Rhode Island Archival and Manuscript Collections Online

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William Gerald McLoughlin papers (MS.2009.003)

Brown University Library

Box A
Brown University
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: Manuscripts: 401-863-3723; University Archives: 401-863-2148
Email: Manuscripts: hay@brown.edu; University Archives: archives@brown.edu

Scope & content

Professor William Gerald McLoughlin taught at Brown University from 1954-1992 and was an active and vocal participant professionally and personally in all of the issues and events during those years: freedom of speech, civil rights, racial equality, gender equality (Louise Lamphere sex discrimination case), nuclear energy, improving the Providence education system, the Vietnam War, divestment from South Africa, and US intervention in Nicaragua during the 1980s. His papers are particularly useful for studying the changes in America and their effects at Brown University during his tenure.

This collection contains research notes and subject files for his many scholarly research topics, drafts for some of his published books, correspondence with colleagues and friends, minutes for meetings of the various committees at Brown and in the community on which he served, and newspaper clippings for topics of importance to him.

This collection is arranged in 5 Series and each Series is further subdivided into Subseries.

Series 1. Cherokees and Native Americans This series contains his research notes, subject files, and drafts of his books on the Cherokee Indian Nation and Native Americans in general. He focused particularly on the influence of Christian missionaries on the life of the Cherokees and their struggle to remain an independent sovereign nation.

  • Subseries 1. Research on Cherokees and related topics. This subseries contains the notes and documents McLoughlin gathered during his research on the history of the Cherokee Nation and their interaction with missionaries and related topics.
  • Subseries 2. Publications about Cherokees. This subseries includes material used in the production of his various books about the Cherokees.

Series 2. Religion Religion was the focus of McLoughlin’s research interest throughout his career. He was passionately interested in how religion shaped American life and how it was used to implement social reforms. This Series is divided into 8 Subseries.

  • Subseries 1. Modern Revivalism (Charles Finney, Billy Sunday, Billy Graham). "McLoughlin began his academic career studying the history of Modern Revivalism and did extensive research on three influential evangelists: Charles Finney, Billy Sunday, and Billy Graham. This series contains most of his research materials for all three men. Of note are the original materials from Billy Sunday. During the early 1950s, McLoughlin wrote to Sunday’s widow, Helen Amelia “Nell” (Thompson) Sunday. She responded enthusiastically by hosting McLoughlin for a week in her home, provided many details regarding her husband’s life and sent McLoughlin original materials from Billy Sunday including original copies of his sermons and notes. The typescripts for his sermons were created with large typeface to make it easy for Sunday to read at the podium and the words he wanted to emphasize are printed in red ink.
  • Subseries 2. Baptists (Isaac Backus). McLoughlin’s next major research topic within Religion was the influence of the Baptists in American life and the minister Isaac Backus in particular. McLoughlin began working on The Diary of Isaac Backus in 1960 and published the completed work in 1979. His research notes and files on Isaac Backus and the Baptists in New England are extensive and useful for those seeking original sources from the 18th and 19th centuries. Retained here are copies of the diaries and correspondence of Isaac Backus the originals of which are held in a wide variety of archival institutions and churches. McLoughlin used this rich set of resources for 2 other works on Backus and Baptists: Isaac Backus and the American Pietistic Tradition. (1967) and New England Dissent, 1630-1833: The Baptists and the Separation of Church and State. (1971).
  • Subseries 3. Sun Myung Moon. This series contains publications by and about the Korean religious leader Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church he founded, often referred to as the “Moonies." McLoughlin was prompted to collect materials about the Moonies when members of the sect moved into a house in his neighborhood. There is no evidence that McLoughlin planned to pursue Sun Myung Moon as a research topic.
  • Subseries 4. Liberation Theology. There is only a small amount of materials on Liberation Theology. McLoughlin seems to have been interested in Liberation Theology because of his concern for the struggles of the people in Central America during the 1980s and the resulting growth of Liberation Theology in that region. McLoughlin’s interest in Central America, and Nicaragua in particular, is well documented in Series 5. Personal, Subseries 2. Activism.
  • Subseries 5. Henry Ward Beecher. For his publication on Henry Ward Beecher there is only a smattering of correspondence related to the publication of his book and drafts of the manuscript.
  • Subseries 6. Religion (General). All the research that he did on religion produced quite a lot of materials of interest to him that did not directly relate to one of his major research topics and they have been gathered together into this subseries.
  • Subseries 7. Sacred Journeys. In 1976, McLoughlin was approached by PBS to develop scripts for a television series called Sacred Journeys. Correspondence related to the project and drafts for the scripts are found here.
  • Subseries 8. Great Awakenings. This section contains drafts for his book Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform: An Essay on Religion and Social Change in America, 1607-1977 .

Series 3. Brown University. This series documents McLoughlin’s career at Brown University starting in 1954 and is organized in 9 Subseries. All aspects of his work at Brown University are represented.

