U-M acquires Hayden papers

Labadie Collection welcomes Hayden

Hayden with papers

Hayden’s contribution to the Labadie Collection totals about 120 boxes. (Photo: Roger Hart, Michigan Photography.)

“Surprise is a very big factor in history and in social studies,” activist/author Tom Hayden, ’61, recently told a class of U-M students. “And, I’ve noticed, it’s a very big deal in life. Nothing can be predicted.”

He should know.

As a founding member of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and its U-M chapter, Hayden was the primary drafter of the group’s passionate 1962 manifesto The Port Huron Statement. This 75-page document, advocating for participatory democracy, would come to define SDS, the “New Left,” and student activism for an entire generation. The experience led Hayden to an unanticipated career as activist, author, and politician. For more than five decades he’s fought for peace, participatory democracy, civil rights, voting rights, economic rights, and the environment.

The more things change . . .

“We are always in the presence of social movements coming and going; they are like the wind,” Hayden said to students assembled in Lorch Hall in mid-September. As if on cue, just two days later the Stamps School of Art & Design hosted a sold-out crowd at the Michigan Theater for founding members of the Russian art collective Pussy Riot and Zona Prava who were imprisoned for “hooliganism” after staging an anti-Putin protest at a Moscow cathedral in 2012.

“Just trying to comprehend how [a social movement] happens has flummoxed scholars and historians for a very long time,” Hayden said. “Why exactly did it begin? How did happen? Why did it end? And what did it achieve? These questions suggest there is a kind of cycle, a pattern to these things. But [a social movement] never turns out the way it begins. It doesn’t turn out according to the original expectations. It does not hold that we know what we are embarking on when we begin.”

“Battlefield of memory”

For that very reason, archives like the Joseph A. Labadie Collection at the University of Michigan Library are critical to scholars who study the history of social protest movements and marginalized political communities, said curator Julie Herrada.

The collection is named for Detroit labor organizer and anarchist Joseph Antoine Labadie (1850-1933), who in 1911 donated books, pamphlets, newspapers, magazines, manuscripts, and memorabilia to U-M. Over the years the collection has grown to cover civil rights, anti-war movements, modern anarchist and socialist literature, gay liberation, pacifism, and ecology movements, among others.

“Sometimes I encounter an object and marvel at how many decades of use it has gotten, and yet it’s still here and it’s still protected,” Herrada said. “It’s so important to continue that legacy of protecting this material that wouldn’t exist otherwise if we didn’t do that.”

A living collection

The Labadie Collection is now home to the Tom Hayden Papers, comprising personal documents, photographs, recordings, and government files that reveal an inside look at virtually every flashpoint in the nation’s political evolution from the mid-20th century to the present.

“Tom was there ‘at the creation,’ you might say, of ’60s protest movements,” said Howard Brick, the Louis Evans Professor of History in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. He hosted Hayden in his classroom earlier this month. “Through [Hayden’s] career, this collection provides evidence of how the dissent of the 1960s had a long-term effect in the social and political life of the United States.”

As a youth Hayden worked with SDS and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He was a Freedom Rider, a member of the Chicago 8 (who were indicted for conspiracy in organizing anti-war demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic National Convention), and a founder of the Indochina Peace Campaign and the Campaign for Economic Democracy, among others. He went on to serve nearly 20 years in the California state legislature, where he chaired labor, higher education, and natural resources committees. He is the author/editor of 20 books, including the most recent release, Inspiring Participatory Democracy: Student Movements from Port Huron to Today.

Full circle

Hayden with papers

Hayden contextualizes some cryptic notes. (Image: Roger Hart, Michigan Photography.)

Upon participating in a 2012 U-M reunion and symposium commemorating the 50th anniversary of The Port Huron Statement, Hayden decided to commit his papers (at about 120 boxes and counting) to the Labadie Collection. Through an agreement with the University he will receive $200,000 over the course of four years to return to campus and advise students and scholars accessing his papers.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the collection is Hayden’s extensive FBI file. At about 10 linear feet, the file contains detailed government records of his travels, speeches, and other activities spanning the 1960s and ’70s. Hayden acquired the documents after successfully suing the federal government for illegal surveillance. His file, though redacted in parts, offers a fascinating view of the government’s access to and reporting of a private citizen’s life.

Another large component of the collection is dedicated to Hayden’s own career in government as a California legislator.

On the vanguard

At the Labadie Collection, Hayden’s voice joins a chorus “comprised of people on the vanguard of social protest,” said James Hilton, University librarian and dean of libraries.

