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Michael Harrington Papers

Call Number



1946-1990, inclusive
; 1960-1989, bulk


Harrington, Michael, 1928-1989
Harrington, Stephanie (Role: Donor)


9 Linear Feet (11 boxes)

Language of Materials

English .


Michael Harrington (1928-1989) was a U.S. socialist, editor, writer, founder and leader of Democratic Socialists of America (U.S. affiliate to the Socialist International), and political leader best known for his book The Other America: Poverty in the United States(1962). These papers include his notebooks, correspondence, and documentation of his various political and journalistic endeavors.

Historical/Biographical Note

Michael Harrington (1928-1989), a U.S. socialist writer and political leader, best known as the author of The Other America: Poverty in the United States(1962), and as the founder and leader of Democratic Socialists of America, the U.S. affiliate to the Socialist International, was born in St. Louis, received a Jesuit secondary education, graduated from Holy Cross College in 1947 and, after a brief interval at Yale Law School, received a MA degree in English from the University of Chicago in 1949, then moved to New York City.

From 1951-53 he was a volunteer at the radical Catholic Worker house on New York's Lower East Side, and was associate editor of its newspaper, also called the Catholic Worker. Leaving Catholicism, he first became organizational director of the Workers Defense League in 1953, joined the Socialist Party, and shortly became the leader of the SP's Young People's Socialist League. Coming under the influence of the (not quite yet) post-Trotskyist Max Shachtman, whose anti-Communism and grand political strategy, known as realignment (i.e., seeking to employ a leftist-influenced organized labor movement as the leading force in reorienting the Democratic Party towards socialism) became and remained in one form or another the cornerstones of Harrington's political outlook, Harrington led the New York YPSL into Shachtman's Independent Socialist League in 1954, and served as YPSL national chair until the 1958 dissolution of the ISL and its members' return to the Socialist Party, and from 1960-62 edited New America, the SP paper.

From 1954 through 1962, Harrington worked as a researcher for the Fund for the Republic, notably on its study of blacklisting in the film industry, and wrote for liberal and left journals of opinion such as Dissent. A 1957 Commentaryarticle on poverty grew into The Other America, which made Harrington a national figure, and which was widely credited with influencing the development of the so-called War on Poverty and related local programs during the Kennedy and Johnson presidencies. The Port Huron Statement, also published in 1962 by the Students for a Democratic Society, originally a project of the SP-associated League for Industrial Democracy, for whom Harrington served as liaison to SDS (he would become LID head in 1964), was sharply criticized by Harrington for being insufficiently anti-Communist. This marked the beginning of a decade of often sharp disagreement with the New Left, most importantly on the related issue of the Vietnam War. While Harrington's Realignment Caucus within the SP (he was elected SP chair in 1968) opposed the war, it did not support unconditional withdrawal. In 1971 Harrington formed the Coalition Caucus, which backed the 1972 presidential candidacy of George McGovern in opposition to the pro-war SP majority, then left the SP to found (in February 1973) the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee, which merged, in 1982, with the New American Movement, an organization of New Left veterans, to form the Democratic Socialists of America.

In 1972 Harrington became a professor of political science at Queens College in New York City, played a leading role during the 1980s in the drafting of the Socialist International's New Declaration of Principles, and continued to write, lecture and travel widely until his death from cancer in 1989. Among his many books were two autobiographical works, Taking Sides: The Education of a Militant Mind(1985) and The Long-Distance Runner : An Autobiography(1987), The New American Poverty(1984), The Politics at God's Funeral: The Spiritual Crisis of Western Civilization(1985), and Socialism : Past and Future(1989). See also the selected bibliography, below, preceding the box and folder list.

Selected Bibliography

1959: Labor in a Free Society(Berkeley, University of California Press), 186 p.

1960: Democracy and Public Review : An Analysis of the UAW Public Review Board/ by Jack Stieber, Walter E. Obrerer, Michael Harrington (Santa Barbara, CA : Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions), 64 p.

1962: The Other America: Poverty in the United States(New York, Macmillan), 191 p.

1962: The Retail Clerks(New York, Wiley), 99 p.

1965: The Accidental Century(New York : Macmillan), 322 p.

