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Michigan State University

The Radicalism Collection


Welcome! This guide is designed to provide an overview of the Radicalism Collection, which is part of MSU Libraries' Stephen O. Murray and Keelung Hong Special Collections.

In the context of this collection, we define radicalism as the beliefs or actions of individuals, groups, or organizations who advocate for social and/or political reform to achieve an alternative vision of society.

Radicalism can be applied to the political left or right, and it can encompass a range of ideologies and actions. Defining what is or is not “radical” also depends on the context of a situation and who is interpreting it. Regardless, tracing the history, ideology, and actions of radical individuals and organizations can provide unique insight into contemporary political and social issues.

History & purpose

In the early 1960s, MSU Libraries acquired a large collection of books, pamphlets, flyers, and serials related to the Communist Party of the United States of America

Soon after this acquisition, the Libraries decided to build a collection that covers a spectrum of viewpoints on political, social, and economic issues in the United States from the late 19th century through today. This collection – the Radicalism Collection – would emphasize the printed materials of groups, organizations, movements, and individuals whose perspectives reflect a radical or alternative vision of American life. 

Items in MSU Libraries’ Radicalism Collection reveal how radical thinkers and movements thought and what they demanded. They also provide counterpoints to those narratives from opposing figures and groups. Studying these primary and secondary source materials can deepen our understanding of a wide range of radicalism and inspire further research. 

Furthermore, certain types of extremist literature are printed in small quantities and on cheap materials that make them difficult to access after their initial publication or by outsiders. The Radicalism Collection has preserved many types of extremist literature across the political spectrum, which provides a window into these hard-to-access individuals, groups, and movements.   

While the term “radicalism” can have an extremist or negative connotation, a number of materials in this collection may be seen as moderate by today's standards. Given shifting societal norms and the interdisciplinary and intersectional nature of this collection, determining whether or not an item should be part of the Radicalism Collection continues to be a dynamic, challenging process. To learn more, read our Collection Development Policy.

Content advisory

The Radicalism Collection contains extremist materials that were intended to promote hatred and/or violence, especially towards marginalized individuals and groups. Users may find certain content to be offensive, disturbing, or upsetting. Please take care as you browse this collection.

MSU Libraries does not condone violence or hate in any form, nor do we necessarily endorse the issues, groups, or individuals represented in our collections.