The Crack: A Belfast Year was published in 1987. The remainder of Belfrage's life was spent traveling and writing her coming of age memoir, Un-American Activities, published in 1994. She died of cancer in London in March 1994.


Folders are arranged into seven series, three of which have been organized into sub-series. Folders are arranged alphabetically or chronologically within each series.

Series I: Biographical Materials, 1903-1994

Subseries I:A: General, 1992-1994

Subseries I:B: Biographical, 1903-1990

Subseries I:C Diaries, 1947-1985

Subseries I:D: Notebooks, 1957-1993

Subseries I:E: Appointment and Address Books, 1939-1990

Series II: Correspondence, 1934-2000

Subseries II:A: Family Correspondence, 1934-1994

Subseries II:B: Correspondence -- Alphabetical, 1950-1994

Subseries II:C: Correspondence -- Chronological, 1947-2000

Series III: Writings, 1845-2000

Subseries III:A: Articles, Reviews, Fiction, 1959-1999

Subseries III:B: Room in Moscow, 1845-1992

Subseries III:C: Freedom Summer, 1952-1993

Subseries III:D: Flowers of Emptiness, 1933-1985

Subseries III:E: The Crack, 1980-1991

Subseries III:F: Transcript Folders, 1980-1990

Subseries III:G: Un-American Activities, 1983-2000

Subseries III:H: Writings by Others, 1939-2000

Series IV: Political Activities, 1963-1984

Series V: Government Files, 1978-1995

Series VI: Photographs and Audiovisual Material, 1910s-1994

Series VII: Restricted Items

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains numerous and detailed diaries, notebooks (most in shorthand, and usually project or travel oriented), and appointment/address books, covering Sally Belfrage's entire literary career, as well as memorabilia, mostly from her youth. Much of the collection consists of Belfrage's prolific correspondence, including carbons of most of her own letters. There is voluminous correspondence with Cedric Belfrage, Molly Castle, Virginia Durr, Joanne Grant, John Gunther. Jessica "Decca" Mitford, Kathy Perutz, Bernard Pomerance (closed until 2021), Benjamin Sonnenburg, and Michael "Monk" Train. Other significant and/or frequent correspondents include Alan Arkin, Judith ("Savita") Brandt, Kim Chernin, Alexander Cockburn, Frank Conroy, George Feifer, Albert Finney, Alger Hiss, Millard Lampell, Staughton Lynd, Stewart Mott, Vladimir Pozner, Zell Rabin, Muriel Rukeyser, Harrison Salisbury, Kwame Ture, Fred Wiseman, and Sol Yurick.

Manuscripts, correspondence, interviews, clippings, and other materials document the researching, writing, publication and reception of Belfrage's five books, including transcripts of some sixty interviews conducted for The Crack. There are also like materials for her shorter writings, and a set of unpublished and published writings by others, principally Judith ("Savita") Brandt. Belfrage's involvement in the Greenham Common, a 1980s feminist peace encampment in England, as well as other political and feminist activities, is documented through writings, correspondence and ephemera. This collection also contains FBI files on Sally and Cedric Belfrage and on Nathan Gregory and Helen Silvermaster (during World War II, Nathan was employed by the U.S. Board of Economic Warfare, and was later accused of being a Soviet spy), which were obtained by Sally Belfrage under the Freedom of Information Act. Finally, the collection includes approximately 1700 photographs which document Belfrage's family and travels (including Moscow, China, the Middle East, the southern United States, Mexico, Cuba and Ireland), as well as audiovisual materials from Belfrage's memorial service, the posthumous "Symphony Space" event, an audiorecording related to Freedom Summer, 2 undated interviews with "Marg Powers" and "Emma G," an audiorecording of the 1989 Conference on Civil Rights Studies, and an audiorecording of "The White Integrationalists" by Colin D. Edwards.

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions with the exception of the following materials which are restricted until 2021:

Series I. Biographical, subseries A-C: boxes 1-3.

Series II. Correspondence (All): boxes 9-23, and box 40.

Series III. Writings (first box): box 23.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright (and related rights to publicity and privacy) to materials in this collection created by Sally Belfrage 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; Sally Belfrage Papers; TAM 189; 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.

Location of Materials

Boxes 1-41 are stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please contact at least two business days prior to research visit. Boxes 42-44 and the materials in Box OS009 are available onsite at the Tamiment Library and no advance notice is required for access.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Eve and Moby Pomerance in 1997; additional materials were found in the repository in 2014. The accession numbers associated with this gift are 1997.002, 1997.003, and 2014.133.

Audiovisual Access Policies and Procedures

Access to audiovisual materials in this collection is available through digitized access copies. Researchers may view an item's original container, but the media themselves are not available for playback because of preservation concerns. Materials that have already been digitized are noted in the collection's finding aid and can be requested in our reading room. Materials not yet digitized will need to have access copies made before they can be used. To request an access copy, or if you are unsure if an item has been digitized, please contact [repository contact information] with the collection name, collection number, and a description of the item(s) requested. A staff member will respond to you with further information.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Born-digital materials have not been transferred and may not be available to researchers. Researchers may request access copies. To request that material be transferred, or if you are unsure if material has been transferred, please contact [repository contact information] with the collection name, collection number, and a description of the item(s) requested. A staff member will respond to you with further information.

Separated Material

Approximately 160 sound recordings (almost all are audiocassettes) have been separated and added to the Library's Sound collection. A preliminary inventory is available.

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

Cedric Belfrage Papers (TAM 143)

Victor Rabinowitz Papers (TAM 123)

Collection processed by

Processed by Molly Kovel, 2001. Restrictions updated, May 2010. Edited by Maggie Schreiner for compliance with DACS and Tamiment Required Elements for Archival Description and to reflect the incorporation of nonprint materials, February 2014. Boxes 43 and 44 added, May 2014.

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-11-10 11:50:53 -0500.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: Finding aid is written in English

Processing Information

Photographs separated from this collection during processing were established as a separate collection, the Sally Belfrage Photographs (PHOTOS 094). In 2014, the photograph collection was reincorporated into the Sally Belfrage Papers (TAM 189). Also in 2014, the audiovisual materials from this collection were discovered in the repository and added to the collection.

In 2016 some born digital materials were added to Series VII: Restricted Materials. Also in 2016, materials in Box 23A were updated to reflect their accurate box number. It was noted that the VHS tapes and film reel in Series VI are currently missing/unavailable.

Revisions to this Guide

October 2016: Finding aid updated by Craig Savino to include correct box numbering for Box 23A in Series III and to reflect computer disks in Series VII: Restricted Items and missing VHS tapes in Series VI: Photographs and Audiovisual Material.

Edition of this Guide

Sally Belfrage Guide.wpd


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