- Collection Overview
- Collection Description & Creator Information
- Access & Use
- Collection History
- Find Related Materials
- Freedom House U.S.
- Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
- Freedom House Records
- Public Policy Papers
- Permanent URL:
- 196 boxes, 1 folder, and 6 items
- Storage Note:
- Mudd Manuscript Library (mudd): Boxes 1-195; 146a
The Freedom House Records document the organization's activities in advocating freedom and democracy throughout the world. The records provide an invaluable insight into an organization that evolved from an answer to Hitler's Braunhaus to a diligent monitor of freedom worldwide.
Collection Description & Creator Information
The Freedom House Records contain the administrative records of this organization. The collection consists of various forms of textual, graphic and audiovisual materials. The collection provides an overview of the organization and its activities, primarily through 1993. Many of the more recent records remain in the hands of the organization. It should also be noted that the records arrived in utter disarray with large portions of records missing.
Researchers interested in the first 29 years of Freedom House are strongly encouraged to examine the Freedom House Records, George Field Files (MC#48) housed at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library. Field took organizational as well as personal files with him when he left Freedom House in 1970. While these files do duplicate some of the material within this collection, they also contain original material.
- Collection Creator Biography:
Freedom House was conceived in 1941 during a discussion between Herbert and Eleanor Agar, Dorothy Thompson, George Field and Ulric Bell, on how to merge several local organizations that were advocating an end to United States isolationism. Field offered a simple solution: house all the organizations in one building. A physical merger would take place, but administratively the organizations would remain separate. Hence on October 31, 1941 Freedom House was officially incorporated in the state of New York as a non-partisan democratic challenge to the Braunhaus in Munich, a center for Nazi propaganda. As stated in its bylaws Freedom House would:
...stand as a symbol and center for the two-fold fight for freedom; to define this two-fold fight both in terms of resisting the totalitarian movement now threatening civilization and in terms of aspirations of all peoples for a world of freedom, peace and security; to promote the concrete application of the principles of freedom and democracy in the everyday affairs of the U.S.A., governmental and otherwise, so that by sacrifice, intelligence and justice this country can be an example in both the present and post-war world of democracy at its best; to encourage all democracies, including captive countries, to look to Freedom House in the U.S.A. as a beacon lighting the struggle for a free world; to act as a headquarters and clearing house for organizations enlisted in the fight for freedom, whether at home or abroad; to disseminate literature bearing on the above aims; and to serve as a coordinating center for such subordinate centers as may be established anywhere, to make the symbolism of Freedom House plain to the world...
From the outset, Freedom House drew upon the resources of its founders. George Field headed the New York chapter of the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies, Herbert Agar was active in Fight for Freedom, Inc., while Dorothy Thompson was the founder of Ring of Freedom, all of whom served on the original Freedom House Board of Directors. Freedom House acquired a significant number of members when these organizations merged with it administratively in 1942.
The organization maintained an active pace throughout World War II. In its first year alone, it had arranged for more than 200 broadcasts over local radio stations and nation-wide networks; commemorated important anniversaries with various national groups; established a Labor-Industry Relations Bureau; coordinated meetings, exhibits and programs; provided a forum for exiled nationalists; and printed and distributed speeches and pamphlets. It served as a vocal proponent for racial integration of the U.S. armed forces, formal recognition of the Free French, an international commission on human rights, and the formation of the United Nations.
While Freedom House advocated collective social and political activism, it also sought to acknowledge individual contributions to the cause of freedom. The organization chose to honor those who acted on their wisdom and foresight. It bestowed the first Freedom Award in 1943 on journalist Walter Lippmann "for his outstanding clarity and vision in analyzing America's responsibilities toward the world of the future." It became an annual award whose later recipients included men who jeopardized their lives and careers in the name of freedom. The Freedom Award was discontinued in 1977 only to be revived in 1991.
The organization's activities during World War II would establish its place in the American consciousness, attracting a wide variety of prominent Americans to its causes. Wendell Willkie and Eleanor Roosevelt were members of its board; screen and radio stars, such as Helen Hayes, Burgess Meredith and Tallulah Bankhead participated in its many programs; noted authors penned booklets, pamphlets, speeches and manifestos; and activists and politicians used its members to promote their platforms. Their celebrity provided Freedom House with national and international exposure.
Wendell Willkie's legacy had an enormous impact on the organization. Although he only attended one board meeting before his death in 1944, the board of Freedom House chose to honor him with a memorial. However, the memorial was not without controversy. Executive Secretary George Field suggested the creation of a Willkie Memorial Building, while President Dorothy Thompson was committed to the idea of an international library dedicated to Willkie's memory. The board supported Field's idea, and Thompson resigned as president in protest. The building would embody Willkie's "one world" concept by housing major non-profit organizations concerned with freedom, especially those whose goals were to advance the following objectives:
The Willkie Memorial Building of Freedom House, Inc. located at 20 West 40th Street was formally dedicated in October 1945. Its first occupants included the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Anti-Defamation League and Metropolitan Council of B'nai B'rith, Common Council For American Unity, Public Education Association, Citizens' Housing Council of New York, World Student Service Fund, and of course Freedom House. With the establishment and administration of the Willkie Memorial Building, Freedom House was able to fulfill its function as a coordinator, clearing house, and meeting place.
