American Youth Congress

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The American Youth Congress was established in 1935 as an umbrella organization of American youth advocacy groups. Its intention was to unite these disparate groups under a single voice to promote opportunities for education and civic involvement for Depression-era youth, and to lobby on behalf of the under-21 population. The AYC won the vocal support of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, adn established itself as a powerful lobbying entity. Among many other causes, the AYC undertook lobbying efforts on behalf of racial justice, increased federal spending on education, and an end to mandatory participation in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) for male college students. In its final years, with WWII looming, the AYC fought a vigorous battle against the Conscription Act and advocated American neutrality in the war. From its inception the AYC followed a policy of inclusiveness, welcoming youth organizations of all political views to join and contribute. But as its membership grew (the AYC claimed to represent at least 4.5 million citizens in 1938), left-leaning groups such as the American Student Union and the Young Communist League began to comprise the largest block of members, and the leadership of the AYC became increasingly radicalized, until by 1940 many of its upper-level members, including Director Joseph Cadden and Secretary Joseph Lash, also claimed membership in Communist Party front organizations. The AYC came under frequent attack from the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and particularly from the committee chairman Martin Dies, whose 1940 book The Trojan Horse in America was largely an exposé of Communist infiltration in the AYC ranks. Under the pressure of these HUAC attacks, and following its notorious anti-war, anti-Roosevelt rally on the White House lawn in 1940, the AYC lost the support of its few remaining political allies, including Eleanor Roosevelt; by 1941 its influence had all but waned, and the group was effectively disbanded by the end of that year.

From the guide to the American Youth Congress Records, undated, (Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives)

The American Youth Congress was formed in 1935 to be a "voice for youth" on economic, social, and political issues of interest to young people, including unemployment, education, the draft, Communism, and so on. The organization was structured like a mock Congress, with delegates from across the United States as well as Canada, Cuba, China, Puerto Rico, and other countries. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was a strong backer of the organization (her involvement eventually led to the establishment of the National Youth Administration). When leaders of the AYC were subpoenaed by the House Un-American Affairs Committee (HUAC), Mrs. Roosevelt attended the hearings to demonstrate her support. The organization disbanded in 1940, largely due to internal conflict over the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact.

From the guide to the American Youth Congress Collection, 1937-1944, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Macki, Eleanor,. Oral history interview with Eleanor Macki, 1970. Wayne State University. Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs
referencedIn McMichael, Jack R. Jack R. McMichael papers, 1933-1984. Emory University Library, Special Collect Department
creatorOf Benjamin, Gilbert G. The Gilbert G. Benjamin collection on subversive activities. California State University, Northridge
referencedIn Church, Michael P.,. Michael P. Church collection, 1933-1954. Stanford University, Hoover Institution Library
creatorOf Brin, Fanny Fligelman, 1884-1961. Fanny F. Brin papers, 1896-1958. Minnesota Historical Society Library
referencedIn Johnson, Newell. Papers, 1934-1940. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Michael P. Church collection, 1933-1954 Hoover Institution Archives
referencedIn American Student Union. American Student Union papers, 1936-1941 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Glueck, Sheldon, 1896-1990. Papers, 1916-1972 Harvard Law School Library Langdell Hall Cambridge, MA 02138
creatorOf American Youth Congress Records, undated Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
creatorOf American Youth Congress Collection, 1937-1944 Syracuse University. Library. Special Collections Research Center
creatorOf American Youth Congress. Correspondence with Theodore Dreiser, 1940. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Simon, Abbott. Abbott Simon papers, 1937-2000. Churchill County Museum
creatorOf American Youth Congress. Collection, 1934-1941. Swarthmore College, Peace Collection, SCPC
referencedIn Lash, Joseph P., 1909-1987. Papers, 1934-1978. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn J. B. Matthews Papers, 1862-1986 and undated David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
referencedIn Guide to the Abbott Simon Papers, 1932-2002 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Dizard, George E. (George Emil), 1917-. George E. Dizard and family papers, 1923-1991 (bulk 1938-1988). Minnesota Historical Society, Division of Archives and Manuscripts
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith American Student Union. corporateBody
associatedWith Benjamin, Gilbert G. person
associatedWith Brin, Fanny Fligelman, 1884-1961. person
associatedWith Cadden, Joseph. person
associatedWith Carlson, Mildred. person
associatedWith Church, Michael P., person
associatedWith Church, Michael P., collector. person
associatedWith Colby, Merle, 1902-1969 person
associatedWith Dizard, George E. (George Emil), 1917-. person
correspondedWith Glueck, Sheldon, 1896- person
associatedWith International Youth Congress |y, 1941. corporateBody
associatedWith Johnson, Newell. person
associatedWith Lash, Joseph P., 1909-1987. person
associatedWith Macki, Eleanor, person
associatedWith Matthews, J. B. (Joseph Brown), 1894-1966 person
associatedWith McMichael, Jack R. person
associatedWith Simon, Abbott. person
associatedWith Simon, Abbott, 1916- person
associatedWith Southern Negro Youth Congress. corporateBody
associatedWith Swarthmore College. Peace Collection. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Subject
World War, 1939-1945--Protest movements--United States
Peace movements--United States
Student movements--United States
Youth--United States--Congresses
Youth--United States--Political activity
Youth and peace--History--Sources
Socialism and youth--United States
Youth protest movements
Peace--Societies, etc.--History--Sources
Youth movement--History--Sources
Occupation
Activity

Corporate Body

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