TABLE OF CONTENTS
Description of Series
Abbie Hoffman Papers, 1943-2009
Abbot "Abbie" Hoffman, born on November 30, 1936, grew up in Worcester, New York. As an adolescent, he was known for pulling pranks and defying authority. Hoffman attended college at Brandeis University, where he studied Marxist theories, which influenced his political ideologies, and graduated with a bachelor's degree in psychology. He attained a master's degree in psychology in 1960 from the University of California at Berkeley.
The years following his graduation were marked with activism. He was involved with the Students Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and protested the war in Vietnam, among other activities.
On December 31, 1967, Hoffman co-founded the Youth International Party, also known as the Yippies. His co-founders of this offshoot of the hippie countercultural movement were Paul Krassner and Jerry Rubin. The Yippies concentrated on outlandish protest tactics to gain the attention of the media and members within the counterculture. Some of Hoffman's stunts include throwing money onto the stock market floor on Wall Street and attempting to levitate the Pentagon.
Hoffman became most famous as a member of the Chicago 7. Along with Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines and Lee Weiner, and, eventually, Black Panther Bobby Seale, the Chicago 7 (sometimes referred to as the Chicago 8 after Seale's arrest) were accused of crossing state lines with the intent of starting a riot at Chicago's 1968 Democratic Convention. Two members of the Chicago 7 were acquitted, while the others faced a conviction, which was overturned on an appeal a year later.
The court case is famous for the Chicago 7's scandalous behavior in the courtroom. For instance, Hoffman and Rubin came into the courtroom wearing judicial robes.
In 1968, Hoffman published his first book, Revolution for the Hell of It. He released several more books in the following years: Woodstock Nation (1969) and Steal This Book (1971), which was a guide for fighting against political injustice and corporate greed. He published other books throughout his life, including Soon to be a Major Motion Picture (1980), Square Dancing in the Ice Age (1982), and Steal This Urine Test: Fighting Drug Hysteria in America (1987).
The end of the Chicago 7 trial didn't mark the end of Hoffman's legal conflicts. In 1973, he was arrested for allegedly selling three pounds of cocaine to undercover officers. Facing jail time, in 1974, Hoffman underwent plastic surgery and became a fugitive from the law until he surrendered to authorities in 1980.
When Hoffman fled, he left behind his second wife, Anita, and their young son, america (Abbie had two other children with his first wife Sheila Karklin). While underground, he corresponded often with Anita. Later in 1974, Hoffman met Johanna Lawrenson in Mexico, who became his partner in life and political activism until Hoffman's death.
Among Hoffman's actions during this period (1974-1980), he went to France where he posed as a well-respected food critic. He changed his name to Barry Freed and in 1976, moved to Fineview, New York, along with Johanna, whose family had a house there. The couple became activists fighting winter navigation, which would have compromised the river. Hoffman and Johanna formed Save the River in 1978, which successfully sought to preserve the integrity of St. Lawrence River, for which New York Governor Hugh Carey gave Freed a commendation letter. Hoffman even attended Jimmy Carter's 1977 inauguration as Barry Freed.
In September 1980, Hoffman turned himself in after he consented to an interview with Barbara Walters for 20/20.
After serving four months of a one-year sentence, Hoffman continued to organize and work towards social justice. He worked with heroin addicts, organized a trip with several young people to Nicaragua, and in the later 1980s, he went on a Yippie vs. Yuppie debate tour with his friend Jerry Rubin, who had become a successful businessman and a self-described Yuppie.
In 1980, Hoffman was diagnosed as manic-depressive. He suffered from injuries in a car accident in 1988 that exacerbated his mental illness. Living in a converted chicken coop in Solebury Township, Pennsylvania, Hoffman overdosed on phenobarbital tablets and alcohol on April 12, 1989. His death was ruled a suicide. Hoffman was 52.
After his death, Lawrenson established the Abbie Hoffman Activist Foundation (AHAF) and organized several events, including tribute shows that were held in honor of Hoffman's birthday. In 2000, the film Steal This Movie was released, which recounts Hoffman's years as a fugitive.
The Abbie Hoffman Papers, 1943-2009, comprise manuscript drafts, tearsheets, books, financial records, business agreements, licenses, scripts, magazines, articles, newspaper clippings, newsletters, pamphlets, posters, flyers, bumper stickers, date books, invitations, photographs, memorabilia, and correspondence, as well as audio and video materials including VHS, U-Matic and Betamax tapes, sound reels, audiocassettes and film reels, and one LP, which represent Abbie Hoffman's work in social activism.
Contained within these papers are Hoffman's work in social justice, which spanned several decades. His papers include correspondence from John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Studs Terkel, Jimmy Carter, Allen Ginsberg, William Kunstler, and Al Giordano, among others.
Other items represented in the collection are comprised of numerous interviews with Hoffman that include the interview he gave to Playboy when he was living as a fugitive in Mexico, and articles written about his life while he served his prison sentence.
Heavily documented in the collection are the years Hoffman lived as a fugitive, including correspondence with his second wife, Anita. The letters were later compiled into the book, To America With Love: Letters from the Underground. Other items in the collection are comprised of interviews he conducted while in hiding, and his work with Save the River when he was living in New York under the pseudonym of Barry Freed.
Hoffman's manuscript materials include drafts, both handwritten and in typescript, some with annotations and edit markings, which represent both books and articles Hoffman wrote. There are also tearsheets and books, including To American with Love: Letters from the Underground, Steal This Book, Woodstock Nation, Revolution for the Hell of It, Soon to be a Major Motion Picture, Steal this Urine Test: Fighting Drug Hysteria in America, and Square Dancing in the Ice Age.
Also contained within these papers are business materials, including contracts, licenses and agreements for books, articles and movie rights. Amongst some of the legal materials are correspondence and promotional materials, such as photographs, flyers, and posters.
Hoffman's political materials comprise surveillance transcripts, including his participation at the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention, materials regarding the Chicago 7 trial, speech transcripts, articles and other materials documenting Hoffman's trip to Nicaragua, clippings regarding his college speaking tour with Jerry Rubin, as well as photographs, and his work with Save the River, Citizens Against Nuclear Trucking (CANT), and Radio Free USA.
Personal items in the papers include fan mail and letters to family members, as well as yearbooks from Brandeis University and Worchester Academy, papers Hoffman wrote while in college, articles about his mother, his own recipes, monthly planners and date books.
Hoffman's personal business and legal materials include passports, personal accounting documents, tax records and materials regarding his 1988 car accident.
There are also posthumous materials comprised of articles about Hoffman's death, memorial programs and articles, photographs, sympathy cards, document materials pertaining to Hoffman's estate, as well as contracts and other legal materials regarding Steal this Movie (2000). Also contained in the collection are Abbie Hoffman Foundation documents, as well as photographs, and items that might be of interest to Hoffman's life and death, including clippings about manic depression and Hoffman's friends.
The audio/video materials capture Yippie meetings, interviews and events Hoffman spoke at or hosted, his short stint as a comedian, as well as reports of his death, and memorial tributes. Some film reels represent an unfinished project for a film version of Revolution for the Hell of It.
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research.
Access to audio materials by appointment only; please contact sound archivist for more information.
Access to moving-image materials by appointment only; please contact repository for more information.
A portion of these papers are stored remotely. Advance notice required for retrieval. Contact repository for retrieval.
Conditions Governing Use
There are no use restrictions on this collection.
Abbie Hoffman Papers, 1943-2009, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
This collection was processed by Amanda Reyes, March 2020.
2019-050; 2019-209; 2019-230; 2019-235