Development of the Far Right Collection
The development of the rightwing component of Special Collections took on a new meaning and significance to the Library staff when, in 1999, during a period that has come to be called the “Summer of Hate”, two Central Valley brothers, Matthew and Tyler Williams, firebombed three synagogues in Sacramento, including the destruction of the library of the oldest synagogue in the West, which had contained thousands of historic books and documents. This was followed a few weeks later by the brothers’ murder of a gay couple, Gary Matson (a UCD alumnus in Environmental Horticulture) and his partner Winfield Mowder, in Redding, California. When the brothers were captured, the police found in their possession, (in addition to their hit list of further murder targets in the Sacramento area), a collection of pamphlets published by various extreme rightwing religious groups. A search which was done at the time by the Library staff revealed that these publications were virtually unattainable in libraries anywhere in the country, meaning that there was no ready means of access for scholars and researchers to study this material.
These incidents were followed a few weeks later by the shooting in Los Angeles of four children and staff members in a child care facility run by the North Valley Jewish Center in the San Fernando Valley. When the shooter, Buford Furrow, was captured, the police discovered in the truck of his car, a copy of white supremacist Ben Kassen’s book The White Man’s Bible advocating a “racial holy war” in the United States. Again, a search was done at the time and it was found that at that point in time, a copy of 1981 book was not available in research libraries. This resulted in a renewed emphasis on acquiring examples of publications of these groups and individuals whose words had inspired so much hate and violence, yet whose works were largely unavailable for study. These efforts, under the general direction of the Associate University Librarian for Collections, led to the Library building over the next few years a collection of over 2,000 pamphlets from extreme right groups, as well as the acquisitions of some hundreds of books, and a number of video and audiotapes produced by these groups. For a number of these publications, UC Davis is the only library in the United States to own a copy.
Taken as a whole, the collection is one of only a few such collections in the country, and offers a rare window into the world of political, cultural, and religious extremism in America. It is important to remember that political and religious extremism has had a significant impact on American history from the days of the Salem witch trials, to the years of Klan lynchings, to the more recent bombings of the Oklahoma City Federal Building and the destruction of the World Trade Towers, with its resultant killing of thousands of innocent people. In order for students and scholars to understand these darker chapters in human history it is necessary from them to have access to works and words that have inspired these actions. It is for this purpose that Special Collections houses such collections.
These collections have been used to support the research and teaching needs of classes studying “Conspiracy Theories in Twentieth Century America.” The students examined (1) the writings of the white supremacist movement, (2) anti-Semitic works such as the writings of holocaust denial proponents, and (3) texts on racism including scarce tracts from the anti-integrationist “citizens councils” of the 1950’s and 1960’s.