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Nettie Kravitz Papers

 Collection
Identifier: UP002885

Scope and Content

The Nettie Kravitz Papers contain correspondence; published and unpublished political writings; leftist organizational records by the Johnson-Forest Tendency and its later forms, Correspondence Publishing Committee and Facing Reality Publishing Committee. Correspondence often double as political and philosophical writings, documenting both personal and group ideologies. Correspondence and meeting minutes thoroughly document the political and ideological disagreements that resulted in each organizational form, with the period surrounding Raya Dunayevskaya’s departure in 1955 particularly well represented. Additionally, the collection contains materials related to Kravitz’s scholarship in Women’s Studies and Literature and her political priorities are illustrated through print materials on Black-led movements; women’s liberation and labor; workers’ and anticolonial movements abroad; and feminist, socialist, and philosophical thought.

Significant correspondents include:

Grace Lee Boggs; James Boggs; Raya Dunayevskaya; Jessie Glaberman; Martin Glaberman; C.L.R. (Cyril Lionel Robert) James; Selma James; G. Lyman (George Lyman) Paine; Freddy (Frances Drake) Paine; and Constance Webb Pearlstein.

Aliases, nicknames, and pen names found in the collection include:

Grace Lee Boggs: G, Kaufman, Hauser, Ria Stone, Giovanni
James Boggs: Heinz
Raya Dunayevskaya: FF, Freddy Forest, Weaver, W, R, Rae, Siegal
Jessie Glaberman: Alice, Jordan
Martin Glaberman: Marty, Pound, Harvey, Sherman, M, Dean, Harris, Mr. Toad
C.L.R. James: J.R. Johnson, J, Jimmy, Nello, N, Evans
Selma James: S, Cartwright
Nettie Kravitz: N, Chapin
Freddy Paine: F, Frederick, Ott, Dresden
G. Lyman Paine: L, Neff, Turner
Constance Webb Pearlstein: Parish, Parrish
Johnny Zupan: Nelson, Herman

Dates

  • 1943-2010
  • Majority of material found within 1953 - 1957

Creator

Language of Materials

Material primarily in English. Several newspapers, flyers, and posters are in French, Spanish, German, Greek, and Dutch.

Access

Collection is open for research.

Use

Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials.

History

Nettie Kravitz was a labor organizer, feminist scholar, and long-term member of the Johnson-Forest Tendency (JFT) and its later forms. Born around 1924 in Philadelphia, Kravitz was a first-generation Jewish Ukrainian American. She became involved with the Workers Party (WP) while studying Psychology at Temple University. Kravitz graduated in 1945 and formally joined the WP and led the Philadelphia local.

The WP formed following factional split in the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) over the party majority’s Trotskyist view of Soviet Union and defense of the Hitler-Stalin pact. Minority-opinion members critical of the Soviet Union, including C.L.R. James, Raya Dunayevskaya, and Max Shachtman, split with the SWP to form the WP in 1940. In 1941, James and Dunayevskaya were joined by Grace Lee Boggs in a party study group on state capitalism, which became a WP minority faction known as the Johnson-Forest Tendency (JFT) by 1945. The group derived its name from James and Dunayevskaya’s respective pseudonyms, J.R. Johnson and Freddie Forest.

In another split, JFT left the WP in 1947 and rejoined the SWP, only to leave again in 1950. In addition to differing attitudes toward the Soviet Union, their role in the war, and the Hitler-Stalin pact, early splits were also driven by James’ and JFT’s support for a Black movement independent of—and not subordinate to—the labor movement. The group reformed as an independent organization under the name Correspondence Publishing Committee (CPC) in 1951, initially based in New York.

Sometime in the early 1950s, Kravitz relocated to New York where she lived with C.L.R. James and his second wife, Constance Webb, and served as James’ aide. James continued to advise the CPC via correspondence after he was deported to Britain in 1953, but the organization split again in 1955, resulting in Dunayevskaya founding the News and Letters Committees. Around this split, Kravitz was sent to Detroit as part of a strategic effort to relocate CPC to the labor hub. CPC published a newspaper, bulletins, and newsletters under the title Correspondence, as well as booklets on labor, socialism, and anticolonialism.

In 1962, Grace Lee Boggs, James Boggs, Freddy Paine, and Lyman Paine split with CPC in favor of a third worldist politics, retaining the CPC name. Remaining followers of James’ political worldview, including Kravitz and Marty Glaberman, became known as Facing Reality Publishing Committee (FRPC). FRPC continued publishing pamphlets and political writings, and the bulletins Facing Reality and Speak Out. The group dissolved in 1970 due to stagnant membership and perceived irrelevance amid a new generation of leftist movements.

Following dissolution of FRPC, Kravitz remained attentive to leftist and feminist movements, particularly in Detroit. She taught in the Detroit Public Schools and a private Jewish school during the 1970s, obtained a graduate degree from Wayne State University in 1975, and taught Women’s Studies and Literature at Oakland Community College for more than 20 years. Kravitz maintained correspondence with Selma James, C.L.R. James, and Marty Glaberman, throughout their lives. Kravitz died in in Southfield, Michigan in 2019, having lived more than 60 years in the Detroit area.

Extent

8.25 Linear Feet (8 SB, 1 .5 MB)

Abstract

Nettie Kravitz was a labor organizer, feminist scholar, and long-term member of the Johnson-Forest Tendency and its later forms, Correspondence Publishing Committee and Facing Reality Publishing Committee. The collection contains correspondence and both published and unpublished political writings that thoroughly document the ideological disagreements resulting in each organization. The collection also contains materials related to Kravitz’s scholarship in Women’s Studies and Literature and her political priorities.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged alphabetically in 4 series corresponding roughly with organizational era. Materials from each split and organizational form are dispersed throughout the collection and may appear in any series.



Series 1: Johnson-Forest Tendency (Box 1)
Series 2: Correspondence Publishing Committee (Boxes 1-4)
Series 3: Facing Reality Publishing Committee (Boxes 4-6)
Series 4: Post-dissolution (Boxes 6-8)


Subseries 4 is divided into 2 subseries, A: Academic and political interests and B: Members and Johnson-Forest legacy.

Acquisition

The Nettie Kravitz Papers were donated to the Walter P. Reuther Library by Nettie Kravitz March 2019.

Related Materials

LP000621 Martin and Jessie Glaberman Papers
UP001342 James and Grace Lee Boggs Papers
LP001439 Frances D. and G. Lyman Paine Papers
LP000363 Raya Dunayevskaya Papers
LP001039 John Dwyer Papers
LP001047 Sanford Cohl Papers
LP001172 Helen Schiff Papers

Transfers

4 LP albums, 1 roll of undeveloped 35mm film, 1 folder of photographs and negatives, and 1 VHS tape transferred to the audiovisual department.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Leah Minadeo on April 6, 2022.
Title
Guide to the Nettie Kravitz Papers
Status
Completed
Author
Processed by Leah Minadeo.
Date
2022-04-06
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

Contact:
5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA