Legislative Issue Files Opened in the Edward M. Kennedy Senate Files

by Christina Fitzpatrick, Processing Archivist

We are pleased to announce the opening of Series 13 in the Edward M. Kennedy Senate Files. This collection contains records that are principally connected with Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy’s career in government service, specifically material that was generated by his official duties as Senator from Massachusetts (1962-2009). The newly available series is titled Legislative Issue Project Files, 1962-1969. It consists of 38 archival boxes of records.

Series 13 contains project files pertaining to the views of constituents on pending or proposed legislation in Congress. The files were created and maintained by the legislative assistants in Senator Kennedy’s office in Washington, D.C., and assigned the central filing code F-9. Specifically, they appear to be files created mainly by staffers Alan Novak, James Flug, Jeremiah Marsh, and to a lesser extent, David Burke and K. Dun Gifford. Most files contain constituent mail advocating for or against the issue in question. There are also some files concerning legislative hearings, and other files where Senator Kennedy’s staff gathered background data on a potential legislative issue. In addition to letters about specific pieces of existing legislation, there are letters from individuals who wanted Senator Kennedy to introduce a new bill to address a particular issue or problem. Types of material include letters, telegrams, memoranda, notes, news clippings, reports, press releases, printed material, and photographs.

The series covers a variety of national issues that were on the minds of citizens in the 1960s. Some examples are aging, civil rights, crime, the draft, the fishing industry, foreign policy, guns, health and medicine, labor, Medicare, pollution, poverty, Social Security, trade and tariffs, transportation, and the Vietnam War. Unsurprisingly, Senator Kennedy’s legislative staff received quite a bit of mail about civil rights and the Vietnam War in particular, so I wanted to highlight a few interesting documents on those topics.

You may remember a letter from Senator Kennedy to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that was featured in our previous blog post on this collection. Now the other side of the exchange has come to light. Dr. King’s original letter to Senator Kennedy is filed under the topic of “civil rights” in Series 13. In it, Dr. King writes, “Your brother and our beloved President, the late John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was the first president of our nation to condemn racial discrimination as a moral evil. In your address at our convention, you followed that noble tradition and spoke out against the essential immorality of racial injustice.”

Another noteworthy document addresses civil rights in the context of the Vietnam War. The following letter is from a U.S. Army soldier from Brockton, Mass., who was stationed in Vietnam. He argues that his fellow African American soldiers should be granted “freedom and justice for ALL” at home, since they were fighting for the same cause overseas.

Finally, the following report contains first-hand evidence on housing discrimination practices in the mid-1960s. The pages shown here summarize the results of a survey of African American professionals who had trouble finding housing after relocating to Philadelphia for their jobs. The full report, which contains specific data on the systematic discrimination they faced, can be found in this folder.

Additional series from the Edward M. Kennedy Senate Files will be made available as they are processed. For the full collection finding aid, please see Guide to the Edward M. Kennedy Senate Files.

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