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Marshall Bloom (AC 1966) Papers

 Collection
Identifier: MA.00001

Scope and Contents

The Marshall Bloom Papers consist of correspondence, diaries, unpublished writings, news clippings, publications, financial records, photographs and other materials that chiefly document Bloom's childhood, education, personal life and work as the founder of Liberation News Service and its larger role in the radical counterculture of the 1960s. In particular, the Papers document Bloom's chairmanship of The Amherst Student in 1965 and his other Amherst College activities. The Papers contain his thesis on Jews in Selma, Alabama, and information about the 1966 Commencement protest against the College's awarding of an honorary degree to Robert McNamara. The Papers document Bloom's controversial role in student protests at the London School of Economics in early 1967. Also included are correspondence and other records of the United States Student Press Association, ca. 1967; and records of Liberation News Service, chiefly 1967-1969, including correspondence, editorial subject files, financial records and issues of LNS mailings to subscribers. There is also a small amount of material relating to the Montague, Massachusetts communal farm that Bloom and others started in 1968. Correspondents include Ray Mungo and James Aronson.

Dates

  • 1950 - 1999
  • Majority of material found within 1962 - 1969

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

There is no restriction on access to the Marshall Bloom Papers for research use. Particularly fragile items are restricted for preservation purposes.

Conditions Governing Use

Requests for permission to publish material from the Papers should be directed to the Archives and Special Collections. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Biographical / Historical

Marshall Bloom (AC 1966), journalist, editor and key agent in the development of the alternative press in the United States in the 1960s, was born in 1944 in Denver, Colorado. As a child he was an accomplished student and was active in B'nai B'rith, school newspapers and other organizations. He entered Amherst College in 1962, majoring in American Studies and becoming involved in numerous campus activities, among them FORUM (the student lecture committee) and The Amherst Student. Under Bloom's leadership as Chairman of the Student in 1965, the newspaper dramatically increased its coverage of national issues. At graduation Bloom was awarded the Samuel Bowles Prize for proficiency in journalism. Bloom's affinity for social protest and controversy was evident in the 1966 Commencement ceremony, at which Bloom was one of 19 graduating seniors who walked out to protest the College's decision to award an honorary degree to Robert McNamara, then Secretary of Defense, for his role in the continuing Vietnam War.

Bloom's college years saw an awakening of his interest in the civil rights movement. He participated in marches in the South in 1964 and 1965, and was arrested. In 1965 he joined student editors from the Harvard Crimson to found the Southern Courier, an independent newspaper based in Selma that emphasized coverage of civil rights and black Southern life, issues largely ignored by the mainstream (white) Southern press. Bloom worked as staff writer and Montgomery, Alabama bureau chief in the summer of 1965. In his senior year at Amherst he wrote his thesis on the life of southern Jews in Selma, Alabama.

After graduating from Amherst Bloom attended the London School of Economics to study sociology for one year. He gained notoriety on both sides of the Atlantic for his involvement in student protests against the School's appointment of Walter Adams, then head of University College of Rhodesia, as its next director. The Socialist Society at LSE, in particular, was harshly critical of his appointment because of his role in promulgating the Rhodesian government's apartheid policy. Bloom, then president of the Graduate Students' Association, organized a meeting to protest this decision on January 31, 1967. LSE administrators banned the meeting on short notice, but it took place anyway; a university porter trying to maintain order in the crowded hall died of a heart attack. For their involvement in this tragic incident, Bloom and another student were suspended.

Back in the U.S. in 1967, Bloom returned to journalism. In mid-1967 he was appointed Executive Director of the United States Student Press Association, an organization sponsored by the National Student Association that operated Collegiate Press Service (CPS). In August Bloom attended the Sixth Congress of the Student Press at the University of Minnesota, where his appointment was to be confirmed. However, Bloom had recently courted controversy by denouncing the National Student Association for having accepted funds from the Central Intelligence Agency. Many delegates to the Congress of the Student Press, accordingly, voiced their objection to Bloom's appointment and it was eventually rescinded by USSPA's National Executive Board.

