George Rawick

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George Philip Rawick (December 8, 1929 – June 27, 1990) was an American academic, historian, and socialist, best known for his editorship of a 41-volume set of oral histories of former slaves, titled The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography.

Rawick was born in 1929 in Brooklyn, New York, and died in 1990 in St. Louis, Missouri. He was educated in the New York City public schools and graduated with a bachelor's degree at Oberlin College in Ohio. He subsequently earned a Ph.D. in history at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.[1] He studied under Professor Merle Curti, who was one of the leading American historians of the era. Rawick completed his dissertation, The New Deal and Youth: The Civilian Conservation Corps, the National Youth Administration, and the American Youth Congress, in 1957: in that work, he contrasted the conservative, authoritarian, Army-run Civilian Conservation Corps with the leftish, democratically-run National Youth Administration, which allowed him to discuss the often contradictory impulses underlying the New Deal generally.

Over his long career in academia, Rawick taught at Washington University, Wayne State University, State University of New York, the University of Chicago, and the University of Missouri-St. Louis, among others.[1][2]

Rawick was involved in leftist politics from his earliest days at Oberlin College, staking out a career as an anti-Stalinist socialist in the United States.[3] He participated in a number of left organizations including the Socialist Party, Correspondence Publishing Committee and Facing Reality. He was associated with the ideas of C.L.R. James and was co-author of a Facing Reality pamphlet, with C.L.R. James, Martin Glaberman, and William Gorman. He also wrote for the journal Radical America, which published his important essay, "Working Class Self Activity," in 1969.

Probably the most enduring achievement of his career was his editorship of the 41-volume set of oral histories of former slaves, titled The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography.[4] This collection began publication in 1972. The interviews which this set contains were taken under the auspices of the Works Projects Administration (WPA), a New Deal program. They remained in typescript until Rawick took on the task of supervising their preparation for publication. Volume One of the series consists of Rawick's contribution to the historical literature of American slavery, an important book titled From Sundown to Sunup: The Making of the Black Community. This book has been translated into 12 languages, and was one of the first books to take American slaves seriously as actors in their own history. His papers are held at the Western Historical Manuscripts Collection at the University of Missouri-St. Louis[3]


  1. ^ a b "George P. Rawick; Professor Who Recorded Black History". Saint Louis Post Dispatch, 29 June 1990, p.32.
  2. ^ "Two Will Speak on Black History". Saint Louis Post Dispatch, 1 November 1982, p. 10.
  3. ^ a b George P. Rawick Papers. Washington University in Saint Louis,
  4. ^ Pollack, Joe. “Teacher, Activist, Friend.” Saint Louis Post Dispatch, 22 July 1990, p. 22.

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