Aljazeera America - The man regarded as the intellectual father of the 1960s is opening up his archives in what historians of modern America regard as one of the most important document dumps in recent times, and one that breaks a tradition in which monumental public figures wait until they are dead to show the world the personal papers, diaries and mementos of their most tumultuous times.
The University of Michigan has been hosting alumnus Tom Hayden, now 74, for a series of events that culminate in a celebration on Thursday to mark the delivery of more than 120 boxes of material that historians and journalists will likely spend generations exploring for insights into the making of that all-important epoch of social and cultural upheaval.
Among the key caches in the bequest are more than 22,000 pages of FBI files showing the government’s exhaustive 15-year surveillance of him and his then-wife Jane Fonda as well as the bureau’s often ham-handed attempts to create rifts between Hayden’s circle and other prominent civil rights groups such as the Black Panthers. Hayden obtained the files in the mid-1970s after successfully suing the government on grounds that they had been illegally monitoring his actions. 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 From left, Tom Hayden, Cesar Chavez and Ken Msemaji, leading a march at the 10th annual Malcolm X Kuzaliwa celebration in May 1977. Tom Hayden Papers / University of Michigan
“Tom is one of the great figures of the 20th century,” said Maurice Isserman, a history professor at Hamilton College in New York and author of several books on the era including “America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s.” “He was absolutely formative in the early 1960s. I will be fascinated to see the archives, and it is wonderful to have them while he’s still alive.”