Hayden beating

White supremacists pull Hayden from a stopped car and beat him in McComb, Mississippi, 1961. (Image courtesy of the Tom Hayden Papers held at the University of Michigan Library.)

“These are people who embody and manifest difference,” he said. “As a scholarly institution we encompass those voices and differences for many reasons: To expose how we, as a society, surveil and sometimes harass dissenters and marginalized groups; to take up important and difficult questions about when social protest is met with or incites violence, or when it passes unnoticed; and most importantly to understand when it changes the world.”

For curator Herrada, working with a “living collection” like the Tom Hayden Papers is one of the most visceral ways to learn about contemporary American history.

“It’s interesting when the subject of the archive can come and talk to you,” she said. “[Hayden] still has ideas and hopes and, with everything he’s done, he’s not jaded. He hasn’t given up. He still wants to be involved. He still wants to make an impact on the world.”

For Hayden, collections like the Labadie, as well as museums and public memorials, reawaken important conversations.

“It’s tough to pick up patterns in history if you have lost generations,” he told one assembly of U-M students. “You don’t want to awaken to a new form of hatred or discrimination against you or your friends with no historical heritage or concept of where to begin, when in fact the legacy is all around you. The space around you tells stories – if you listen. It’s in the Diag, the ‘fishbowl,’ at the Daily. It’s important to explore that legacy in your time here and then realize that you are creating a legacy of your own right now by what you do or don’t do.

“You will find you are improvising your future in some way that will be remarkable,” he said, “and will be uniquely yours.”

(Top image, from left): Tom Hayden, Cesar Chavez (United Farmworkers Union), and Ken Msemaji (Nia Cultural Organization) leading the march of the 10th annual Malcolm X Kuzaliwa (birthday) celebration, May 1977. (Image credit: Tom Hayden Papers held at the University of Michigan Library.)


  1. Mary Beth Norton - 1964

    As an undergraduate I drew on items in the Labadie Collection for my senior thesis on Clarence Darrow’s political philosophy and activism. The acquisition of the papers of Tom Hayden (older than I, but one of my undergrad acquaintances) will aid future students and scholars interested in studying the 1960s as I was once interested in studying a major figure in the period from the 1890s through the 1920s. Congratulations to Hayden and the university for this acquisition.


  2. Melba Joyce Boyd - 1979, Doctor of Arts, English

    This is indeed a wonderful addition to an amazing collection. Hayden’s impact on progressive thought and social movements was significant. His collection will continue that legacy for scholars of these subjects.


  3. Richard Glassman - 1985

    I applaud the University obtaining these papers. But do we always have to applaud Mr. Hayden? There was a dark side there that is never acknowledged. Why not.


    • Del Ehresman - 1973

      Please define/describe the “dark side that is never acknowledged.”
      I don’t know what you’re talking about.


  4. Kelly Van Rijn - 1980

    Tom Hayden and the SDS were cancers that rotted the very fabric of American society. That the University would choose to honor and glorify these criminals is disappointing. Odd how this pronouncement comes on the heels of Michigan closing down North Hall, the headquarters for the ROTC. I guess living in the liberal bubble that is Michigan, the more things change, the more things stay the same.


    • Del Ehresman - 1973

      The cancers that rotted the very fabric of American society: racism and senseless wars . . . [sexism, too?]
      I believe those were some of the things SDS opposed.


      • Richard Glassman - 1985 JD

        Del, there is a lot you apparently don’t know about Tom. I have read extensively on the Port Huron group, and the 60s activisits, including Tom;s autobiography. It was not all goodness and light. This will not be hard for you to figure out if you are interested in it really.


    • John Woodford - retired staffer

      Racism, warmongering, attempts to crush national liberation movements, FBI and CIA abuses of our Bill of Rights, anti-unionism, the exploitation of women — these were not cancerous to the U.S. fabric!. Oh no! It was the effort of young people to improve our country that was destructive. Political reactionaries have never ceased vilifying champions of progressive change. But as the saying goes, “The dog barks, but the caravan moves on.”


      • Richard Glassman - 1985 JD

        I didn’t say Tom was all bad. I just said there was a dark side. You should really come to grips with it. It does not nullify everything that generation did. But if you are blind to it you look like you are averting your eyes. It is not necessary to do that.


    • Robert Stenson - 1969

      I recall that the SDS planted a bomb in one of the UM buildings. One of the custodians lost his hearing in the blast. I’m sure that he doesn’t consider Tom Hayden a worthy hero.


