The Freedom Forum was organized in 1943 in Schenectady, New York by the Subcommittee on Post War Planning of the Citizens Unity Committee of the Schenectady County Consolidated War Council. The Freedom Forum's organizers had one priority at the organization's inception, to promote an interest in civic and educational topics of the day. This dedication motivated Freedom Forum to bring notable lecturers to Schenectady. The Freedom Forum by-laws state: "The policy of Freedom Forum, Inc. is to help in spreading factual information and in the discovery of truths concerning issues about which there are two or more points of view."The not-for-profit, non-partisan organization group evolved by the 1960s to sustain over 1500 members in the Capital Region of New York.
Early in the Freedom Forum's history the organization lacked control over lecturers because of its dependence on other organizations such as the Y.W.C.A and Union College who, along with other local organizations, helped to sponsor the first lecture series. They were also financially supported by the Schenectady County Department of Education. Freedom Forum opened memberships to the public at an annual subscription fee that would allow subscribers to participate in lectures and vote at meetings. Under the leadership of Reverend Edwin H. Wilson, of the Unitarian Church, Freedom Forum used these funds to become independent in 1944 and assume control over decisions on speakers. In 1951, Freedom Forum was incorporated as a non-profit "educational corporation."
The Board of Directors assigned working committees to projects and managed the regulations of the organization. The general perspective of each lecture series was discussed during the Program Committee's meetings. The first Freedom Forum speaker was author and scientist William Agar who lectured on September 27, 1943, on the topic of "The World We Want," which dealt with solutions to domestic problems at the end of World War II.
In addition to lecture series the group also held public debates such as in December 1976 when E. Linn Draper, Director of the Nuclear Engineering Program at the University of Texas, debated Daniel F. Ford, Executive Director of Union of Concerned Scientist. They debated the issue of using nuclear power as a source of energy, which was favored in response to the rising need for energy as standard fuel resources began to wane. In addition to lectures on energy options other subjects that the program committee considered for discussion were the Vietnam War, contraception, abortion laws, and inflation. Other well-known speakers included Eleanor Roosevelt in 1956 and Margaret Mead in 1947 and 1962. A brief question and answer period usually followed the lectures.
The records do not specifically state the date group disbanded, but the reduction in the number of subscriptions, decrease in amount of board members, and the activity of those board members remaining may have influenced the demise of the organization. The last program mentioned in the collection is May 8, 1978. The speaker was Bernard Davis who lectured on "The Recombinant DNA Scenario: Andromeda Strain, Chimera, and Golem."
This collection documents the activities of the Freedom Forum from 1959-1978. The collection includes information on the organization from the period when it depended on donations through the time when it gained its independence by selling memberships. With this independence came more controversial lecturers and topics.
The Freedom Forum records include administrative files, news clippings, handwritten notes, and correspondence. The news clippings and a single western union telegram from United States Senator Charles H. Percy have been photocopied. The news clippings include an excerpt from the "The Challenge of Change," a book by senator Edward W. Brooke. Communication between Freedom Forum and speakers, or potential speakers, is most abundant in this collection. The correspondence files include a note to Freedom Forum from Teamsters Union leader Jimmy Hoffa. Correspondence also exists from Alexander Kerensky, the first Premier of Russia after the 1917 revolution and Moshe Sharett, the first Foreign Minister and second Prime Minister of the State of Israel. Correspondence also exists between the Directors and Dr. John Rock, Dick Gregory, and John V. Lindsey.
The largest correspondence files are the 1967 and 1968 files. These files reflect the organization's interest in the 1968 presidential election and its candidates. During those years the organization invited George Wallace, former governor of Alabama, Hubert Humphrey, and human rights activist Dick Gregory to share their opinions. Correspondence between the period of 1944-1964 is not available in the collection.
The collection is organized into the following series:
All series are arranged alphabetically with the exception of Series 3, which is arranged chronologically.
All items in this manuscript group were donated to the University Libraries, M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, by Loren Broc, historian of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany, in October 2001.
Processed by: Kenyetta Russell in 2012.
Collection record created by: Janice Lee
Archival materials can be view in-person during business hours in our reading room, located on the top floor of the Science Library on the Uptown Campus.
We can also deliver digital scans for remote research for a fee.
Access to this record group is unrestricted.
The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of copyright. Whenever possible, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will provide information about copyright owners and other restrictions, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Head of Special Collections and Archives.
Preferred citation for this material is as follows:
Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Freedom Forum Records, 1959-1978. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as [shortened name]).
|1||4||Membership Correspondence||1965-1973, Undated|
|1||5||Membership Rosters||1967-1975, Undated|
|1||6||Officer Rosters||1967-1972, Undated|
|1||7||Organizational Correspondence||1965-1976, Undated|
|1||11||Meeting Minutes||1966-1977, Undated|
|1||14||Program Chairman's Duties||Undated|
|1||28||News Clippings||1966-1978, Undated|