Joseph P. Lash
Joseph P. Lash (1909–1987) was an American radical political
activist, journalist, and author. A close friend of Eleanor Roosevelt,
Lash won both the
Pulitzer Prize for Biography and the National
Book Award in Biography for
Eleanor and Franklin (1971), the first
of two volumes he wrote about the former First Lady.
1.1 Early years
1.2 Political activism
1.3 Journalist and biographer
1.4 Death and legacy
4 External links
Joseph P. Lash
Joseph P. Lash was born December 2, 1909 in New York City, the son of
the former Mary Avchin and Samuel Lash, ethnic
from the Russian empire. Joseph was the eldest of three sons and
two daughters of the couple.
He received his
Bachelor's degree from
City College of New York
City College of New York in
1931 and a
Master's degree from
Columbia University in New York City
In 1930 while a Junior at City College, Lash joined the Socialist
Party of America (SPA), in which he remained a member until his
resignation in 1937.
Following his graduation in 1932, Lash went to work for the League for
Industrial Democracy (LID), an independent socialist organization
closely tied to the SPA. He remained head of the Student League for
Industrial Democracy (SLID) and editor of its publication Student
Outlook from 1933 until 1935. In 1936 Lash became the executive
secretary of the American Student Union, a popular front organization
which brought together members of the youth organizations of the rival
Socialist and Communist parties. Lash served in this capacity until
In 1934 Lash began organizing anti-war demonstrations on campuses, but
Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936 between Loyalist
defenders of the Spanish Republic, backed by the world Communist and
Socialist movements, and pro-Fascist rebels under the leadership of
Francisco Franco, he dropped his pacifism and dedicated himself to
fighting Fascism. About 1937 Lash went to Spain, but did not
participate in the fighting, preferring to speak to youth groups in an
effort to help rally support for the Loyalist cause. He grew
politically close to the
Communist Party in this period.
The Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of August 23, 1939 deeply shook
Lash's growing leanings towards the Communist Party, causing him to
resign as executive secretary of the American Student Union. Three
months later he was subpoenaed to appear before the House Un-American
Activities Committee (colloquially known as the "Dies Committee" after
its chairman) to be questioned about his activities with the American
Student Union and the American Youth Congress. Lash was a hostile
witness on Nov. 11, refusing to cooperate with the committee in its
effort to obtain the names of members of the
Communist Party and to
expound upon their influence.
After boarding a train at
Pennsylvania Station to attend the hearing,
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, becoming lifelong friends.
White House press corps
White House press corps was stunned when she invited him and six
other witnesses on the train to lunch at the White House, then made an
appearance at Lash's afternoon hearing to lend moral support. After
the hearing, she invited Lash and the others to a dinner at the White
House, where they met her husband and
Helen Gahagan Douglas
Helen Gahagan Douglas and her
husband, actor Melvyn Douglas.
In 1940 shaken by the turn of the Soviet Union and its Communist Party
USA supporters away from militant anti-
Fascism to neutrality towards
Adolf Hitler regime, Lash established the non-Communist national
student organization, the International Student Service, serving as
its head until 1942.
In 1942 at his own request, Lash made a second appearance before the
Dies Committee, at which he renounced his former Communist Party
allies, while at the same time refusing to provide information about
individuals with whom he worked during the Popular Front period.
Lash applied for a commission with
Naval Intelligence during World War
II, but was apparently turned away as a potential security risk. He
instead enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force, which he entered as a
Sergeant before being promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant.
During the wartime years he maintained a correspondence with the First
Lady, who visited him during her 1943
American Red Cross
American Red Cross tour of the
In 1947 with Eleanor Roosevelt, Lash was a co-founder and New York
Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), an anti-Communist
national membership organization of American liberals. He remained
director until 1949.