  5. David Cole - 1989

    Hail to Hayden! –a life well lived, and the world is better because of it! 🙂


  6. Heleen Abramson - 1973

    I find it very interesting that he is being paid $200,000 for the use of his papers and for coming to advise students on his collection. That seems a far cry from the man who founded SDS


    • Rae Weaver - 1957

      It is indeed very interesting! What age will do…


  7. Stan Majewski - 1961

    Really, Dave? He and Jane brought a lot of shame , too.
    However, in the essence of history, I am pleased that the University acquired Hayden’s papers.


  8. Barbara Falconer Newhall - 1963

    Tom Hayden and I were on campus at the same time. I and my then rather conservative friends referred to him as “a flaming liberal.” Nonetheless, we invited him to come and talk at our house, and that got us thinking. Little did we know how many changes awaited us — in our society and in ourselves. http://BarbaraFalconerNewhall.com


  9. Pete Winer - 1961 LSA

    I find it ironic that 53 years after graduating from UM in ’61 that I still hear of one of my “classmates”, a Mr. Tom Hayden….. U of M taught me to be balanced and objective in my outlook on life, and during Hayden’s early years of civil rights activism, I accepted what he was demonstrating for….
    However, contrary to Mr. Hayden’s choice of avocation after graduation, I was commissioned a 2nd Lt, USMC from NROTC upon graduation, and after well over twenty years of active duty, retired as a Lt Col and went on raising a family with my UM grad wife, and was employed in civilian life for many years. While on active duty, I had three overseas tours, totaling 50 months, at various ranks, with Marine combat units (field artillery) in the Far East.
    When in Vietnam as a 28 year old Captain, commanding an artillery battery shortly after Tet 1968, it became increasingly difficult for me to accept Mr. Hayden’s ( and others) anti-war/anti-establishment activism, as it also fed, I feel, a virulent and ugly form of anti-military attitudes among many Americans. This severely hurt the morale of those serving in an unpopular war, and tended to alienate the military from the citizenry – from whence we all came.
    Many Servicemen and women, were treated very poorly on their return from VN in those days as if they were evil for being drafted, or volunteering, to serve their Nation in a war we entered for numerous reasons (all of which can still be debated) that a lot of people did not like at the time.
    It was indeed tough in Vietnam for my fellow officers to fill body bags, write condolence letters to parents, and wives, and then, once home and serving in the Sates, frequently leave their families to drive all night to a farm house someplace in the country, for example, to make a casualty call on the family of a Marine killed in combat… Many of the dead and wounded were the youth of America who often could not get a draft deferment because they did not finish HS, thus were considered “more” eligible to serve in the military than others, usually somewhat better off, who made it through HS, and were able to avoid the draft and active duty with a variety of deferments, etc.
    I’ve always felt that Mr. Hayden and his associates were among the many at home, who, by their violent anti-war protesting in the late ’60s, helped convince the North Vietnamese that we did not have the will to do what would have been necessary to militarily defeat them… I.e., invade the North…. One can argue that this gave the North the confidence to drag out peace talks while fighting continued into early 1973 when, after we bombed Hanoi in Dec 1972, the North Vietnamese figured it was time to sign a peace treaty in Paris.
    I am not bitter, on a personal level, with Mr. Hayden when I say these things. However, I have no real desire to meet him, as I doubt we would have much to talk about.
    I always believed in the First Amendment, and the Constitution, of which I took an oath to defend.. However, I do question Mr. Hayden’s motives and methods, and whether he truly understood the angst, and pain his type of activism imparted upon so many average people in American society at the time.
    Again, other than make a lot of noise during the civil rights movement of the early- mid 60s, what did he really accomplish? Maybe a current day scholar will answer that…
    The University is the place for open and free thought. But, I would hope that in the process, (unlike many demonstrations/forums back in those days) objectivity and intellect dominates the conversation, and that open forums in the future do not deny students the opportunity to listen to all sides of an issue.
    I would hope their research and dissertations do not over generalize about so-called “romanticism of activism” and that the scholars spend a bit of time comparing Hayden’s activism (sometimes violent during the VN War), with the lives of the millions of ordinary Americans who were simply trying to make a living raising families, and were more worried about the next pay check; than what Mr. Hayden was doing at the time.
    Again, what did Mr. Hayden really accomplish? Maybe some scholar will show that he really did not accomplish much at all in the long run, except stroke his own ego…..


