The collection's approximately 4500 items represent an attempt to document the history of transatlantic radicalism, especially Anglo-American labor radicalism, during the first 75 years of the Twentieth Century. The collection contains a wide array of printed materials including pamphlets, magazines, journals, government reports, books, and campaign advertisements. It holds an especially extensive catalogue of British and American Communist Party literature published between the 1930s and 1950s. The material produced by American Communists shows the way the Communist Party tried to attract African Americans and women by emphasizing (what were then considered) its radical positions on gender and racial equality. At the same time, the materials show how the Party attacked their socialist enemies and vigorously defended Stalinism and the Soviet occupation of Eastern and Central Europe. Pamphlets produced by civil libertarians, notably the American Civil Liberties Union, who defended the rights of communists and radicals as they faced repression from both federal and state authorities, are also well represented. Additionally, the collection also contains a small number of French, Spanish, Russian, and German materials related to the history of socialism and communism. Besides pamphlets and political tracts, the collection also holds a number of radical and artistically inventive magazines from the first half of the twentieth century including Mother Earth, Americana, the Masses, the New Masses, the Modern Monthly, Class Struggle, and the Labor Defender.
In addition to its vast catalogue of published materials, the collection also contains several boxes of unpublished documents pertaining to the history of American radicalism. These include a box of documents relating to the Socialist Party of Massachusetts between 1908-1919; a series of tape recorded interviews with Scott Nearing and his family during the early 1970s; plans for a rally (which ultimately never took place) that included Harry Bellefonte, Paul Robeson, and a performance by the Freedom Theater Players; and approximately sixty photographs of Communist Party and labor rallies held in New York City during the 1930s. Complementing its focus on left-wing radicalism, the collection holds a number of documents related to right-wing anti-communism. These include published reports from State and Federal House-Un-American Activities Committees and pamphlet collections such as the staunchly anti-communist, "The Truth about Communism." Chronologically, the collection shows the trajectory of American radicalism during the Twentieth Century, from its height during the Popular Front of the 1930s to its relative decline during the McCarthy era, to its rejuvenation with the movements of the New Left during the late 1950s and 1960s. As a whole, the collection provides invaluable insights into the intellectual, political, and social worlds of twentieth century American radicalism.