On July 25 I had an appointment with a person from Tamiment Library at NYU. She was coming over to discuss the archiving of thousands of files of the Center for Constitutional Rights from its almost 50 year radical and progressive history. CCR had chosen Tamiment because of the fabulous archive it was and is. Documents were not only archived, but also used to present seminars, classes and for historical research.
Tamiment was home to many other left and labor files including the National Lawyers Guild, the Communist Party, the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and individual such as Phil Agee, William Kunstler and Lenny Weinglass.
The person from Tamiment came over around 4pm and I could tell immediately that something was wrong-she was almost in tears. In a few words she told me, Michael Nash had died the night before. He had had a massive coronary. I was utterly unprepared for the shocking news and was deeply saddened. Although few outside of the left world of archiving probably knew about Michael Nash, he was the head of the archive and an extraordinary human being. I do not see how he will be repla ed.
First, was his dogged determination to have in one library as much of the important history of the left in the U.S. as was possible. He was tenaciousness, but in the softest of ways. However he did it, it worked. Files and documents poured into the library. This was not always easy. Sometimes, even after death, political opponents in life did not want their papers to be in the same library.
I recall sometime in the ’80’s talking with Mary Belfrage, the wife of the founder of the National Guardian (USA), Cedric Belfrage. Belfrage was a Communist for a short-while and apparently close to the party. His papers are at Tamiment.1 Mary came over to my house after she had had lunch with the widow of Max Shachtman, a Marxist, and a bitter opponent of the Soviet Union and the Communist Party. Mary expressed amazement as to how upset and angry Shachtman’s widow was that her husband’s papers were i’n the same library as Belfrage’s. 2 Nash could a mass these archives because he was a student of the history of the left, knew the various tendencies and knew the critical of the library.
My first experience with Michael Nash was with my own files. I wanted to get them out of my basement. I called Michael at the library and he came almost immediately to my storage place -a locked underground room off a basement garage. He quickly estimated the number of boxes to be moved. Within a few days Michael and I met in the dark, dank store room and few minutes later a truck pulled up and the boxes were in Tamiment. We signed a temporary paper of custody insuring that the boxes would be off-limits until we could remove attorney-client protected material. I will always remember the ease of working with Michael; there was no bureaucracy and papers only needed to be formalized when the powers at Bobst insisted.
Within days of my doing so I received a rough inde of the contents of those boxes. That was when I really had and interesting time, going up to Tamiment and exploring my life in the 1970’s. Flyers from the Black Panthers, Young Lords, and Puerto Rican Socialist Party, notes on political lawsuits I had long ago forgotten from that wonderfully turbulent world and embarrassingly a few soppy love letters that somehow made it into the files. There were also the papers of people lost: the death certificate of an Attica inmate stating he had been killed in the rebellion by three shots in the back or the letters pleading to save the life Michael X, a black power leader hung in Trinidad. The ephemera of history that give it meaning. The Bill Kunstler papers. His wife Margie, and daughters Sarah and Emily had stored the papers unopened for at least 15 years. When I was in the storage room one day, it was obvious that they
avuncular Cuba Agee
Truck and Kunstler
Ab Lincoln Brigade
Easy to wrok with My own experience NLG