UMass Amherst obtains papers of veteran social activist and writer Al Weinrub

Scientist, writer and social activist Al Weinrub, a co-founder of the group Science for the People, has donated his papers to the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Scientist, writer and social activist Al Weinrub, a co-founder of the group Science for the People, has donated his papers to the University of Massachusetts Amherst. CONTRIBUTED/UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETT AMHERST


Staff Writer

Published: 08-21-2023 3:55 PM

AMHERST — Adding to its collection of work documenting social change, the University of Massachusetts Amherst has acquired the papers of social activist and writer Al Weinrub, co-founder of the anti-imperialist organization Science for the People (SftP) in 1969.

Weinrub’s papers, now part of the school’s Robert S. Cox Special Collections and University Archives Research Center (SCUA), document 50 years of justice activism in the labor, anti-war, human rights, and climate justice movements in the U.S.

Weinrub, a Harvard-trained physicist, was part of a group of scientists and engineers based in Cambridge who in the late 1960s began questioning their role in relation to U.S. culture and the economy, as well as the Vietnam War.

In 1969, they founded SftP as a decentralized national organization, with chapters mainly at research universities across the country. Weinrub served for five years as managing editor of SftP’s magazine.

Weinrub later went on to work on campaigns and for organizations addressing energy problems, Black liberation, labor rights, women’s rights and Central American unionists.

Now living in California, he’s worked in more recent years to address climate change and build local, state and national alliances to democratize energy distribution as a means for promoting environmental and social justice.

Weinrub has donated what UMass is calling the Al Weinrub Justice Papers — over 48 linear feet of correspondence, planning documents, pamphlets, newsletters, photographs and more — to the university.

In a statement, UMass history professor Sigrid Schmalzer noted that the new collection “not only provides insight into the early years of Science for the People, but also shows the diverse political activism a single activist-scientist has engaged in over the course of his life.”

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“Weinrub went from founding SftP to supporting anti-imperialist labor struggles in Central America in the 1980s, to taking part in Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition,” Schmalzer added. “He has brought these experiences together in his more recent efforts to advance the cause of climate justice by building a movement to democratize energy in the U.S.”

Weinrub was recognized earlier this year as a Lifelong Energy Justice Champion by the California Alliance for Community Energy.

Aaron Rubinstein, the head of SCUA, says the Weinrub collection will provide “a vital lens” on important social and political movements of the past 50 years as well as “a roadmap for contemporary activists” who continue to fight the societal ills Weinrub has long addressed.

Weinrub’s collection will sit alongside the papers of civil rights pioneer W. E. B. Du Bois and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg.