Briscoe Center acquires artifacts from 1960s activist

Raul Rodriguez

The University recently acquired artifacts and letters from Abbie Hoffman, a 1960s social activist and prominent counterculture figure.

The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History announced last Tuesday that the center bought the collection from Hoffman’s widow, said Benjamin Wright, associate director for communications for the Briscoe Center. The collection, purchased for $300,000, includes letters Hoffman wrote regarding his book “Steal This Book,” which focused on ways to fight the government, and essays he wrote while in college, according to The New York Times. 

Wright said the center made the acquisition after sending staff members to search through roughly 70 boxes of Hoffman’s artifacts in Manhattan. He said once the center finishes cataloging the entire collection, it will be available for research by students and teachers sometime in 2020.

Hoffman helped lead a theatrical counterculture group called the Youth International Party, or the Yippies, liberal arts professor Julia Mickenberg said. She said Hoffman was also a member of the Chicago 8, a group known for trying to incite a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Mickenberg said Hoffman gained notoriety for his resistance efforts in a time characterized by activism, protests and change.


“I don’t think anyone could study the 1960s without at least touching on the antics of (Abbie) Hoffman,” Mickenberg said in an email. “The Yippies are best remembered for staging audacious spectacles, like dropping a thousand one-dollar bills onto the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (and) attempting to levitate the Pentagon.”

Wright said the center actively looks for potential acquisitions like the Hoffman collection that can enhance student learning.

“The (Abbie Hoffman) collection connects with others at the center that allow historians to study the history of activism and protest,” Wright said. “Activism, protest and political organization are parts of history, just like wars and elections. Archives like the Hoffman papers help us better understand the social, political and cultural (climate) of the 1960s.”

Philosophy sophomore Danyon Decker said the new collection is beneficial because it allows viewers to see figures like Hoffman from a personal perspective.

“I think it’s a good thing that we get to see and hear all sides — it’s history,” Decker said. “We get an inside look into his mind and see how he was thinking, why he did the things he did.”