E. Merrill Root papers , 1917-1967

Overview of the Collection

Root, E. Merrill (Edward Merrill), 1895-1973
E. Merrill Root papers
1917-1967 (inclusive)
2 linear feet, (5 containers)
Collection Number
Coll 051
E. Merrill Root (1895-1973) was a poet, college English teacher, and anti-Communist activist. The collection includes correspondence, manuscripts, poetry, lectures, photographs, and reviews of his literary efforts.
University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives
UO Libraries--SCUA
1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR
Telephone: 5413463068
Access Restrictions

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time. Collection includes sound recordings, moving images, and digital files to which access is restricted. Access to these materials is governed by repository policy and may require the production of listening or viewing copies. Researchers requiring access must notify Special Collections and University Archives in advance and pay fees for reproduction services as necessary.

Additional Reference Guides

See the Collective Name Index to the Research Collection of Conservative and Libertarian Studies for a cross-referenced index to names of correspondents in this collection, if any, and 37 related University of Oregon collections, including dates of correspondence. See index instructions on use.

See the Current Collection Guide for detailed description and requesting options.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

E. Merrill Root (1895-1973) dedicated his life to crafting poetry, teaching college English, and rooting out Communists and Marxist propaganda from the American educational system.

The son of a Congregational minister, Root was brought up in the Providence, Rhode Island area. He graduated, in 1917, from Amherst College where he studied under Robert Frost, a poet he admired tremendously. During World War I. Root was a conscientious objector, and went to France under the auspices of the American Friends Service Committee. Upon his return from France, Root studied at Andover Theological Seminary. In 1920 he joined the faculty of Earlham College, a small Quaker institution in Richmond, Indiana, where he taught until his retirement in 1960.

In the late 1930s E. Merrill Root metamorphosed from a devout Quaker and pacifist to an active rightist. He claimed that "my education occurred, when I found... that modern liberalism was coming to mean liberal government, not liberal man." Root first exploded into political print with "Darkness at Noon in American Colleges" ( Human Events, July 30, 1952), an article in which he warned parents that their sons and daughters were catching the "polio of collectivism" at college. Apparently the parents failed to listen because in 1954 Root sought to drive his theme home with Collectivism on the Campus, a book in which he proclaimed that communism was rampant in American institutions of higher learning. While Root's new book did not do very well, it brought his name to the attention of Ira E. Westbrook, a conservative attorney and member of the Evanston, Illinois High School Board. Westbrook asked Root to check high school history books for "un-American" thoughts. In Brainwashing in the High Schools Merrill Root proclaimed that the United States was losing the cold war and that the blame rested with history textbooks, which brainwashed students by distorting the truth and indoctrinating them with collectivist ideas. This book rocketed Root to fame in conservative circles, and launched him on the lecture circuit and into state legislative hearings as an "expert" on communism in education. Root also became a member of the Textbook Evaluation Committee of Operation Textbook, an activity sponsored by America's Future under the direction of Lucille Cardin Crain, the former editor of the Educational Reviewer.

As well as his vitriolic writings on subversion in education, Merrill Root published several books of poetry that met with a measure of critical acclaim; amongst his admirers was Robert Frost. Root also wrote a non-critical biography of the notorious Frank Harris.

E. Merrill Root died in 1973 at Kennebunkport, Maine.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The E. Merrill Root papers include correspondence, manuscripts, published poetry and articles, lectures, reviews of his literary efforts, collected conservative materials and a cassette of Root reading his poetry.

The correspondence is arranged alphabetically by correspondent and includes letters to and from that person. Enclosures have been filed behind the letter with which they came. Of interest are young Merrill's letters written from France, 1917-1918 (box 1, folder 8) as they are in sharp contrast to the conservative spirit of his later years. Noted correspondents include William F. Buckley, Jr., Lucille Cardin Crain, Max Eastman, Thomas E. Jones, Edmund A. Opitz, and Robert Welch. A holograph quote by Frank Harris has also been filed in this series.

Collectivism on the Campuses and 4 untitled articles comprise the manuscript series. Numerous published poetry and articles follow, first those as tearsheets, then those included in the magazine or pamphlet in which they were published. They are filed alphabetically by title.

Root's lectures, both in manuscript and printed form, articles about Root, reviews of his works, textbook publishing houses' defenses against Brainwashing in the High Schools by Root, memorabilia, and collected conservative literature conclude the boxed material. Stored separately is a film, "Facts Forum: UNESCO Good or Bad Influence," November 1, 1955.

One badly damaged photograph of a childhood vacation spot is shelved as PH057 and one broadside for a Root lecture at the Wisconsin Conservative Club has been removed to the Broadside Collection.

The researcher should be aware that there are also E. Merrill Root Papers at Amherst College in Massachusetts.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • American poetry--20th century
  • Anti-communist movements--United States
  • Communism in education--United States
  • Conservatism--United States
  • Conservative literature--United States
  • Conservatives--United States--Correspondence
  • Poets, American--20th century
  • Right-wing extremists--United States--Correspondence
  • Textbooks--Censorship

Personal Names

  • Root, E. Merrill (Edward Merrill), 1895-1973

Corporate Names

  • Earlham College

Form or Genre Terms

  • Broadsides
  • Photographs
  • Sound recordings
  • Tear sheets