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Faculty Profile

Politicking Professor

By Malcolm D. Rivkin

"I think that Smith girls hold up pretty well along-side Harvard men," says William Leuchtenberg, assistant professor of History and lecturer in History 170. Leuchtenberg taught at Smith for two years before he came here this fall. He is reluctant to make any more of a comparison "because the CRIMSON is circulated in Northampton as well as Cambridge."

For the past eight years Leuchtenberg has been able to combine successfully an academic career with active political work. Born in New York, Leuchtenberg got his B.A. at Cornell, his M.A. at Columbia, and his Ph.D. last spring, also at Columbia, where he studied under Henry Steele Comager.

Starting off his political activity with the United States Student Assembly, now the Students for Democratic Action, he worked for the New York Liberal Party and then, became Executive Secretary of the SDA. In 1948 he came to Massachusetts as Executive Director of the Massachusetts ADA. From there he went to Smith.

During '45 and '46 Leuchtenberg was the New England representative on the "FEPC lobby" in Washington. "With a staff of almost all Negroes, I realized for the first time what Negro segregation meant. My most disappointing experience was the sudden departure of one of the legislators who sponsored the FEPC bill. He had been warned that if he voted for the bill, his state would not get allocation of funds for an essential dam. He was a thousand miles away on the day when the bill was taken up."

Speaking about his course, the Progressive Tradition in American Politics, Leuchtenberg says, "This is the first time to my knowledge that a course like this has ever been given."

ever been given. It attempts to spell out what is meant by progressivism and liberalism and what they have contributed to American life, and in what particular respects the progressive tradition has been perverted by its alliance with imperialism or by its ties with the Communist Party."

Discussing the present political scene, Leuchtenberg feels that America's liberals have grown afraid to speak out and are thereby defeating their own purposes. He cited Governor Dever's recent signing of the Anti-subversive bill and said:

"The liberals are bringing this issue on themselves. Liberals have been compromising for so long; they are so afraid to make an ultimatum on civil liberties; they are so afraid to be damned as Communists; so afraid that maybe they ought to go along with this year's bill because an election year is coming up and maybe they'll get a worse bill. They attack these bills for the wrong reason. They say that it's all right to stop the Communists from talking, when in reality no one should be denied the right of free speech." Leuchtenberg himself was attacked as a Communist for his ADA connections while at Smith.

Although he thinks that today's liberal should take more active stands, Leuchtenberg feels that "there has been an unforunate tendency to despise the armchair liberal." He believes that liberals should sit down and entirely revamp their thinking before they take any more hasty actions.

Now that he has a five-year appointment at Harvard, Leuchtenberg hopes to settle down to the business of teaching, "writing a biography of Brand Whitlock, reform Mayor of Toledo in the early 1900's, and doing research for certain liberal members of the Massachusetts Legislature." He wants to run for office himself, but "not in the near future."

"Besides politics," Leuchtenberg says, "my only other hobbies are following the Brooklyn Dodgers (I must have listened to all 154 games last year) and reading the CRIMSON every morning at 11:00 a.m. over a cup of coffee at Hazen's."

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