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Alfred Baker Lewis papers


Scope and Contents

Biographical Note

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

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Alfred Baker Lewis papers, 1944-1980 | Amistad Research Center

By Andrew Salinas

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Collection Overview

Title: Alfred Baker Lewis papers, 1944-1980Add to your cart.

Primary Creator: Lewis, Alfred Baker (1897-1980)

Extent: 1.4 Linear Feet

Date Acquired: 02/18/1971

Subjects: Assisted suicide, Black power - Opponents, Letters to the editor - United States, Lewis, Alfred Baker (1897-1980), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) - Branches, chapters, etc., Tuskegee Syphilis Study

Forms of Material: Correspondence, Newspaper clippings, Sound recordings

Languages: English

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The papers of insurance executive, union organizer, author, and Treasurer and Board Member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Alfred Baker Lewis consist principally of letters to the editor, which broadcast his views on race relations, as well as social and economic policy in the United States. Other materials in the collection include correspondence, press releases, and writings.

Letters to the editor from Alfred Baker Lewis to newspapers throughout the United States, as well as newspaper clippings of published letters, constitute the bulk of this collection. Most letters are from the 1960s and 1970s, and topics include civil rights legislation and other contemporary events, American politics, his progressive opinions on social and economic policy, the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, and health care. Several of his letters to the editor were written to local newspapers in the Deep South during his frequent NAACP branch tours, as well as local newspapers in his home state of Connecticut. Lewis was a strong critic of Black Power, a frequent theme of his letters to the editor and other writings. Also included in the collection are responses to Lewis' letters to the editor from both editors and readers. Other letters to the editor chronicle a lengthy war of ideas between Lewis and columnist Westbrook Pegler.

Other materials in the collection include general correspondence, press releases, writings, and other formats. In partnership with the Amistad Research Center, Lewis sent three-page questionnaires to African American political leaders in Alabama and Illinois on various motivations and influences in their respective political careers. Lewis received responses from several prominent leaders, including Charles Rangel, Charles Gomillion, George W. Collins, Harold Washington, Edward Brooke, Louis Stokes, and Shirley Chisholm.

Most press releases are authored by Lewis, and here, as with several of the letters to the editor, he identifies himself as "National Treasurer Emeritus" of the NAACP. Press releases, newspaper articles, and short travel diaries document Lewis' frequent tours to branches of the NAACP, particularly in rural areas of the South.

Items reflecting Lewis' personal life include photographs, biographical sketches, ephemera from his 1972 campaign for Connecticut State Senate, and newspaper articles. Of interest are articles and responses to those articles on Lewis' facilitation of the assisted suicide of his wife, Eileen.

Biographical Note

Alfred Baker Lewis was a White insurance executive, lawyer, polemicist, and champion of improved race relations in the United States. A member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from 1924 until his death in 1980, Lewis also served as a member of that organization's board of directors since 1939 and as the NAACP Treasurer from 1958 to 1972.

Lewis completed his undergraduate studies and law school at the University of Pennsylvania. Lewis served in the Navy during World War I. He was the Secretary of the Massachusetts Socialist Party from 1924 to 1940, and he twice ran as a Socialist candidate for the United States Senate, in 1926 and 1928, and as Socialist candidate for Governor of Massachusetts several times in the 1930s.

The author of several essays and pamphlets on economics and race, and particularly the economic impact of racial discrimination, Lewis was also a tireless advocate of his ideas through letters to the editor, which he had published in newspapers throughout the country. Lewis appeared before committees of the state legislatures of Massachusetts and Connecticut on behalf of labor and social security laws and civil rights legislation. In addition, he drew up the first bill for unemployment insurance ever presented to the Massachusetts State Legislature.

Lewis died in 1980 at the age of 83 when he was struck and killed by a train in Connecticut. The NAACP board of directors eulogized Lewis as a "rare man who was a humanist and a most effective and articulate spokesman for civil rights."

Subject/Index Terms

Assisted suicide
Black power - Opponents
Letters to the editor - United States
Lewis, Alfred Baker (1897-1980)
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) - Branches, chapters, etc.
Tuskegee Syphilis Study

Administrative Information

Repository: Amistad Research Center

Access Restrictions: This collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions: Copyright to these papers has not been assigned to the Amistad Research Center. It is the responsibility of an author to secure permission for publication from the holder of the copyright to any material contained in this collection.

