In the 1930s, the U-M Library’s Joseph A. Labadie Collection — the oldest publicly accessible archive of its kind in America — was called “probably the most complete record of the social unrest of our times that has ever been assembled.”
Since then, the collection has only grown, expanding from its original focus on anarchism to also encompass antheism and free thought, anti-colonialist movements, anti-war and pacifist movements, civil liberties and civil rights, labor and workers’ rights, LGBTQ movements, prisons and prisoners, New Left, Spanish Civil War, youth and student protest, and many more.
The collection is named for Detroit labor activist and anarchist Joseph Antoine Labadie (1850-1933), who in 1911 donated the books, pamphlets, newspapers, magazines, manuscripts, and memorabilia he had assembled over the years.
Today, the Labadie Collection is the most widely used of all of the library’s special collections and serves as a unique and important resource for students and researchers at U-M and around the world.
“This is a collection that documents history from below,” says curator Julie Herrada. “We are preserving, and making available to the public, the activities of under-represented groups, people whose ideas are considered marginal or dangerous.”