Skip to main content

Joseph S. Schwartz Civil Rights Letters

Identifier: M381

Scope and Contents

This collection should be of interest to students and researchers of the civil rights era circa 1960-1965; especially those interested in researching the experiences of volunteers with academic backgrounds in sociology, psychology or the physical sciences. The collection would also be valuable to researchers interested in the letters exchanged between civil rights workers and their families during the 1960s.


  • Creation: circa 1962-1966


Conditions Governing Access

Noncirculating; available for research.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical / Historical

Dr. Joseph S. Schwartz was a Civil Rights volunteer in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, from September 1964 to March 1965.

Dr. Schwartz was born to Leon Schwartz and Beatrice “Bea” Krevens Schwartz in New York City on January 3, 1938. He moved with his parents and younger brother Michael, to Los Angeles, California in 1946. After graduating from high school in 1955, Dr. Schwartz received both his undergraduate degrees in physics and sociology (1959), and his Ph.D. in elementary particle physics (1964) from the University of California (UC), Berkeley. During his time at UC Berkeley, he was involved with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), an organization strongly connected to the Civil Rights movement in the south.

His involvement with SNCC at Berkeley contributed to a decision to volunteer in Mississippi. He came to the South, leaving for a time a position as Head of the Physics Department at Staten Island Community College of the City of New York. After arriving in Batesville, Mississippi for orientation in September 1964, he traveled to Hattiesburg to begin work as a volunteer. Dr. Schwartz helped with voter registration, community centers, and the Freedom library. He also worked with the White Folks Project (WFP) to facilitate discussions about racism among Hattiesburg’s poor white communities.

He left Hattiesburg in March of 1965 and traveled back to the Bay Area. He returned to Mississippi briefly before moving to New York to start a post-doctorate with Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. In 1975 he moved to London, England, where he currently lives with his partner Susie Orbach and their two children, Lukas and Lianna. Dr. Schwartz is now a writer and psychoanalytic psychotherapist.


.10 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials



Letters written by a Freedom Summer volunteer in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.


The collection is contained in three folders. Folder One holds eleven handwritten letters, mostly exchanges between Dr. Schwartz and members of his immediate family. One letter is to Bea and Isaac from Leon Schwartz. Folder Two holds a printed article co-authored by Dr. Schwartz and a typewritten description of a dream. Folder Three holds photocopies of each of the original documents in the collection. Items in all three folders are arranged chronologically. The photocopied article and dream-description in Folder Three are arranged chronologically and placed behind the Schwartz family letters.

Item One is a letter from Dr. Schwartz to Bea written sometime around 1962. Dr. Schwartz talks about his thesis, meeting Chuck McDew, the national chairman of SNCC, and his objection to the hostile treatment of civil rights activists in Mississippi.

Item Two is a Letter to Bea and Isaac postmarked October 18, 1964. Dr. Schwartz expresses frustration over the lack of visible support from the national government for the protection of SNCC and its volunteer workers.

Item Three, Item Four, and Item Five were originally enclosed together in an envelope postmarked November 2, 1964. Item Three is a letter from Leon to Bea and Isaac. Item Four is a letter from Dr. Schwartz to Leon and Shirley. Item Five is a letter from Dr. Schwartz to Bea and Isaac.

Item Six is a letter from Dr. Schwartz to Bea and Isaac written around 1964. He mentions the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), the 1964 Johnson vs. Goldwater presidential campaign and the defeat of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Item Seven is a letter to Bea and Isaac postmarked January 1, 1965. Dr. Schwartz mentions being hit by a policeman and a dream he had about Bea and Isaac.

Item Eight is a letter to Bea postmarked January 17, 1965. Dr. Schwartz talks candidly with his mother about their relationship and addresses her interpretation of a dream he described for her in a previous letter.

Item Nine is a letter to Mama postmarked November 23, 1965. Dr. Schwartz writes from the Columbia University computer lab and describes living in New York City.

Item Ten is a letter to Mike and Wanda written sometime in the summer of 1965. Dr. Schwartz mentions meeting a friend who studied social work with Michael Schwerner (Michael Schwerner was a Freedom Summer volunteer who was murdered in Neshoba County, Mississippi).

Item Eleven is a letter Dr. Schwartz to Mama postmarked July 20, 1966. The letter, written on College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University letterhead, mentions friends of the family, a recent trip to Montreal and his experiences living in New York City.

Item Twelve is an original article from Volume (10), Number (4) of a newsletter titled Physical Review Letters. The article, dated February 15, 1963, is co-authored by Dr. Schwartz and titled, “Evidence for K* Spin Alignment and Possible Exchange Mechanism in the Reaction p¯pÕS°K*†.”

Item Thirteen is a typewritten description of a dream created around 1964.

Items Fourteen through Twenty-six are photocopies of Items One through Thirteen.


Materials in this collection were donated by Dr. Joseph S. Schwartz.

Related Materials

M376, Ed Hamlett (Ed) White Folks Project Collection


Contents of the Collection

Joseph Schwartz oral history; F341.5.M57 vol. (736)

Joseph S. Schwartz Civil Rights Letters
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Historical Manuscripts and Photographs Repository

118 College Drive - 5148
Hattiesburg MS 39406-0001