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Harry Keyishian papers

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: 16-4F-1333

Scope and Content

The Harry Keyishian papers consist primarily of correspondence and newspaper clippings pertaining to Harry Keyishian's refusal to sign the so-called "Feinberg Oath," a disclaimer of Communist Party membership required by the State of New York Education and Civil Service Law, and the resultant legal battle. Keyishian joined with four other employees of the State University of New York at Buffalo to challenge the Feinberg law. Keyishian vs. the New York Board of Regents was settled by the US Supreme Court in 1967.

The correspondence in this collection is both contemporary and retrospective to the Keyishian vs. Board of Regents case. Contemporary correspondence includes correspondence with Keyishian's co-litigant Ralph Maud, national and local officials of the American Association of University Professors, administrators of the University at Buffalo, and Richard Lipsitz, Sr., lawyer of the "Keyishian" case. An unsigned Oath of Office pledge card and statement are attached to the June 13, 1966 letter from Myles Slatin, Acting Dean of the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences.

The newspaper clippings include coverage from the 1950s of faculty dismissals from Keyishian's alma mater, Queens College. Other newspaper clippings are both contemporary and retrospective to the Keyishian vs. Board of Regents case.


  • 1952-1997
  • Majority of material found within [ 1964-1970]


Terms of Access and Use

The bulk of the Harry Keyishian papers, 1952-1997 (bulk 1964-1970) are open to researchers.


Pursuant to University Archives Restricted Records Policy, access to folder 1.2 is RESTRICTED until March, 2042.


Copyright of papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and [University Archives or Poetry Collection] before requesting photocopies and/or publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Once permission is obtained, most papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures unless otherwise specified.

Biographical Note

Harry Keyishian began teaching at the private University of Buffalo in 1960 as an instructor in English. In 1962, the University of Buffalo joined the State University of New York. As a state institution, it began requiring its employees to sign a loyalty oath as prescribed by the Feinberg Law. The Feinberg Law, enacted in 1949, was largely seen as an anti-Communism law that sought to prevent subversive persons from holding teaching positions in New York State.

Keyishian refused to sign the Feinberg Loyalty oath and consequently, in 1964, his instructorship was not renewed. Keyishian's decision may have been influenced by his experiences as a student at Queens College where, in the 1950s, two professors' positions were terminated when they refused to answer questions about their involvement with the Communist Party in America.

After his position was not renewed, Keyishian joined with four other University at Buffalo employees who refused to take the loyalty oath: Newton Garver, George Starbuck, Ralph Maud and George Hochfield. Together, they were represented by Richard Lipsitz who argued that precedents upholding Feinberg and similar state laws should not apply to post-secondary school teachers.

Though a federal district court ruled against them, their case was appealed to the United States Supreme Court. In January 1967, the Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision in their favor, thus overturning the Feinberg Law in New York State.

In 1965, after completing the requirements for his Ph.D., Harry Keyishian was hired as a professor at Fairleigh Dickenson University in New Jersey. He taught English there until his retirement in 2007.

Source: "Reflections by an academic freedom pioneer." by David L. Hudson Jr. analysis. Sept. 26, 2007.


0.209 Linear Feet (1 half manuscript box)

Language of Materials



Papers of Harry Keyishian regarding his employment at the University at Buffalo and his refusal to sign the "Feinberg certificate," an anti-Communist oath.


The Harry Keyishian papers are arranged by type of material. The collection begins with Keyishian's correspondence about Keyishian vs. Board of Regents, followed by a history of the Feinberg Oath at the University at Buffalo written by Ralph Maud. Lastly are newspaper clippings related to Keyishian vs. Board of Regents and earlier academic freedom cases.

Acquisition Information

The Harry Keyishian papers were donated to the University Archives in July 2018 by Harry Keyishian.

Accruals and Additions

No further accruals are expected to this collection.

Related Materials

MS 5
Richard Lipsitz, Sr. papers, 1964-1967
American Association of University Professors. Buffalo Chapter records, 1926-1973
Thomas E. Connolly papers, 1955-1968
Newton Garver papers, 1963-1991
George Starbuck papers regarding the Feinberg Oath, 1964-1968

Processing Information

Processed by William Offhaus, July 2018; finding aid encoded by William Offhaus, July 2018.


Finding aid for the Harry Keyishian papers
Finding aid prepared by William Offhaus.
23 July 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the University Archives Repository

420 Capen Hall
Buffalo New York 14260-1674 US
716-645-3714 (Fax)