Access to this collection is limited.

To inquire about using this collection, contact us at wilsonlibrary@unc.edu. For details, please see the restrictions.

Collection Number: 20432

Collection Title: Irwin Silber Collection, 1940s-2000s

This collection has access restrictions. For details, please see the restrictions.


expand/collapse Expand/collapse Collection Overview

Size 15 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 5000 items)
Abstract The collection of Jewish American folklorist and longtime editor of the folk music magazine Sing Out! Irwin Silber (1925-2010) contains correspondence, subject files, articles, newspaper clippings, transcripts of interviews, sheet music, lyric sheets, song books, bibliographies, publisher agreements, a few photographs, and newsletters, pamphlets, and other publications chiefly related to American folk music and workers' rights. The materials document Silber's leading role in the folk revival of the mid twentieth century, publication of topical American folk songs and protest songs, leftist political activism, anti-war stances and protests particularly during the Vietnam and Iraq wars, and avid support for labor unions, civil rights for African Americans, and women's rights. Notable correspondents include Pete Seeger, Archie Green, Ronald Cohen, Raeburn Flerlage, and Silber's wife singer Barbara Dane. Of interest are materials related to the House Committee on Un-American Activities including Silber's subpoena to appear before it in the 1950s and a notebook he kept during a trip to Vietnam in 1974. Acquired as part of the Southern Folklife Collection.
Creator Silber, Irwin, 1925-2010.
Language English
Back to Top

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Information For Users

Restrictions to Access
This collection is not available for immediate or same day access. Please contact Research and Instructional Service staff at wilsonlibrary@unc.edu to discuss options for consulting this collection.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Irwin Silber Collection #20432, Southern Folklife Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
Back to Top

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

Jewish American folklorist and staunch political leftist and social justice activist, Irwin Silber was born in New York, N.Y., in 1925. In the mid-1940s, Silber joined Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and others in founding People's Song, Inc., which published and distributed protest and labor songs, and a few years later he became editor of the folk music magazine Sing Out!. He famously took Bob Dylan to task in a 1965 issue of the magazine, scolding Dylan for playing amplified music and abandoning political songs.

Silber edited numerous books of topical American folk songs including Songs of the Civil War (1960), The Vietnam Songbook (1969) Songs America Voted By (1971), Songs of Independence (1973), and Songs of the Great American West (1995). In 2003 he published a biography of Communist Party member and sports editor for the Daily Worker Lester Rodney.

In 1964, Silber married singer and activist Barbara Dane. Silber died in 2010.

Back to Top

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

The collection of Jewish American folklorist and longtime editor of the folk music magazine Sing Out! Irwin Silber (1925-2010) contains correspondence, subject files, articles, newspaper clippings, transcripts of interviews, sheet music, lyrics, song books, bibliographies, publisher agreements, a few photographs, and newsletters, pamphlets, and other publications chiefly related to American folk music and workers' rights.

The materials document Silber's leading role in the folk revival of the mid twentieth century, publication of topical American folksongs and protest songs, leftist political activism, anti-war stances and protests particularly during the Vietnam and Iraq wars, and avid support for labor unions, civil rights for African Americans, and women's rights. Notable correspondents include Pete Seeger, Archie Green, Ronald Cohen, Raeburn Flerlage, and Silber's wife Barbara Dane. Of interest are materials related to the House Committee on Un-American Activities including Silber's subpoena to appear before it in the 1950s and a notebook he kept during a trip to Vietnam in 1974.

The collections contains subject files and research files for Silber's compilations of topical American folk songs, including Songs of the Civil War (1960), The Vietnam Songbook (1969) Songs America Voted By (1971), Songs of Independence (1973), and Songs of the Great American West (1995).

Individuals represented in the collection include Paul Robeson, Bishop Donald L. West, Si Kahn, Abbie Hoffman, David Van Ronk, Alan Lomax, Earl Hawley Robinson, Alessandro Portelli, Moses Asch, Bill Malone, and Woody Guthrie.

Topics addressed in the materials include folk revival, protest songs, labor unions, Vietnam War, anti-war activism, cultural revolution, counterculture, Marxism, folk festivals, folklore studies curricula, 1965 Sing-in for Peace, blacklisting in Hollywood, Jewish assimilation in America, copyright law, and American Folksay records.

Publications contained in the collection include pamphlets from the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), issues of Broadside, and song books from People's Songs, Inc.

Back to Top

Processing Information

This summary description was created in June 2018 to provide information about unprocessed materials in Wilson Special Collections Library.

Encoded by: Laura Smith, June 2018

Back to Top