Joseph R. Starobin (1913-1976) and his son, Robert S. Starobin (1939-1971) each played significant roles in the radical movements of their times, the so-called Old Left and New Left.
Joseph Starobin, born of a White Russian Jewish family in New York City, grew up among Socialists and became radicalized during the Great Depression. He was the foreign editor of the Daily Worker from 1945-1954, In 1951, on the Communist Party's suggestion, he went into to voluntary exile to escape McCarthyism. During this time, JS travelled widely in Latin America, France, Indochina, and China. Two books emerged out of these experiences: Paris to Peking and Eyewitness in Indo-China. JS was also in charge of the Communist Party USA's peace activities. JS entered the PhD. Program in history at Columbia University, and received his degree in Political Science. JS then taught at York University in Toronto. His dissertation was published as American Communism in Crisis: 1943-1957. JS's identification with the "Old Left" and academia thus provided a link with his son's leftist activity.
Robert Starobin was a "Red Diaper Baby," who was exposed to socialist politics early in life. He was influenced by his father, Joseph, and his mother, Norma, who was a dancer. He attended private progressive grade schools and graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1957. He attended Cornell for undergraduate studies, where he was editor of the student newspaper. Following college, he hitchhiked across the country to California, where he met and married Elsa within 3 weeks. He attended graduate school in history at UC Berkeley and participated in the Free Speech Movement, the SDS and the black power movement. His 1968 dissertation from UC Berkeley eventually became his major book, Industrial Slavery in the Old South, published in 1970. In 1966 RS joined the history faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and became involved with reforming the history department and with student protest groups. He pioneered the first black studies course at UW-Madison in 1968. RS published articles and spoke on his research interests in black history and the black power movement, but by the end of the 1960s, he felt unaccepted by the Black Panthers and by black academics because he was white. His marriage with Elsa broke up and she moved back to California in 1968. In 1969, RS returned to Cornell for a post-doctoral fellowship and again became involved with protest groups on campus. At the end of the year, he resigned from UW-Madison and accepted a teaching position at SUNY-Binghampton. He committed suicide in 1971.
From the guide to the Joseph R. Starobin and Robert S. Starobin Papers, 1945-1976, (Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.)