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Lester N. Trachtman papers

 Collection 0542-LBR

Lester N. Trachtman (1934-2012) was a labor union activist and historian active from approximatley 1960-2000. These papers document his career and personal life. He held a number of positions related to the labor movement in Africa and the United States, first as an Africa Specialist for the U.S. Department of State from 1960-1965, and most notably as the Deputy Director for Program Planning at the African American Labor Center (AALC), AFL-CIO, from 1965-1982. In that capacity, he managed AFL-CIO programs and projects aimed at building organized labor across the African continent, concentrating on aging and female workers.


  • 1954-2008

Condition Description

One rolled parchment document needs preservation assessment. One textile object showing mold and dirt was assessed and treated by preservation in 2021.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

Series 1, 2, and 6 contains some restricted material. Please check the series and folder listings for additional information.

Series 2 contains born-digital materials. If you would like to access these materials, please contact us prior to your visit as items may require specialized software for access.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder. Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


6.45 Linear Feet (6 Paige boxes)

3 Items (2 Oversized items, 1 artifact)

1 floppy_disks (3.5" floppy disk)

205 Photographs (Black & White: 57 Color: 148)

45 Negatives (Photographs)

1 Photographic Slides

Content Description

Lester Trachtman's papers includes subject and project files concerning African American Labor Center (AALC) projects, business correspondence, professional publications from Trachtman, office memos, records pertaining to labor organizations outside of the AALC, two oral history interviews, and personal correspondence and photographs. Also included are research materials and publications of Trachtman’s work related to labor force development and education for the U. S. Department of Labor during the early 1960s, and administrative records pertaining to his involvement in the Washington D.C. chapter of the Jewish Labor Committee. The material is focused on geographic regions of Africa, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana, Botswana, Nigeria, Zambia, Swaziland, Liberia, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Togo and Mauritius, although the earliest and latest material in these papers mostly pertain to the United States.

Biographical / Historical

Lester N. Trachtman attended Columbia University as an engineering student, and then the Cornell School of Industrial Labor Relations, where he focused on the development of labor environments in newly-independent African nations, notably in Ghana (where he centered his postgraduate thesis). From 1960 to 1965, Trachtman started his career in labor relations, first as an intern and then as the Assistant African Area Specialist for the Department of State. He served as labor advisor to the African Division of United States Information Agency (USIA), concerning foreign labor policy for Africa. Starting in 1965 and until 1982, Trachtman was the Deputy Director for Program Planning at the African American Labor Center (AALC)of the AFL-CIO. In this position, he performed a variety of labor union support including: vocational education, occupational health programs, leadership training, designing and preparing hundreds of projects, and developing programs for women and aging workers in African countries. He also directed six Pan African conferences, and organized cooperative educational programs with multiple institutions (Cornell, Kenya Poly Tech, Boston University, Ghana Labor College, Trade Union Institute of Nigeria, Mater Dolorosa School of Botswana). Throughout his career, Trachtman was a prolific publisher of African labor relations material, and collaborated with the International Labor Organization (ILO) to publish a comprehensive book on Industrial Relations in Africa. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Trachtman served in leadership roles for the Jewish Labor Committee in the United States. Work regarding living wage gaps and religious union representation occupied the later years of his career. He was born on April 11, 1934, and died in July of 2012 at the age of 78.


The collection is organized into nine series. Most materials are arranged in chronological order; see series note for more details.

Series 1
African American Labor Center and African Labor History Center
Series 2
Jewish Labor Committee and Jews United for Justice
Series 3
Labor Organizations
Series 4
Project Proposals and Grants
Series 5
Office Files and Memos
Series 6
Personal Correspondence
Series 7
Series 8
Lester Trachtman Publications
Series 9
Subject Files

Custodial History

This collection was donated to University of Maryland Libraries by Gerdy Trachtman on July 12, 2019.

Related Materials

This collection compliments other collections at University of Maryland, College Park: the AFL-CIO African American Labor Center records , and the Solidarity Center records.

Condition Description

One rolled parchment document needs preservation assessment. One textile object showing mold and dirt was assessed and treated by preservation in 2021.

Processing Information

This collection is processed. The collection came to the Libraries in no particular order, aside from some rough groupings of similar material. In 2020, the materials were inventoried and boxes were assigned sequential numbers and roughly organized into preliminary series. Paper clips were removed, and many of the original folders and binders were replaced with acid-free folders. Unlabeled or non-descriptive folders were assigned new titles. Photographs were left in their original file groupings and order, but were placed in acid-free envelopes.

In 2020 a resource record was created and used to describe the collection material, and the collection number was assigned. Instead of attaching the revised (with intellectual series arrangement) collection inventory to the collection and series level records as an external document as originally planned, the box and folder list was entered into the resource recording using rapid data entry. It was determined that the collection size was small enough, and extra time was available to accomplish it during our full time telework period in April 2020. Collection description was reviewed and updated as necessary in 2022.

In 2022, the intellectual arrangement accessible in ArchivesSpace was implemented: folders were rearranged in boxes, and final box and folder numbers were assigned. Upon review of the physical folder contents, some adjusts were made to the folder arrangement, folder titles, and series titles. Boxes were assigned barcodes and labeled.

This collection contained approximately 9 linear feet, or 6 Paige boxes, of labor-related books not authored by Lester Trachtman. These materials were partially inventoried in 2020. In 2022 the publications were assessed by processors and curator. They were sorted for adding to the collection finding aid (see Series 8 and Series 9), recommended for cataloging in Special Collections, or discarded.

In 2020, two preservation concerns were noted. 1 oversize and rolled document needs preservation assessment. An oversized framed textile object was treated and rehoused by Preservation in 2021-2022.

When materials were inventoried in 2020, materials that were sensitive in nature were noted in the inventory. In 2022, they were reviewed and restrictions were applied as appropriate (See more details in Series 1, Series 2, and Series 6). Employment records not relevant to the collection and containing Personally Identifiable Information (PII) were discarded. Some employment materials were retained and not restricted because they document Trachtman’s work history in the labor movement circa 1980.

Guide to the Lester N. Trachtman papers
Processed by Tyler Black, Jennifer Eidson, and Rosemarie Fettig.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2022-03-30: Collection materials were physically rearranged, publications reviewed, and description updated accordingly by Jennifer Eidson and Rosemarie Fettig. See Processing Information Note for further details.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742