While still in Minneapolis, Bloom co-founded, with Raymond Mungo of Boston University, a news organization - at first called Resistance Press Service - whose purpose was to deliver feature stories and news to the "underground" press, student press, radio stations and independent weekly newspapers and magazines as an alternative to established news services such as AP and CPS. The name of the organization was soon changed to Liberation News Service (LNS). LNS achieved initial success and became firmly established after the October 1967 anti-Vietnam War protests at the Pentagon in Washington by reporting on aspects of the antiwar movement that had been ignored or misunderstood by mainstream media. The organization sent out inexpensively produced offset-printed "packets" to its subscribers generally two or three times a week. First based in Washington, D.C., where it received financial assistance from the Institute for Policy Studies, it moved to New York City near Columbia University in 1968. LNS eventually served as many as 400 subscribers throughout North America and Europe.

In 1968 an ideological split developed within LNS. Bloom and Mungo, representing one faction, wanted LNS coverage to emphasize the pacifist and cultural aspects of the radical counterculture, while an overtly Marxist political faction, headed by Allen Young and George Cavalletto, felt loyalty to Students for a Democratic Society and sought to run LNS in a more disciplined way to effect political change. On August 11, 1968 Bloom's faction moved from New York City to a farm in Montague, Massachusetts, north of Amherst, taking with them the LNS printing press, office equipment and several thousand dollars. (LNS published from the new location starting with issue #100.) Discovering the "heist," the New York faction traveled to Montague and accused Bloom and others of absconding with LNS funds and property that were rightfully theirs. The encounter became physically violent until the New York faction received a check for $6,000. For a time, the New York and Montague factions continued to produce LNS news packets simultaneously. Within a year, however, the Montague faction ceased publication, and oriented themselves increasingly toward agricultural subsistence and rural communal life. (LNS in Massachusetts seems to have ceased with issue #120, January 1969, while issues from New York City continued to be produced through 1981.)

In March 1969 Bloom traveled to California. Among the people he visited was Lisbeth (Liz) Meisner, formerly an editor and administrative coordinator in the LNS office in Washington. Correspondence in the collection indicates that the two discussed plans to marry.

Bloom's diaries during 1969 indicate that he was privately quite troubled about many things: debts, civil relationships and the sharing of labor among those on the Montague farm, the viability of the farm as an experiment in living, religious doubts, disagreements with his father, the Vietnam War, and the threat of Selective Service. (In October 1969, Bloom had received a notice from the Selective Service to report for a physical examination; this may have been only his most recent of a series of encounters with the military draft.) On November 1, 1969, Bloom unexpectedly took his life by carbon monoxide poisoning in his parked car on a wooded road in nearby Leverett. Bloom did not leave a suicide note, only a sheet of typewritten instructions that served as his Last Will and Testament. In subsequent years, several writers have pointed to the death of Marshall Bloom as a sign of the "failure" of the radical counterculture, while others simply were saddened by the passing of a talented and very charismatic but increasingly troubled man.

Extent

12.5 Linear feet (10 records storage boxes, 2 archives boxes, 3 oversize boxes)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

Correspondence, diaries, unpublished writings, news clippings, publications, financial records, photographs and other materials chiefly documenting Bloom's childhood, education, personal life and work as the founder of Liberation News Service and its larger role in the radical counterculture of the 1960s.

Arrangement

This collection is organized into fourteen series:
  1. Series 1: Personal Affairs, 1962-1991
  2. Series 2: Writings and Drawings, 1961-1969
  3. Series 3: General Correspondence, 1961-1976
  4. Series 4: Financial Records, 1966-1969
  5. Series 5: Denver Childhood, 1955-1963
  6. Series 6: Amherst College, 1962-1969 (bulk 1962-1966)
  7. Series 7: Southern Civil Rights Activities, 1964-1966
  8. Series 8: London, 1966-1967
  9. Series 9: United States Student Press Association, 1961-1967 (bulk 1967)
  10. Series 10: Liberation News Service (LNS), 1967-1999 (bulk 1967-1969)
  11. Series 11: Montague Farm, 1968-1994
  12. Series 12: Photographs, circa 1950-1969
  13. Series 13: Miscellaneous Printed Matter, circa 1967-1969
  14. Series 14: Books

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Materials in the Marshall Bloom Papers were acquired through gift and purchase from the mid-1970s through 1992.

