Archival Collections
Columbia University Archives

Joanne Grant research files, 1963-1968 

Creator: 
Grant, Joanne.
Phys. Desc: 
1.44 linear feet (1.44 linear feet 3 document boxes)
Call Number: 
UA#0141
Location: 
Columbia University Archives
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Online information

Biographical Note

Joanne Grant, born in 1930 in Ithaca, New York to a biracial mother and white father, graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in history and journalism. At 27, Grant traveled throughout the Soviet Union and China, defying state bans on travel to Communist countries, seeking alternatives to an American political system that perpetuated segregation and class divides. Grant was deeply interested in finding organizing and mobilizing tools through which to address the racial and economic inequities of American democracy. Upon her return, the young journalist briefly assisted W.E.B. DuBois, noted black scholar, intellectual, and activist. DuBois, who had left the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), an organization he had founded, as the leadership became more mainstream, sought increasingly more radical alliances for his activism. Undoubtedly, DuBois' mounting frustrations with the unfulfilled promises of equality through integration and his profound interest in creating international Communist alliances, influenced Grant. With DuBois' referral, Grant took a position as a journalist at the Leftist New York weekly The National Guardian in 1960 and traveled throughout the South to detail Civil Rights struggles for the paper, writing on Freedom Summer, the Citizenship School movement, marches and voter registration drives. Her reporting connected to her to the folks of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a militant student organization that used direct action to protest segregation, and to SNCC's founder, Ella Baker. Baker, who had gotten her start as an activist in the NAACP some twenty-five years before, had persuaded Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to hold a college conference in 1960, on the heels of sporadic youth action to desegregate college campuses. The symposium birthed SNCC, and Baker left the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to become the young organization's advisor. Impressed by the expansive direct action program SNCC was implementing, Grant joined the organization, both as a journalist and activist. Her journalism for The Guardian provided a platform for SNCC to publicize their work and the repressive responses of politicians, law enforcement and white citizens. She married Victor Rabinowitz in 1967, a New York lawyer and activist who defended many Leftist organizations throughout the various freedom struggles of the 1960s including leaders of the Weather Underground, SNCC, and high-profile communists. Grant's experiences with SNCC and the Black freedom movement informed her comprehensive document- based history of the black struggle against oppression entitled Black Protest: 350 Years of History, Documents, and Analyses (New York: Fawcett, 1968). Her involvement with SNCC also led her to cover and participate in the student uprisings at Columbia University in 1968. The result was her history and analysis of the strike in Confrontation on Campus: The Columbia Pattern for the New Protest. Evident in her writings is Ms. Grant's overwhelming desire to find new means through which to fight oppression and inequality within the American democratic system. Grant and Rabinowitz traveled extensively, including a trip to Cuba where Grant charmed Castro into allowing them to accompany the Cuban president on a leg of a speaking tour throughout the country. Her later work, a film entitled Fundi (1981) and later book, Ella Baker: Freedom Bound (New York: Wiley, 1998), were both dedicated to exploring the life and grassroots activism of SNCC founder Ella Baker.

Scope and Contents

This collection is a repository of Joanne Grant's research materials for her 1969 book Confrontation on Campus: The Columbia Pattern for the New Protest. The collection contains both Grant's notes taken throughout the Columbia revolt, as well as collected research materials. These materials consist of Strike Coordinating Committee fliers, agendas, leaflets and official statements. In addition, the collection includes the responses of faculty, administration and community members to the strike. The collection also contains materials from the Independent Committee on Vietnam at Columbia University, student protest files against Columbia's involvement in the war. The materials consist of fliers, letters, telegrams and pictures.