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50 Years/50 Collections: The Samuel Ralph Harlow Papers, 1977

As the history of the Amistad Research Center is closely tied to the legacy of the American Missionary Association, the history of missionary movements within the United States and the efforts of American missionaries in foreign lands is one of the strengths of the archival collections at the Amistad Research Center. These collections document not only the labors of various missionary organizations, but also the lives of the women and men who served with them.

While the papers of Samuel Ralph Harlow, who was a Christian missionary to the Near East with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), fit well within Amistad’s missionary collections, at the same time, the Harlow papers offer a unique look at overseas missions in an area of the world not well covered by our other missionary collections. Harlow was born in 1885 in Boston and, from an early age, wished to be a missionary. He was ordained as a Congregational minister in 1912 and traveled with his wife, Marion, to Turkey, where he served as chaplain and head of the sociology department at the International College in Smyrna until 1917; they returned to Smyrna from 1919 to 1922. The Harlows’ time in Turkey coincided with an era of upheaval and unrest, notably conflicts between Christians and the Ottoman government, the prohibition of Christian proselytizing by the government, the Armenian Genocide, and the occupation of portions of Turkey by Greece following World War I. Because of Harlow’s urging of the ABCFM to expend efforts to aid refugee Armenians and Greeks rather than among Turks, he came into dispute with the Board and resigned. Harlow then served as professor of religion and Biblical literature at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. His later life and career were characterized by his work as a pacifist, civil rights activist, Zionist, Socialist, international lecturer, and author of several other books on religion, social action, and paranormal phenomena. He passed away in 1972.

Samuel Ralph Harlow’s papers date from 1862 to 1970 and comprise 9.62 linear feet of correspondence (ca. 3800 items), along with diaries, sermons, poems, prayers, manuscripts of Harlow's books, scrapbooks, and collected materials. Other subjects include the Harlow family, Smith College and other schools, Christian religious publications, the International College at Smyrna, Pierce College at Athens in Greece, the Middle East, Zionism and Israel, Jews in America, the NAACP, African Americans and race relations, social action, pacifism, political topics, and Harlow’s travels. Harlow’s papers also include a scrapbook of clippings on the Spanish-American War, pasted over a letter book kept by Harlow's grandfather, Roland Greene Usher, while a U.S. Army paymaster during the Civil War.

A detailed finding aid for the Samuel Ralph Harlow papers can be found here.

Images from the Samuel Ralph Harlow papers. Images from Amistad’s website, newsletters, and blogs cannot be reproduced without permission.

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