After the defeat of Nazism and Fascism, Freedom House focused its attention on new foreign and domestic threats from the Left and the Right. Specific post-war issues included the reconstruction of Europe, the Marshall plan, control of nuclear arms, withdrawal of colonial powers, U.S. participation in the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, civil rights, and the spread of communism. Through its policy statements, forums, conferences, and publications, the organization helped to frame the national debate on these vital issues. It continued to voice its support and concerns throughout the years on a variety of issues that affected democratic principles and human rights at home and abroad.
The latter half of the 1960s had a pronounced effect on Freedom House, as the board was not immune to the differences dividing the country. Although it released statements supporting U.S. involvement in Vietnam, its board was deeply divided. Internally, an administrative change also altered the dynamics of the organization. George Field, a founding member, retired as its executive director and was replaced by Leonard Sussman. Although Field had selected Sussman as his successor, the two had different approaches to managing the organization. Field continued to serve on the board after his retirement but completely removed himself from the organization in 1970 after numerous disagreements with Sussman. Successive changes in the executive directorship occurred without animosity. Sussman retired in 1988 and was succeeded by R. Bruce McColm, who left in 1993. Replacing him was Adrian Karatnycky, who continues to serve as the organization's president, with Jim Denton becoming the executive director in 1997 when Freedom House merged with the National Forum Foundation.
Throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, the organization continued to provide platforms for the oppressed people of the world and to call attention to decisions that affected U.S. foreign policy and human freedom. During this time, Freedom House also expanded its agenda to include election monitoring, an annual assessment of political rights and civil liberties throughout the world, participation in international controversies regarding the news media, assistance to democratic revolutions in former Communist countries in Eastern Europe, and international democratization training programs.
These records were donated to the Princeton University Library in 1994 by Freedom House, Inc. (ML1994-8) with additional material received periodically from 1998 through 2007 .
Leonard Sussman gave the library bound collections of his essays in 2013 and 2014. The accession numbers associated with these gifts are ML.2013.017, ML.2013.027, and ML.2014.026.
The materials from the 2016 accession were donated by Freedom House in June 2016 [ML.2016.016] and the materials from the 2017 accession were donated by Freedom House in August 2017 [ML.2017.026]. Digital materials in Series 18 were donated by Freedom House in June 2017 [ML.2017.019].
Accruals are expected from Freedom House on a periodic basis.
- Archival Appraisal Information:
Duplicates and secondary source reference materials were separated from the collection in 2000 and 2001. No material was separated during accessioning in 2007-2017.
These Archives were processed with the generous support of The National Historical Publications and Records Commission and The John Foster and Janet Avery Dulles Fund.
- Processing Information:
This collection was processed by Kristine Marconi McGee in 1999-2000 with the assistance of Christine Kitto, Nicole Basta, Patrick Gallagher, Michael Gibney, Meghan Glass, Nate Holland, Chris Hoyte, Shantanu Mukherjee, Eric Reimer, Stan Ruda, Noelia Saenz, Brian Schulz, Sid Smith, Jeremy Sturchio, and Laura Vanderkam. Finding aid written by Kristine Marconi McGee in 1999-2000. The finding aid was updated to include accessions from 2000 through 2007 by Adriane Hanson in 2008. Materials from the 2011-2017 accessions were added to the collection as individual series or as parts of existing series and the finding aid was updated to reflect these additions.
Access & Use
- Access Restrictions:
Collection is open for research use except for Board materials in Series 18. All Board materials received from 2017 onward are closed for 25 years from the date of their creation.
- Conditions for Reproduction and Use:
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. For quotations that are fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For those few instances beyond fair use, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold the copyright and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from the Mudd Library to move forward with their use.
- Special Requirements for Access:
Access to audiovisual material in this collection follows the Mudd Manuscript Library policy for preservation and access to audiovisual materials.
- Credit this material:
Freedom House Records; Public Policy Papers, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library
- Permanent URL:
- Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library65 Olden StreetPrinceton, NJ 08540, USA(609) 258-6345
- Subject Terms:
- Civil rights -- United States -- 20th century.
Freedom of information.
Freedom of the press.
Human rights -- Eurasia -- 20th century.
Human rights workers -- United States -- 20th century.
Nonprofit organizations -- United States -- 20th century -- Archives.
Radio broadcasting -- United States.
Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- United States -- Mass media and the war.
Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- United States.
World War, 1939-1945 -- United States -- Propaganda.
World War, 1939-1945 -- United States -- Public opinion.
- Genre Terms:
- Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies
Fight for Freedom (Organization)
Freedom House U.S.
Wendell Willkie Memorial Building
National Forum Foundation.
Agar, Herbert, 1897-1980
Agar, William M. (William MacDonough), 1894-1972
Barthé, Richmond, 1901-1989
Brzeziński, Zbigniew (1928-2017).
Chase, Clifford P. (Clifford Philip), 1904-1982
Cherne, Leo, 1912-1999
Douglas, Paul H. (Paul Howard), 1892-1976
Drummond, Roscoe, 1902-1983
Field, George, 1904-
Gideonse, Harry David, 1901-1985
Hook, Sidney, 1902-1989
Javits, Jacob K. (Jacob Koppel), 1904-1986
Kampelman, Max M., 1920-2013
Kirkpatrick, Jeane J.
McColm, R. Bruce.
Moynihan, Daniel P. (Daniel Patrick), 1927-2003
Richardson, John, 1921-2014
Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962.
Rustin, Bayard, 1912-1987
Smith, Margaret Chase, 1897-1995
Stout, Rex, 1886-1975.
Sussman, Leonard R.
Swope, Herbert Bayard, 1882-1958
Thompson, Dorothy, 1893-1961
White, Walter, 1893-1955
Wilkins, Roy, 1901-1981