David K. Niles was active in politics and commerce-related endeavors both locally and nationally throughout the first half of the twentieth century. His papers relate to his leadership of Boston's Ford Hall Forum, his work on national Progressive and Democratic election campaigns, his positions in the U.S. Labor and Commerce Departments, his time advising the Works Progress Administration, and his nearly decade-long position as Special Assistant to the President under Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. The collection reflects Niles's participatory role in a range of subjects, including domestic civil rights, campaign politics, immigrant quotas, post-World War II foreign redevelopment projects, and the creation of the State of Israel.
Niles was an active member of the local, national, and international Jewish community. As such, the collection reflects the growth of the American Jewish community. There are letters to David Niles from Jews requesting assistance in finding relatives in war-torn Europe, letters from Jewish community leaders reflecting the growing support for the recognition of the State of Israel, and material dealing with anti-Semitism in American society and media. The collection also includes correspondence about a new Jewish-sponsored university in Waltham, Massachusetts—Brandeis University—which Niles helped establish and of which he eventually became a trustee.
After Niles's death in 1952, his papers were donated to Dr. Abram L. Sachar, the president of Brandeis University. Sachar and his staff organized and processed the papers and, in 1985, gave the majority of them to the Truman Library. While the collection at Brandeis contains some original material—correspondence, photographs, and memorabilia—most of the materials are photocopies of originals housed in the David K. Niles Papers of the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library.