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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 2951

Daniel Aaron papers


Papers of Daniel Aaron.


  • Creation: circa 1774-2015

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The following items are restricted; consult curatorial staff:

(190); (348); (674); (1049); (1343)8)

There are no restrictions on physical access to the remainder of this collection.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine what material is offsite and retrieval policies and times.


125 linear feet (125 boxes)

The bulk of the collection consists of subject files related to the following: the Library of America; the rise and development of American studies as an academic discipline; Aaron's research and writing on Edmund Wilson; research on and publication of the diary of Arthur Crew Inman. A major strength of Aaron's papers consists of his voluminous correspondence, chiefly incoming. Numerous drafts and copies of reviews written by Aaron are extant; however, there is not a great deal in terms of drafts of his major works. The collection also contains autobiographical material and photographs.

Biographical / Historical

Born in Chicago in 1912, Daniel Aaron attended graduate school at Harvard University where he was one of the first to earn a doctorate in American studies at that institution. He subsequently taught at and was director of the American studies program at Smith College from 1939 to 1969, and returned to teach at Harvard in 1971. His major works include the following: Men of good hope : a story of American progressives 1951; America in crisis : fourteen crucial episodes in American history 1952; Writers on the Left : episodes in American literary communism 1961; Cincinnati : queen city of the west, 1819-1838 1967; The unwritten war : American writers and the Civil War 1973; American notes : selected essays 1994; The Americanist 2007. In addition to editing the correspondence of literary critic Edmund Wilson and an abridged version of the diary of Arthur Crew Inman he was instrumental in founding the Library of America a publishing house dedicated to producing scholarly editions of the works of major American literary and historical figures. He has also written numerous articles, essays, and book reviews.

Biographical / Historical

The term "Negro" appears throughout this finding aid as it was commonly used througout the mid-twentieth century in the headlines of Dispatches. The term was adopted and preferred by members of the Black community starting in the latter half of the nineteenth century, becoming dominant in language in the United States by the 1950s. As the Civil Rights movement developed, the term was criticized for being imposed upon the Black community by white people, and a new term to self-identify was sought. By the mid-1960s, more progressive language shifted to the preference for the word ""Black,"" with some arguing the "Black" referred to radical, progressive figures, while "Negro" was used for those who were ""established"" or more in keeping "with the status quo." (See Citation below.) Black grew in popularity over the latter half of the twentieth century and is the contemporarily preferred term at the time of writing (2024). The inclusion of the term "Negro" in this description is in keeping with the establishment usage throughout the mid-twentieth century.

Citation: Smith, Tom W. “Changing Racial Labels: From ‘Colored’ to ‘Negro’ to ‘Black’ to ‘African American.’” The Public Opinion Quarterly, vol. 56, no. 4, 1992, pp. 496–514. JSTOR, Accessed 16 Jan. 2024."


Organized into the following series:

  1. I. Diaries
  2. II. Correspondence
  3. III. Subject files and compositions

Aaron's original folders have been retained, and folder titles as written by him have been used in this finding aid. Illegible text has been so noted; folders and other material lacking a title have been marked "untitled" by the cataloger. Date ranges have been supplied for each folder by the cataloger. NB: Correspondence files may contain some research material, and subject files may contain some correspondence.

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

2006M-58; 2007M-16; 2008M-70; 2013M-4; 2014M-124; 2015M-130. Gift of Daniel Aaron; received: 2006-2016.

Processing Information

Processed by: Michael W. Austin

Processing Information

This collection and its description contains many uses of the outdated term "negro;" it was the preferred language in the mid-twentieth century used by scholars and researchers. This finding aid was reviewed in 2024 the use of this term in descriptive language. Because the term was used in titles by the creator, it was not changed. If you have questions or comments about this, please contact Houghton Library. For more information on reparative archival description at Harvard, see Harvard Library’s Statement on Harmful Language in Archival Description.

Aaron, Daniel, 1912-2016. Daniel Aaron papers, circa 1774-2015: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

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