|Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary|
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At a Glance
This collection is organized in three series: Series 1: Writings; Series 2: Correspondence; and Series 3: General.
Scope and Contents
This collection contains annotated typescripts, galley proofs, and drafts with corrections of some of Niebuhr's published work, select Niebuhr correspondence, and general files including the Bible given to Niebuhr as a remembrance of his ordination, obituaries of both Reinhold and Ursula Niebuhr, photocopies from Niebuhr's biography with underlines by President Jimmy Carter, and notes relating to an exhibition on Niebuhr by Burke Library staff.
Burke Library record group:
Union Theological Seminary Archives: UTS 1, papers of faculty and students
Using the Collection
Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary
Conditions Governing Access
This collection contains some restricted material. Restrictions related to specific material are listed in the detailed contents list.
Conditions Governing Use
Some material in this collection may be protected by copyright and other rights. Information concerning copyright, fair use, and reproduction requests can be consulted at Columbia's Copyright Advisory Office.
UTS1: Reinhold Niebuhr papers, circa 1913-1998, series #, box#, folder #, The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.
Niebuhr, Reinhold, June Bingham, and Ursula Niebuhr. Reinhold Niebuhr papers. Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, lccn.loc.gov/mm78034751.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
This small collection results from donations at various times including some items supplied by Professor Niebuhr during his tenure at UTS. The Christian Realism and Political Problems galley proofs were gifted by the sons of Charles Scribner in 1953. The personal correspondence to Professor Levy was purchased from Charles Apfelbaum in the 1970s. June Bingham provided the copies of her Niebuhr biography annotated by President Carter in 1991.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary
Some material was cataloged by Lynn A. Grove on 1988-07-13. Metal clips and staples were removed from materials and folded items were flattened. Materials were placed in new acid-free folders and boxes. Acidic items were separated from one another by interleaving with acid-free paper as needed. The collection was updated and revised in 2015 as part of the Henry Luce Foundation grant. The finding aid was created by Maksim Astashinskiy in 2012, reviewed and updated by Brigette C. Kamsler in 2015 with the support of the Henry Luce Foundation, and edited by Leah Edelman in 2022.
2022-08-12 PDF converted to EAD and description updated by Leah Edelman.
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr, the son of German immigrants Gustav and Lydia, was born on June 21, 1892 in Wright City, Mo. After graduating from Elmhurst College (1910) and the Eden Theological Seminary (1913), Niebuhr went on to earn his Bachelor of Divinity (1914) and Master of Arts (1915) degrees from Yale University. Ordained in 1915, Niebuhr served thirteen years as an Evangelical and Reformed pastor in Detroit, MI before joining the faculty of Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. Two years later, in 1930, Niebuhr was appointed Union's Dodge Professor of Applied Christianity, a title he held for three decades until his retirement in 1960. Reiny, as he was known in the Seminary community, held open houses on Thursdays for students at his apartment, where there was much lively discussion about current affairs; these were informal gatherings over a keg of beer. Niebuhr went from a staunch pacifist (1919), to favoring anti-Fascist resistance (1939). This one time American Socialist Party candidate for Congress (1930) moderated and became a proponent of New Deal legislation (1940). By 1940, Niebuhr resigned his membership in the American Socialist Party. Meanwhile his colleague, ethicist Harry Ward, expressed sympathy for Christian communism; the sharp intellectual divide between Niebuhr and Ward could be felt in the conversations students were having around campus. Among Niebuhr's many associations was his friendship with farm worker activist Sherwood Eddy who in 1936 found himself arrested alongside Sam H. Franklin, a student of Niebuhr's, for daring to investigate allegations of sharecropper rights violations in Arkansas. From 1936 into the 1940s Niebuhr chaired the board of the Delta Cooperative Farm, which Eddy founded in an effort to organize impoverished tenant farmers in the Mississippi Delta and to bridge across racial lines in the process. Niebuhr came to believe that pervading sin contributed to the imperfection of human progress and, in turn, came to identify himself with Christian Realism. This outlook guided his vehement postwar opposition to the Soviet Union, while at the same time opposing military engagement in Vietnam and favoring recognition of the People's Republic of China. Niebuhr was awarded numerous honorary doctorates, among which include an Oxford University Doctor of Divinity degree (1943). Between 1941 and 1966, Niebuhr was editor of the biweekly journal, Christianity and Crisis, and a recipient of Presidential Medal of Freedom (1964). Although he taught at Union for another eight years, Niebuhr's health deteriorated markedly in 1952. Niebuhr passed away on June 1, 1971 in Stockbridge, MA and was survived by wife Ursula (formerly Ursula Mary Keppel-Compton), whom he married in 1931, and their two children, son Christopher and daughter Elisabeth.