Voices of Extremism, 1948-1979
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Brief Description:

by Walter B. Mead

In order for one to adequately comprehend the nature of extremism, audio recordings of the leading figures of extremist organizations are invaluable. For they convey to the listener not only the words and the content of the espoused ideologies (these are readily conveyed in the extensive printed material generated by most of these organizations) but also the emotions that play a major role in attracting and inspiring those who become adherents of these ideologies and movements.

It was for this reason that, during the 1960s and 1970s, in the course of conducting research, writing a book, and teaching seminars on American Political Extremism, Professor Mead compiled what probably constitutes today the most extensive audio documentation of the individuals and movements that characterized the full range — both left and right — of extremist politics in the United States in the decades immediately following the Second World War, from 1946 to 1980.

A majority of the recordings are of skilled interviews that Mead obtained and tape-transcribed from the late Gordon D. Hall, a Boston-based freelance investigator, speaker, and writer who devoted his entire career to gaining access — both personally and through confederates — to the most colorful fringe figures and groups of this period in American history.

Other recordings in the present collection are of interviews by professional journalists. There are also recordings — some clandestinely made — of speeches from political rallies. And there are a number of probing commentaries on the three and a half post-war decades of political turbulence — from Senator Joseph McCarthy's blacklisting in the 1940s and 1950s to the revival of the Ku Klux Klan at the end of the 1970s — by astute observers of the period.

All together, the recordings represent well over one hundred hours of oral history that probe into the rationales and styles of thinking of some of the most bizarre and interesting figures of mid-twentieth century American social and political history. In 2004, Walter Mead donated this collection to Illinois State University with the understanding that it would be made known and available to anyone, from the general public or from academic institutions, who is interested in making use of them.

Voices of Extremism: Conflicting Ideologies in United States Politics in the Decades Following WWII is a unique audio documentation of the individuals and movements that characterized the Extremist politics in the United States in the decades following the Second World War from 1946 to 1980. The collection also includes a documentary on Industrial Union from 1904, recorded in 1964.

Several of the movements represented in these recordings illustrate both the Far Left and the Far Right. They probe the rationales and styles of thinking of some of the most bizarre and interesting figures of mid-twentieth century American social and political history.

Held at:
Special Collections & Rare Books Room at Illinois State University
Volume: 100.0 Items
Arrangement: The Voices of Extremism collection is grouped by affiliation of the person or persons being interviewed. Additional materials related to the collection and which are not currently online can be found in the Dr. Jo Ann Rayfield Archives.
Access Restrictions: Some interviews may be listened to through the web by accessing them on the Voices of Extremism page on the Milner Library Digital Collections site.  Other interviews, due to copyright restrictions, may only be listened to by visiting Milner Library.  Patrons wishing to listen to these interviews should use a computer terminal at Milner Library.