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Ruth M. Reynolds Papers

 Collection
Identifier: MSS 12

Scope and Contents

The Ruth M. Reynolds Papers can support research in important areas of Puerto Rican History as well as in North American participation in international human rights. While they are exceedingly rich in insight and information about the development of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico and its leader, Pedro Albizu Campos, they also contain materials on other independence movements in Puerto Rico, on repression and political prisoners, and on the colonial relationship of the United States to Puerto Rico. There is also a good amount of information on the history of the University of Puerto Rico and on student movements.

The collection spans the period from 1915-1989, but the bulk of the Papers date from 1944-1983. The collection is divided into nine series, which are described below.

Dates

  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1944-1983
  • Creation: 1915-1989

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers with restrictions on access to audiovisual material that has not been digitized.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by Centro.

Biographical / Historical

Ruth Mary Reynolds devoted many years of her life to the cause of Puerto Rico's independence from the United States. Greatly influenced by the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence, she was active in pacifist organizations and in the Presbyterian church. Born on February 29, 1916 in Terraville, South Dakota, Reynolds moved to New York after completing a Masters in English at Northwestern University. In New York she joined the Harlem Ashram, an interracial pacifist community, dedicated to the development of non-violent strategies for social change.

Reynolds' involvement with Puerto Rico began in 1943 when Julio Pinto Gandía, a member of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico, introduced her to Pedro Albizu Campos, the Nationalist leader. At that time, Albizu was a patient at Columbus Hospital in New York City. She and Albizu were to become lifelong friends and her activities on behalf of Puerto Rico began almost immediately. In 1944, she co-founded and became the Executive Secretary of the American League for Puerto Rico's Independence and under the auspices of this organization made her first trip to Puerto Rico in 1945. There she interviewed prominent individuals and undertook other study in order to learn about the “social, economic, and political conditions in Puerto Rico”. (Series IV, Box 18, Folder 6).

During 1946 and 1947, Reynolds lobbied at the United Nations and testified in the United States Congress on issues related to Puerto Rico. In 1948 she made a second trip to Puerto Rico, this time with the purpose of investigating the student strike at the University of Puerto Rico. Political and other life circumstances prevented the immediate publication of the extensive report analyzing the strike, which she prepared for the American League. It was not until 1990 that it was finally published under the title Campus in Bondage: A 1948 Microcosm of Puerto Rico in Bondage.

The Nationalist uprising in October 1950 led to increasing persecution and the imprisonment of Nationalist leaders including Albizu Campos and hundreds of sympathizers. Ruth Reynolds was arrested on November 2, 1950 under the repressive Gag Law or Ley de la Mordaza. She was charged with sedition and in September 1951 was found guilty and sentenced to six years of hard labor in the Insular Penitentiary. Her experiences as a prisoner at La Princesa and the Arecibo Jail are well documented in her papers.

After Reynolds' incarceration the American League for Puerto Rico's Independence was dissolved, but some members of the League organized "The Ruth Reynolds Defense Committee” and raised funds for her defense. Reynolds was released on bail in June 1952 and returned to New York. Under her leadership, the League was revived as Americans for Puerto Rico's Independence. In 1954, Reynolds won her case on appeal in the Supreme Court in Puerto Rico.

Pedro Albizu Campos was pardoned and released in 1953, but was soon imprisoned again. In March 1954 a group of four Nationalists opened fire on members of the U.S. Congress and one of the consequences of this event was Albizu’s arrest. Despite her own legal troubles, Reynolds, together with Americans for Puerto Rico's Independence and its Committee for justice to Puerto Ricans worked for the defense of Nationalist prisoners accused of subversion. Reynolds was particularly active on behalf of Albizu who was ill. In 1958 and 1959, she took part in a walk for justice across Puerto Rico organized by the Peacemakers, a pacifist group to which she belonged.

After Albizu Campos died shortly after his release in 1965, Reynolds continued her tireless efforts on behalf of the remaining political prisoners. She was, for example, a member of the Committee for the Release of the Five Nationalists, and the Secretary of the Carlos Feliciano Defense Committee. She was also active in national and international forums such as the United Nations Committee for Puerto Rican Decolonization and in the Ecumenical Committee on the Future of Puerto Rico.

Ruth Reynolds died in her native South Dakota on December 2, 1989. At a memorial for her in December 1990, speaker after speaker praised her principled commitment to human rights, which for her included the right of all nations to self-determination.

Extent

21.25 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials

English

Spanish; Castilian

Metadata Rights Declarations

  • License: This record is made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Creative Commons license.

Abstract

The Ruth M. Reynolds Papers can support research in important areas of Puerto Rican history as well as in North American participation in international human rights. While they are exceedingly rich in insight and information about the development of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico and its leader, Pedro Albizu Campos, they also contain materials on other pro-independence groups in Puerto Rico, on repression and political prisoners, and on the colonial relationship of the United States to Puerto Rico. There is also a good amount of information on the history of the University of Puerto Rico and on student movements.

Arrangement

The collection is divided into the following series:

I. Personal and Biographical Information

II. Correspondence

III. Writings

IV. Organizational Activities

V. Puerto Rico

VI. Subject File

VII. Photographs and Graphic Material

VIII. Clippings

IX. Oral History

X. Carpeta

Other Finding Aids

Other version of this finding aid was created as part of Ventana Al Pasado: Building a Latino/Hispanic Online Research Collection. The New York State Archives and Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños received funding for this project from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

English / Spanish bilingual finding aid is availalbe, see External Documents.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Blanca Vázquez was instrumental in acquiring the collection and its transfer to Centro. She also conducted the oral history interviews.

Existence and Location of Copies

This collection has been microfilmed and is available on 31 reels. Researchers interested in purchasing microfilm copies should contact Praxess Associates or IDC Publishers Inc.

Separated Materials

Approximately 500 books plus 20 cubic feet of other published materials were removed from the collection. Most were incorporated into the Library.

Processing Information

Processed with a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Title
Ruth M. Reynolds Papers
Status
Completed
Author
Nelly V. Cruz with the assistance of Mónica Morales.
Date
August 1991, December 2003
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Sponsor
Processed with a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Revision Statements

  • 2005: Guide was revised in 2005 by Pedro Juan Hernández and Nélida Pérez.
  • January 23, 2021: Revised by Pedro Juan Hernández.

Repository Details

Part of the Archives of the Puerto Rican Diaspora Repository

Contact:
Silberman Building, Hunter College
2180 Third Ave. Rm. 122
New York New York 10065




About the Collections

Our collections consist of personal papers from prominent Puerto Rican artists, elected officials, social activists, writers, as well as the records of community-based organizations. Our largest collection, the Offices of the Government of Puerto Rico in the United States (OGPRUS) Records, measures approximately 2,900 cubic feet and contains an extraordinary amount of information regarding Puerto Rican migrants and the government institutions established to assist them. The collections date from the 1890s to the present, and document Puerto Rican communities in the Northeast, Midwest, Florida, California and Hawaii.