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Now Processed: Emergency Fund for Legal Aid for Racial and Intercultural Justice Records

June 14, 2022
Cover of Fund for Legal Aid for Racial and Intercultural Justice pamphlet, circa 1990-1993. Pearl ID: islandora:286248 [RG 534, Box 10, Folder 15]

The Emergency Fund for Legal Aid for Racial and Intercultural Justice (EFLA) Records have been processed as Record Group 534, and the guide to the records is now available: https://www.history.pcusa.org/collections/research-tools/guides-archival-collections/rg-534

Established by the 182nd General Assembly of the UPCUSA in 1970, EFLA’s purpose was to provide financial grants to persons and groups engaged in litigation, research, and action in the field of equal justice. The Division of Church and Race (Council on Church and Race) of the Board of National Missions administered EFLA, with administrative work assigned to staff of the Mission Service Unit on Church and Race of the Program Agency. Later, the Program Agency’s Ministries of Health, Education, and Social Justice (Unit II) and then the Racial Justice Section of the Racial Ethnic Ministry Unit of the PC(USA) also administered EFLA.

Emergency Fund for Legal Aid for Racial and Intercultural Justice pamphlet, circa 1975-1983. Pearl ID: islandora:286330 [RG 534, Box 11, Folder 23]

EFLA concentrated its resources on cases where racial prejudice and discrimination combined with poverty and economic need to limit equal justice under law. EFLA accepted applications in any form from individuals, church entities, and secular organizations. Major guidelines for EFLA included accepting applications for legal aid in both criminal and civil cases in which racial justice could be enhanced through the legal system and concentrating on cases which reveal areas of systemic or structural inequality, particularly regarding issues of the pre-trial release system, the jury selection process, legal defense mechanisms within minority communities, and the legal rights of prisoners.

Church & Society (Vol. 75, No. 1), Fund for Legal Aid issue, September-October 1984. Pearl ID: islandora:286271 [RG 534, Box 11, Folder 4]

EFLA staff shared applications with UPCUSA and PC(USA) judicatories (synods and presbyteries) in which the project or case was located. Judicatories assisted in reviewing the cases, either recommending or not recommending EFLA funds to be used. Legal advisors to the staff reviewed cases as well. One of EFLA’s earliest grants was to the Angela Davis Legal Defense Fund (case number 12) in 1971. A grant was also made to Leonard Peltier, Native American activist and American Indian Movement (AIM) member (case number 126), in 1973.

Letter from Robert A. Baker to Sophia LaRusso, May 17, 1972. Pearl ID: islandora:286266 [RG 534, Box 1, Folder 2]

An Evening With Angela Davis flyer created by The Angela Davis Legal Defense Fund, circa June-July 1972. Retrieved from Wikimeda Commons; part of the Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

The processed collection totals 12 boxes. The collection’s scope chiefly covers EFLA’s cases from the 1970s to the late-1990s. The materials are primarily in English, but there are some Spanish, Chinese, and Korean language materials as well.

The collection includes two series. Series I, Case Files, 1969-1998, contains the bulk of the collection’s content. It consists of numerically arranged files pertaining to specific cases submitted to EFLA for funding and grant consideration. Materials within individual cases files include correspondence, case summaries, financial records, background information on cases (chiefly newspaper clippings and other printed ephemera), and legal documents. Materials document the decision-making processes of EFLA staff, church judicatories, and legal advisors when considering a case.

Series II, Kathy Lancaster Files, 1970-1993, consists of a separate set of records maintained by EFLA administrator Kathy Lancaster (née Young). Materials pertain chiefly to Lancaster’s work on EFLA cases and include correspondence, summaries, reports, and statistics. There are also materials documenting EFLA’s history.

Click here to access the guide to the Emergency Fund for Legal Aid for Racial and Intercultural Justice Records and read more about the contents of each series.