Spivak, John Louis, 1897-

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American journalist and novelist.

From the description of Papers, 1929-1948 (bulk 1929-1933). (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC); University of Texas at Austin). WorldCat record id: 122530568

John L. Spivak (1897-1981), an investigative reporter and author whom fellow muckraker Lincoln Steffens described as "the best of us," was most concerned with the problems of the working class and the spread of fascism and anti-Semitism in Europe and the United States from the 1920s through the 1940s.

As a boy Spivak worked for a variety of factories in his hometown of New Haven, Connecticut, then landed a job as a cub reporter for the New Haven Union. Moving to New York, he worked at the Morning Sun, Evening Graphic, and the Call, the paper of the American Socialist Party. His first major break came when he traveled to West Virginia to cover the coal strikes that broke out after World War I. He then served briefly as a reporter and bureau chief in Berlin and Moscow for the International News Service and upon his return to the U.S. became a feature writer for leftist newspapers and magazines such as the New York Daily Worker, Ken, and the New Masses.

Spivak traveled throughout the South in the early 1930s interviewing prison camp officials and photographing camp atrocities and their corresponding punishment records. His novel, Georgia Nigger, depicting the brutality of prison camp chain gangs was serialized in the Daily Worker. His 1935 exposé in the New Masses charged a congressional committee with deliberately suppressing evidence of an offer made to Maj. Gen. Smedley D. Butler by Wall Street financiers to lead a military coup against the U.S. government and replace it with a fascist regime. He also investigated the anti-Semitic and financial activities of Charles E. Coughlin, the Catholic radio priest who founded the Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak, Michigan. Most of Spivak's work, however, was dedicated to exposing fascism and underground Nazi spy groups in Central America, Europe, and the U.S. He wrote several "muckraking" books about these activities.

With the rise of McCarthyism, Spivak spent most of the 1950s and 1960s writing under several pen names for men's adventure and lifestyle magazines including Cavalier, Esquire, Fury, Male, and Man to Man. Intent on writing his autobiography, he and his wife, Mabel, retired to their farm in Easton, Pennsylvania. Not long afterwards he decided to come out of retirement to edit a consumer affairs column for the Easton newspaper where his work culminated in a federal investigation into the high-pressure sales tactics used by magazine circulation companies that resulted in new consumer protection laws. Spivak died in 1981, six months after his wife passed away. They had been married for 64 years and were survived by a daughter and grandson.

Spivak's writings include: Medical Trust Unmasked (L.S. Siegfried, 1929), Devil's Brigade (Brewer and Warren, Inc., 1930), Georgia Nigger (London, Wishart & Company, 1933), Plotting America's Pogroms: A Documented Exposéof Organized Anti-Semitism in the United States (The New Masses, 1934), America Faces the Barricades (Covici Friede Inc., 1935), Europe Under the Terror (Simon & Schuster, 1936), Secret Armies: the New Technique of Nazi Warfare (Modern Age Books, 1939), Honorable Spy: Exposing Japanese Military Intrigue in the United States (Modern Age Books, 1939), Shrine of the Silver Dollar (Modern Age Books, 1940), Sex, Vice and Business (writing as Monroe Fry) (Ballantine Books, 1959), and his autobiography, A Man In His Time (Horizon Press, 1967).

From the guide to the John L. Spivak Papers, 1922-1973, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Stanley Burnshaw Papers TXRC93-A78., 1927-1987, (bulk 1945-1987) Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars. Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars records. 1927-1949. New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
creatorOf Burnshaw, Stanley, 1906-2005. Papers, 1927-1987, (bulk 1945-1987). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf John L. Spivak Papers, 1922-1973 Syracuse University. Library. Special Collections Research Center
creatorOf Spivak, John Louis, 1897- . Papers, 1929-1948 (bulk 1929-1933). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Alexander, William Winton, 1884-1956. person
associatedWith American Civil Liberties Union. corporateBody
associatedWith Baldwin, Roger Nash, 1884- . person
associatedWith Burnshaw, Stanley, 1906- person
associatedWith Burns, Robert Elliott. person
associatedWith Burns, Vincent Godfrey, 1893-. person
associatedWith Carmon, Walt. person
associatedWith Cecil, Edgar Algernon Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, viscount, 1864-1958. person
associatedWith Cleghorn, Sarah Norcliffe, 1876-1959. person
associatedWith Cullen, Countee, 1903-1946. person
associatedWith Des Moines Register and Tribune Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars corporateBody
associatedWith Gold, Michael, 1893-1967. person
associatedWith Lehman, Herbert H. (Herbert Henry), 1878-1963. person
associatedWith Moss, Gordon W. person
associatedWith Murphy, Carl. person
associatedWith National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. corporateBody
associatedWith North, Joseph. person
associatedWith Peabody, George Foster, 1852-1938. person
associatedWith Powys, John Cowper, 1872-1963. person
associatedWith Prison Commission of Georgia. corporateBody
associatedWith Reavey, George, 1907-1976. person
associatedWith Vann, Robert L., 1887-1940. person
associatedWith Vorse, Mary Heaton, 1874-1966. person
associatedWith Walters, Basil Leon, 1896-1975. person
associatedWith Waymack, W. W. (William Wesley), 1888-1960. person
associatedWith White, Walter Francis, 1893-1955. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
African American prisoners
Authors, American
Novelists, American
Convict labor


Birth 1897


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