1967: American Power in the Twentieth Century(New York : League for Industrial Democracy), 55 p.

1968: Toward a Democratic Left: A Radical Program for a New Majority(New York, Macmillan), 314 p.

1972: Socialism(New York, Saturday Review Press), 436 p.

1972: The Seventies : Problems and Proposals/ edited by Irving Howe and Michael Harrington (New York : Harper & Row), 519 p.

1973: Fragments of the Century(New York, Saturday Review Press), 246 p.

1976: The Twilight of Capitalism(New York : Simon and Schuster), 446 p.

1977: The Vast Majority: A Journey to the World's Poor(New York : Simon and Schuster), 281 p.

1980: Decade of Decision : The Crisis of the American System(New York : Simon and Schuster), 354 p.

1981: The Next America : The Decline and Rise of the United States(New York : Holt, Rinehart, and Winston), 154 p.

1981: Unfinished Democracy : The American Political System/ Harrell R. Rodgers, Jr., Michael Harrington (Glenview, Ill. : Scott, Foresman, 1981), 625 p.

1984: The New American Poverty(New York : Holt, Rinehart, and Winston), 271 p.

1985: The Politics at God's Funeral : The Spiritual Crisis of Western Civilization(New York, N.Y., U.S.A. : Penguin Books), 308 p.

1985: Taking Sides : The Education of a Militant Mind(New York : Holt, Rinehart, and Winston), 278 p.

1987: The Next Left : The History of a Future(New York : H. Holt), 197 p.

1988: The Long-Distance Runner : An Autobiography(New York : Holt), 260 p.

1989: Socialism : Past and Future(New York : Arcade), 320 p.

See also: Isserman, Maurice, The Other American : The Life of Michael Harrington(New York : Public Affairs, 2000), 449 p.


Organized into three series: I. Reading Notebooks; II. Writings, Correspondence, & Other Activities; III. Addendum (Reading Notebooks)

Folders are arranged alphabetically within each series.

Scope and Content Note

The notebooks (which are undated) are arranged alphabetically. They comprise more than three-fourths of the collection, and contain Harrington's handwritten notes on his readings from the 1960s through the 1980s, principally of the works of Marx, Hegel, Continental and ancient Greek philosophy, current economic and social conditions, political economy, political theory, theology, and American and European literature. Harrington read works in their original languages, and the sometimes multi-lingual notes reflect Harrington's facility with French, German, Greek and Latin. About one-third of the often multi-volume notebooks are labeled with abbreviated titles for several of Harrington's published books, notably Toward a Democratic Left(1968), Twilight of Capitalism(1976), and Decade of Decision(1980), while the remainder are labeled with broad topical terms or the names of prominent authors. Of interest for Harrington's early years in New York are the notebooks titled "Me - Boheme," and "Village."

Series two, arranged alphabetically by topic, contains typescripts for unpublished and published articles, book reviews, lectures, speeches, and for a debate with Carl Gershman; three audio recordings of lectures on Marxism; typescripts for The New American Poverty (1984) and Socialism, Past and Future (partial, 1989); three oral history interview transcripts (1965, 1988); documents from and unpublished Harrington reports on several Socialist International leadership meetings, including one discussing the Palestine Liberation Organization (1979); additional reading notes; publishing and miscellaneous correspondence; clippings; materials relating to Harrington's teaching career; U.S. Senate testimony (1987); and an invitation to the funeral of Robert F. Kennedy.

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open for with no restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright (and related rights to publicity and privacy) to material in this collection created by Michael Harrington 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; Michael Harrington Papers; TAM 209; 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 Stephanie Harrington in 1998. The accession number associated with this gift is 1999.004.

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 with the collection name, collection number, and a description of the item(s) requested. A staff member will respond to you with further information.

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

Democratic Socialists of America Records (TAM 105)

Democratic Socialists of America Audiocassettes (OH 058)

Michael Harrington - DSA Audiotapes (OH 048)

Maurice Isserman Research Files for The Other American: The Life of Michael Harrington (TAM 239)

Collection processed by

Peter Filardo

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-20 16:57:17 -0400.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: Description is in English.

Edition of this Guide

Harrington 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