Journalist and biographer
In 1950, Lash went to work for the
New York Post
New York Post as the paper's United
Lash began his career as a chronicler of the Roosevelt Administration
in 1952, when he assisted Franklin D. Roosevelt's son, Elliott
Roosevelt, with the editing for publication of two volumes of the
In 1961, Lash published his first full-length book, a biography of
U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld. Thereafter, he moved to a
position as assistant editor of the New York Post's editorial page,
staying in that capacity until 1966.
Following Eleanor Roosevelt's death in 1962, Lash set to work writing
a memoir of her, published two years later as Eleanor Roosevelt: A
Friend's Memoir. This fair and familiar treatment of his friend
kept him in the Roosevelt family's eye. Two years after the
publication of this book, in 1966, Lash received a telephone call from
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., the literary executor of his mother.
Roosevelt asked whether Lash might like to take a look at Eleanor
Roosevelt's personal papers, with a view to writing a biography. Lash
accepted this offer with gusto, quit his job at the Post, and began a
five-year project which would culminate in the publication of the
first installment of a two-part biography, Eleanor and Franklin.
This book, which dealt sympathetically but candidly with the
Roosevelts' sometimes troubled marriage, made headlines and garnered
critical praise. It won the
Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1972,
cementing Lash's prominence as an independent writer. A series of
literary projects ensued.
Death and legacy
Lash died August 22, 1987 in Boston, Massachusetts, where he had been
undergoing treatment for a heart ailment. He was 77 years old at
the time of his death.
Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, Lash also won the
Francis Parkman Prize for Eleanor and Franklin.
During his lifetime Lash's books were translated into a number of
European languages, including German, French, Spanish, Swedish,
Danish, and Croatian.
Lash's papers are held by the
New York State Archives in Albany, New
York and the
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park,
Biography or Autobiography". Past winners and finalists by
category. The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2012-03-17.
^ "National Book Awards – 1972". National Book Foundation. Retrieved
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Francis X. Gannon, "Joseph P. Lash", in
Biographical Dictionary of the Left: Volume 1. Boston: Western
Islands, 1969; pp. 414-415.
^ a b "Joseph P. Lash," Teaching
Eleanor Roosevelt Glossary, Eleanor
Roosevelt Papers Project, George Washington University, Washington,
D.C.. Retrieved May 29, 2010.
^ a b c d e f g h i David E. Pitt, "
Joseph P. Lash
Joseph P. Lash is Dead: Reporter
and Biographer," The New York Times, August 30, 1987.
^ a b c d e Maurine Hoffman Beasley, Holly Cowan Shulman, Henry R.
Eleanor Roosevelt Encyclopedia. Westport, Connecticut:
Greenwood Press, 2001; pp. 305-307.
^ Author search: Joseph P. Lash, WorldCat, Online Computer Library
Center, Dublin, Ohio. Retrieved May 29, 2010.
The Campus Strikes Against War. New York: Student League for
Industrial Democracy, 1936.
War, Our Heritage. With James A. Wechsler. New York: International
Toward a "Closed Shop" on the Campus. New York: American Student
The Campus: A Fortress of Democracy. New York: American Student Union,
The Student in the Post-Munich World. New York: American Student
Dag Hammarskjöld: Custodian of the Brushfire Peace. Garden City, New
York: Doubleday, 1961.
Eleanor Roosevelt: A Friend's Memoir. Garden City, New York:
Eleanor and Franklin: The Story of their Relationship, Based on
Eleanor Roosevelt's Private Papers. New York: W.W. Norton, 1971.
Eleanor: The Years Alone. New York: W.W. Norton, 1972.
From the Diaries of Felix Frankfurter. New York: W.W. Norton, 1975.
Roosevelt and Churchill, 1939–1941: The Partnership That Saved the
West. New York: W.W. Norton, 1976.
Helen and Teacher: The Story of
Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan Macy.
New York: Delacorte Press, 1980.
"Life was Meant to be Lived": A Centenary Portrait of Eleanor
Roosevelt. New York: W.W. Norton, 1984.
A World of Love:
Eleanor Roosevelt and Her Friends, 1943–1962.
Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1984.
Dealers and Dreamers: A New Look at the New Deal. New York: Doubleday,
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