    • Kelly Van Rijn - 1984

      Amen, brother. And thank you for your service. Unfortunately, Michigan graduates too many loudmouths like Hayden and not enough genuine, salt of the earth Americans such as yourself. God bless.


    • Del Ehresman - 1973

      I suspect you’d have a lot to talk about with Tom Hayden.


    • Mike Jefferson - 1980

      It’s tragic to see how U of M’s legacy is that of coveting radicals and ne’er-do-wells (look that one up Angel Scholars). The university has become a repository for such notables as Ted Kaczynski, Tom Hayden, and Valerie Jarrett. Some legacy. Meanwhile, the hundreds of thousands of U of M graduates who actually work, pay taxes, and are actually improving lives across the globe in venerable professions including doctors, nurses, engineers, attorneys, etc. are virtually ignored.


  10. Don Conner

    Shame on Michigan for paying Hayden $200,000 for these papers. Society would be better off if you burned them. He was a throw-away at Michigan and he hasn’t changed. The only thing he accomplished of note was to marry Jane Fonda and even she finally came to her senses.


  11. Peter Isaac - U of M Flint 1964, U of M Med 1968, U of M Hospital Pathology Residency 1973

    I hope that the acquired writings of Mr. Hayden do provide to be a source of data for future studies. I should think that Psychologist PhD and Clinical Practice candidates might uncover some underlying aberrancies of mental thought constructs in these writings that might help explain how individual human inadequacies can be effectively converted to simple point directed verbal and physical violence against either an authority or a culture in which the individual either does not seem to fit or feels to have been marginalized from! Oh, yeah. So maybe there is some political and or social redeeming lessons we can learn. How about violence for any reason cannot be commended or enshrined by writing about it after the fact!


  12. Charita Ford - 1987 Horace Rackham Graduate School

    In 1984, Abbie Hoffman visited the University of Toledo and we gave him a standing ovation. Tom Hayden deserves the same.The Labadie Collection staff and administrators have once again shown the true spirit of what this collection really means. Good Work !


  13. Holly Rider-Milkovich

    I remember reading The Port Huron Statement and other SDS writing collections as an undergraduate students in the early 90s and being inspired not as much by the choices they made in carrying out their activism, but by the sweep of their vision and their belief that student action could change the course of current affairs. For its entire complex heritage in American history (one that I interpret as ultimately a benefit) , I am so glad that the papers of one of the founders of the New Left and the student radical movement will reside at Michigan and will be accessible to anyone. And, I am glad for a 50 year history of archived material of one social justice activist who has remained hopeful and committed to a vision of a better world.


  14. Leslie Cypert

    It is surprising the kind of remarks that are being made about this article. It appears that the people that are dissenting the choice to have these papers are taking their social paradigm very personally. This is about the University of Michigan attaining some information. Let me remind you that “The mission of the University of Michigan is to serve the people of Michigan and the world through preeminence in creating, communicating, preserving and applying knowledge, art and academic values, and in developing leaders and citizens who will challenge the present and enrich the future.” The acquisition of Tom Hayden’s papers should not affect you so strongly. No one is canonizing Hayden, they want to have access to the papers for academic purpose, so that future historians and political scientist will be able to examine and research an era of political change and uprising.


  15. Steve Koester

    Hey, I didn’t go to Michigan, but was pursuing the website as I search for schools for my son, a senior in high school. I went to Colorado (remember that Hail Mary pass in the Big House?) Anyway, I can’t help but chime in on this discussion. Tom Hayden is a remarkable intellectual who has struggled for social justice his entire life. A son of privilege, he dedicated his life to fighting for civil rights and against an unjust war that sacrificed over a million Vietnamese and more than 56,000 Americans. $200,000 for his collected works? Please, that’s less than what it would cost me to send my kid to Michigan for 4 years of college.


  16. MaryPat Fody, RN

    Interesting collection for all areas mentioned by others for study and research. Thank you, Pete, for your service. My son’s dad left for the army when he was one month old, his dad & I were twenty yrs old. Stationed after basic training at Ft. Bliss in El Paso, Texas…a long way from MI & family. I moved there when our son was seven months old. It was difficult being so young and alone, while your husband was off on “maneuvers”. I remember how my brothers and others were treated after the war…I know wiki isn’t considered a choice source of info., but I wanted more knowledge of the man Tom Hayden had become. Who he became, I believe, makes him an excellent choice to be a part of the Labadie Collection. Work toward Peace! ($200,00.00 over four years, with a commitment to speak and share with students, is not a bad deal!)


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