Related Materials

At Amherst College:

  1. Marshall Bloom Collection of Alternative Newspapers: This collection of more than 3,000 titles is national in scope and chiefly covers the period 1967-1973. The collection is a portion of the business records of Liberation News Service, since the contents are the sample copies kept by LNS of all its subscribers' publications featuring LNS content.
  2. David Kerr. Research Materials on Liberation News Service and the Alternative Press, 1969-1973.
  3. Alumni Biographical Files: Class of 1966, Marshall Bloom
  4. Stephen Diamond, What the Trees Said: Life on a New Age Farm. New York: Delacorte Press, 1971.
  5. Ray Mungo, Famous Long Ago: My Life and Hard Times with Liberation News Service. Boston: Beacon Press, 1970.
  6. Students for a Democratic Society Papers, 1958-1970 (microfilm, 41 reels).

At Other Institutions:

  1. Alternative Press Collection at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut (includes office files of Liberation News Service)
  2. Contemporary Culture Collection at Special Collections, Temple University (includes materials produced by alternative, independent, and small literary publishers, political organizations of the far left and right, social reform and liberation movement organizations, alternative lifestyle and energy advocates, and radicals in the professions)

Physical Description

10 records storage boxes, 2 archives boxes, 3 oversize flat boxes (12.5 linear feet)

Chronology

1944
July 16: Bloom is born to Sam S. and Lillian Gersh Bloom in Denver, Colorado. His father is the owner of a retail furniture business.
1962
Graduates from George Washington High School, Denver, Colorado. Fall: Bloom enrolls at Amherst College in the Class of 1966.
1963
Spring: Bloom rushes and joins Phi Gamma Chi fraternity.
Fall: At Amherst College Bloom founds FORUM, the student lecture committee.
1964
Bloom is jailed for demonstrating in civil rights protests in St. Augustine, Florida.
1964-1965
In his junior year, Bloom is a member of Sphinx, the College's junior honor society, and serves as Chairman (i.e., Editor in Chief) of The Amherst Student newspaper.
1965
March: Bloom is arrested in civil rights protests in Montgomery, Alabama.
July-September: With several Harvard students, Bloom co-founds The Southern Courier, a newspaper based in Selma, Alabama.
1966
Spring: Bloom is awarded the Samuel Bowles Prize at Amherst College
June 3: Bloom is graduated from Amherst College with a BA cum laude with honors in American Studies.
July-September: Bloom is a staff writer for Pace magazine, a publication of Moral Re-Armament, Inc.
September: Bloom enrolls in a one-year Master's program in sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London.
1967
August: At the Sixth Congress of the Student Press at the University of Minnesota, Bloom's appointment at USSPA is rescinded by the organization's National Executive Board. While still in Minneapolis, Bloom co-founds, with Raymond Mungo, the Liberation News Service (LNS).
Fall: LNS is officially established in Washington, D.C. with the incorporation of the New Media Project.
January 31: As president of the Graduate Students' Association at LSE, Bloom organizes a meeting to protest the appointment of Walter Adams as the School's next director. At the meeting, which the university has banned, a porter employed by the university dies of a heart attack while trying to maintain order. Bloom and another student are suspended. While at LSE, Bloom makes tentative plans to enroll in a Ph.D. program in the sociology of education at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.
April: Bloom is appointed General Secretary of the United States Student Press Association (USSPA), with headquarters in Washington, D.C.
1968
April: Bloom drives to California with Ray Mungo and two other friends.
June: LNS moves its headquarters to New York City. An ideological split develops within LNS.
August 11: Bloom's faction moves from New York City to a farm in Montague, Massachusetts, north of Amherst. LNS publishes from the new location starting with issue #100. For a short period, the New York and Massachusetts factions continue to run LNS under the same name.
1969
January: The last LNS issue, # 120, is produced from Montague.
November 1: Bloom commits suicide by asphyxiation in his car, Leverett, Massachusetts.
March: Bloom travels to California.
Late October: Bloom receives notice to report for a physical exam as part of the U.S. Selective Service program. Compulsory military enlistment would possibly involve duty in the Vietnam War (1955-1975).

Processing Information

Different parts of the Papers were received at various times, and there was no evidence of original order. Most of the Papers were accompanied by an item-level inventory whose numbers correspond to those written at the top of the first page of many items in the collection. Processing of the Papers in 2001 involved organizing the material into the current series and sub-series and quite often making educated guesses about the provenance and significance of individual items, particularly correspondence.
Status
Completed
Author
Peter Nelson
Date
2002
Language of description
English
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Sponsor
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Repository Details

Part of the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Amherst College Archives & Special Collections
Robert Frost Library
61 Quadrangle Drive
Amherst MA 01002-5000
(413) 542-2299