Letter from ALBA: Adapting to the Crisis

May 2, 2020

Dear Friends,

We at ALBA would like to express solidarity with all those affected by the COVID crisis. When the brave men and women of the Lincoln Brigade departed on their odyssey for Spain, they were practicing the solidarity that has always been at the heart of our organization. If we wish to endure this pandemic and build a better world post-crisis, we must come together and practice the solidarity our namesakes did. We thank you for your commitment to the memory of the Lincolns in this time of crisis. ¡No Pasarán! 

We are also thrilled to announce this year’s ALBA/Puffin Award winners for Human Rights Activism: the brave people of No More Deaths in southern Arizona, who have been working for 15 years—breaking the law when necessary—to assist migrants on their dangerous journeys through the desert. Please join us for the live online gala on May 17 at 5 pm EDT.

In other good news, the restoration of the national monument to the Lincoln Brigade in San Francisco is now complete. The process has taken a while, but the result is astonishing and the monument is set to withstand the Bay Area climate for decades to come.

In response to the COVID crisis, we are taking our teaching institutes online. This summer, from June 30 until July 28, we will be offering a workshop open to all US teachers from June 30 through July 28 with our partners at the Collaborative for Educational Services. Register online here.

The work we do at ALBA is only possible thanks to your support. We tell you this every chance we have. But when we do, we’re not only referring to your financial backing, crucially important as that is. If ALBA thrives, it’s also because of your moral support: the fact that you, like us, believe that it makes sense to study the past to change the present. And that you, like us, believe in the value of the archive, in the broadest sense of the word. The archive allows us to connect with those who lived before us, listen to their voices, share their fears and dreams. It’s what makes transmission possible.

This is why we are always thrilled to accept new archival materials from families of Lincoln vets and others. Two months ago, our New York office received an amazing donation from David Geltman. He is the grandson of Israel Perlman, who was a New York City bookseller. In 1939, the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade organized a fundraiser auction for anti-Nazi writers and the VALB Rehabilitation Fund. Sponsors included Dashiell Hammett, Dorothy Parker, Luise Rainer, George S. Kaufman, Thornton Wilder, and others. As it turned out, Perlman bid $35 dollars and won a collection of hand- and type-written statements from individual vets in which they explained why they’d joined the fight in Spain. The collection of notes, some quite extensive, is a unique historical document, a deeply moving window into the past. We’ll be sharing highlights in a forthcoming issue.

Speaking of new discoveries, this issue features new investigative work by Nancy and Len Tsou, experts on Spanish Civil War volunteers from East Asia. Also look at an interview with Luis Olano who just released a new documentary on Ramon Sender, a pioneer of US counterculture, whose mother was killed by fascists in the Spanish Civil War. Sonia García López shares her research on the shortwave radio station that Herbert Kline and others set up in Madrid in 1937 to bring English-speaking audiences worldwide firsthand accounts of the Spanish Civil War. And ALBA’s Aaron Retish reports on Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha’s well-attended Susman lecture in Detroit.

Thanks, as always, for being there and supporting our work. If it weren’t for you, this magazine would not exist. Nor would the archive, our teacher workshops, our lecture series, or the monument in San Francisco. Thanks for making it possible for us to continue to share—and keep alive—the legacy of the Lincoln Brigade when the world most needs it.


Peter N. Carroll & Sebastiaan Faber, editors

P.S. Please consider a special contribution to support our growing list of Teaching Institutes that carry our message to students around the country.