UC Berkeley News


PBS documentary on Emma Goldman based on Berkeley’s extensive archival holdings

| 08 April 2004


Punished for speaking out against a government at war, Emma Goldman was deported by the U.S. to her native Russia in 1919.

A Berkeley research unit plays a role in Emma Goldman, a documentary being broadcast on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) next week.

The Emma Goldman Papers Project opened its doors to the filmmakers, providing research materials and information contained in the film, said Barry Pateman, an historian and associate editor with the campus-based resource. Since 1980, the project has collected and edited tens of thousands of documents about Goldman. Later this year, the University of California Press is publishing Making Speech Free, the second in a four-volume “Documentary History of the American Years” series about Goldman produced by the project. The first volume, Made for America, 1890-1901, was published last year.

The 90-minute film, airing on PBS at 9 p.m. on Monday, April 12, is part of the “American Experience” series on that network. It tells the story of the anarchist writer and lecturer who spoke fearlessly in support of free speech, birth control, women’s rights, and labor. Goldman spoke out against government and big business, but it was her forthright opposition to war in general and World War I in particular, along with her protest against the draft, that led to her deportation as the so-called “most dangerous anarchist in America.” Ordered back to her native Russia in 1919, she returned just once to the United States before her death in Toronto in 1940.

Pateman said director Mel Bucklin visited the Emma Goldman Papers Project in 1997 to review the documents and photographic material deposited there and to interview all project editors in preparation for her initial grant proposals seeking underwriting for the documentary. Excerpts from an extensive interview with Pateman are also interspersed throughout the film, and he is credited as one of its advisers.

Candace Falk, the founding director and editor of the Emma Goldman Papers, said she is thrilled that the project’s work of the last 25 years has helped lay the foundation for bringing Goldman firmly back into the “American experience.” Falk noted that another documentary, Anarchist Guest by Coleman Romalis, which aired last year in the United States and Canada, also relied heavily on the Emma Goldman Papers’ archives and on staff interviews.

“I hope the gathering interest represented by the upcoming ‘American Experience’ feature on Emma Goldman marks a new wave of interest in one of the most eloquent women of the 20th century — one whose whose words continue to resonate and inspire — especially now,” Falk said.

For more information about the Emma Goldman Papers Project, including images and selections from her writings, visit sunsite.berkeley.edu/Goldman/.