  • Subseries 1. Courses. McLoughlin kept extensive files for the courses that he taught. The files include the syllabus, examples of exams, reading lists, bibliographies, and assignments. This series also contains many of the evaluations completed by the students giving their opinion about the quality of the course and his teaching.
  • Subseries 2. History Department. McLoughlin was an active participant in the work of the History Department at Brown. He was vocal and articulate and his colleagues often sought his advice on issues pertaining to policy and personnel issues. These files document the daily workings of the department, decisions about courses offered, educational policies for the undergraduate and graduate students, and the reaction of the department to larger university-wide issues. These files also show the reaction of the history department to the Louise Lamphere sexual discrimination case and the requirements on hiring and tenure as stipulated in the Consent Decree in 1978. There are also files here relating to the American Civilization Department because McLoughlin played a strong directive role and it offered overlapping and complementary courses. More comprehensive information about American Civilization is found in Series 2. Brown University, Subseries 3. Brown Departments and Committees.
  • Subseries 3. Brown Departments and Committees. McLoughlin was active on a wide range of committees at Brown. He served on the Faculty Policy Group which became the Faculty Executive Committee. He opposed the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program at Brown and served on an Advisory Group. He was appointed to the Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies which investigated if Brown should divest from South Africa as part of the global protest movement against Apartheid. He was a founder of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America and served on the executive committee. He helped lead and shape the American Civilization Department which received departmental status in 1988. He also served on the Campus Planning Committee and as an advisor for the John Carter Brown Library.
  • Subseries 4. Activism. The materials related to activism on the Brown University campus focus mostly on opposition to CIA recruiters, the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program, South African Apartheid, anti-war protests and related disciplinary actions, and the labor union strikes at the library. Because of the fluid nature of his work, there is a lot of overlap with the materials in Series 5. Personal, Subseries 1. Activism and Politics.
  • Subseries 5. Keep Brown Green. McLoughlin founded a movement to keep the campus green by opposing the cutting of trees whenever possible and raising money to plant new trees.
  • Subseries 6. Speeches (Conferences, Symposiums, Debates, etc.). He was invited to give speeches and talks both at Brown and in the community. This series contains the text and notes for his speeches. The topics are as wide-ranging as his interests: religion, native people, Rhode Island history, civil rights, education, freedom of speech, etc.
  • Subseries 7. Articles and Projects. McLoughlin wrote numerous articles for journals and was involved in projects of all types. He was a member of the Rhode Island Bicentennial Committee, wrote articles that accompanied the Trinity Square Repertory’s productions of significant plays, and reviewed countless articles written by other historians.
  • Subseries 8. Correspondence. His correspondence represents primarily professional relationships with colleagues within and outside Brown. His former students often kept in touch with him for years after graduating from Brown to request recommendations and give updates on their careers. He developed personal relationships with some of his colleagues and former students. His correspondence reflects his generosity with information and advice and how much others sought his counsel. See also his correspondence with friends in Series 5. Personal, Subseries 2. Personal.
  • Subseries 9. History (General). These files represent all of the materials that McLoughlin received and collected on historical topics that were not part of one of his publication projects.

Series 4. African Americans. At the time of his death, McLoughlin was in the research stage for a book with the working title “The Black Experience in Rhode Island, 1890-1990.” These files contain the materials he was collecting as well as early drafts for chapters.

Series 5. Personal. This series contains materials related to his many activities and interests that were not part of his professional duties at Brown University.

  • Subseries 1. Activism and Politics. McLoughlin’s activism was most apparent in his personal life. He was a member of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Rhode Island Civil Liberties Union. His children were eduated in the public school system in Providence which prompted him to become involved with the school committees from elementary through high school. He was a founder of the Alternate Learning Project in the 1970s and worked hard on school de-segregation. He continued his interest keeping the city green by founding the Save the Trees Committee to keep Kennedy Plaza in downtown Providence well-supplied with trees during the 1980s. He worked to save the Louff Carousel at Crescent Park in East Providence. But, the topic best represented here is his interest in the conflicts in Central America during the 1980s and American involvement in those conflicts. His trip to Nicaragua in 1984 is well-documented here with photographs and artifacts he brought back from Porto Corinto allegedly bombed by CIA-trained contras. See also the materials in Series 3. Brown University, Subseries 4.Brown University Activism.
  • Subseries 2. Personal. These materials are a combination of files and correspondence that relate primarily to his personal life and interests. Of note are versions of his curriculum vitae that he kept updated during his career which provides a full list of his publications, articles, awards, and committee activities. The correspondence with friends overlaps some with the correspondence found in Series 3. Brown University, Subseries 8. Correspondence.
  • Subseries 3. Calendars. His calendars provide a glimpse into his daily schedule of classes, meetings and family events.
  • Subseries 4. Committees and Organizations. This series contains documentation of his activities with committees and organizations outside of Brown University. Most of the organizations relate to history in some way such as the American Antiquarian Society, Rhode Island Historical Society and the National Endowment for the Humanities.