Physical Access Note: <span style="color: rgb(16, 55, 93); font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">Audiovisual materials stored offsite. Please contact Reference Desk of the Amistad Research Center for inquiries.</span>

Acquisition Source: Alfred Baker Lewis

Acquisition Method: Gift

Appraisal Information: This collection reflects the public opinions of Alfred Baker Lewis regarding United States race relations and social and economic policy, primarily later in his life. The collection consists largely of letters to the editor.

Separated Materials:

Lewis, Alfred Baker. Liberal Economic Policies. New York: New York Chapter, National Businessmen's Council, undated.

Lewis, Alfred Baker. Progress - At Very Deliberate Speed. New York: Negro Labor Committee, undated.

Lewis, Alfred Baker. Why We Have Depressions and Recessions. New York: League of Industrial Democracy, 1962.

Related Materials: The Center holds papers of another prominent White officer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Kivie Kaplan.

Preferred Citation: Alfred Baker Lewis papers, Amistad Research Center, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Processing Information: Processed September-November 2013

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Box:

[Box 1],
[Box 2],
[Box 3],
[Box 4],

Box 4Add to your cart.
Folder 1: Article with correspondence: "Fifty Years of the NAACP" / by Alfred Baker Lewis, 1959Add to your cart.
Folder 2: Article: "Is the NAACP Communist?" / by Alfred Baker Lewis, circa 1959Add to your cart.
Folder 3: Essay: "The Poor, the Black, the Public, and the President" / by Alfred Baker Lewis, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 4: Typescript book draft: What Have We Done for You Lately? / by Alfred Baker Lewis, circa 1970Add to your cart.
Folder 5: Draft essay: "Convict the Killers for a Change" / by Alfred Baker Lewis, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 6: Writings by Lewis on Black Power, undatedAdd to your cart.
Includes "Bridging the Gap: Black Separatism and White Racism" and "Black Power, Good, Bad and Old Hat"
Folder 7: Pamphlet (photocopy): True Freedom for Negro and White Labor / by Frank R. Crosswaith and Alfred Baker LewisAdd to your cart.
Folder 8: Children's book (photocopy): United Animals Town / by Alfred Baker Lewis, 1944Add to your cart.
Folder 9: Miscellaneous writings by Lewis, undatedAdd to your cart.
Includes "Why Our Economy Works So Poorly," "How to Get Free Hospital and Medical Care for All," "Don't Be Afraid of Federal Deficits," "Close the Tax Loopholes for the Rich," and "Act to Stop Unemployment."
Folder 10: Statements by Lewis and Clarence Mitchell to House Committee on Ways and Means on disparities in health care in the United States, 1971Add to your cart.
Transcription of statements, with supplementary materials
Folder 11: Solicitation letter: NAACP Emergency Relief Fund, undatedAdd to your cart.
Authored by Lewis
Folder 12: Speeches, 1973 and undatedAdd to your cart.
Topics include the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, healthcare, and the murder of Vernon Dahmer
Folder 13: Miscellaneous notes, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 14: Photographs of Lewis, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 15: Biographical materials, 1965-1980Add to your cart.
Folder 16: Articles and correspondence: On assisted suicide of wife, Eileen, 1976Add to your cart.
Folder 17: Clippings, press releases, and ephemera: Lewis' campaign for Connecticut State Senate, 1972Add to your cart.
Folder 18: List: Articles in New York Call by Lewis, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 19: List: Stations airing the David Frost Show, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 20: John H. Hotson: Correspondence and draft essays, 1969-1970Add to your cart.
Folder 21: Audiocassettes, 1972 and undatedAdd to your cart.
Item 1: Audiocassette, circa 1972Add to your cart.

Side A: NAACP program to make war on poverty a reality

Side B: NAACP program on ending riots

Item 2: Audiocassette, 1972Add to your cart.
Sides A and B: Alfred Baker Lewis, "The Upsurge of the Underprivileged"
Item 3: Audiocassette, undatedAdd to your cart.

Side A: Natural Political Alliance; difference between Black Nationalism and Black Separation

Side B: Opposition to President Nixon; Opposition to Governor Wallace

Browse by Box:

[Box 1],
[Box 2],
[Box 3],
[Box 4],

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