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Brendan Sexton Papers

Identifier: LP001046

Scope and Content

Part 1 of this collection includes material from the UAW Education Department dated from the 1950s to 1970s. Part 2 is comprised of correspondence from the 1930s to 1980s, general office files and teaching materials from the UAW and academia.

Important subjects covered in the collection are: Black Lake Family Education Center. "Eye Opener" Radio program, 1955-1960. Labor Education theory. UAW Leadership Studies Center.

Among the important correspondents are: Cesar Chavez, Dr. John A. Childs, Congressman John D. Dingell, Judah Drob, Senator Paul Douglas, James T. Farrell, Irving Howe, Lane Kirkland, Emil Mazey, Jack Rubenstein, Norman Thomas, W. Paul Tippet, Esteban Torres, Leonard Woodcock.
Part 1: Series 1, UAW Education Department, 1955-1972, Boxes 1-3: Correspondence, radio scripts and other materials relating to the UAW Education Department.
Part 2: Series 2, Correspondence, 1938-1988, Boxes 4-5: Personal and business correspondence spanning Sexton's entire career. Also, sympathy cards and letters received by his wife after his death.

Series 3, General Office Files, Boxes 5-11: Articles, speeches and notes written by Sexton. Clippings and materials from committees served on as Reuther representative.

Series 4, UAW Education Department, Boxes 11-14: Teaching materials produced by the department, background materials and Black Lake operations.

Series 5, University Classes, Boxes 15-17: Sexton's lecture notes, teaching materials, student papers and transcripts of guest speakers' remarks.


  • 1938 - 1988


Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.


Collection is open for research.


Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials.


Brendan Sexton was born in New York on June 9, 1911. Throughout his career, he held various positions with key labor organizations. Before joining the UAW, he served as president of the New York Workers Alliance, vice president of the Workers Alliance of America and national secretary of the Workers Defense League. He was also a member of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. In 1941, Sexton joined UAW Local 50, Ford Willow Run, after four years as regional director and International representative of the United Steelworkers of America. He had become president of his local in 1947, when he was named to the first of a series of posts with the International Union. From 1949 to 1960, he was the director of education of the UAW. In 1960, Sexton was appointed coordinator of organization for the UAW. He then became director of the union staff training facility, the Leadership Studies Center. In 1968, he was appointed Director of UAW Educational Activities, which included the Family Education Center at Black Lake, Michigan, as well as the Leadership Studies Center. In addition to labor union activities, Sexton taught or lectured on labor studies at Harvard, Princeton, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Cornell, Rutgers, and the University of California. He served on advisory committees on workers education at Cornell, Michigan State University, Roosevelt University, the University of Chicago and Wayne State University. At New York University, Sexton taught a special course with his wife, Dr. Patricia Cayo Sexton. He served as an American delegate to UNESCO's Consultative Committee on Adult Education and as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Institute of Labor Education. Sexton took leave of his UAW work several times to direct training programs for the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity and for the UAW-backed Citizens Crusade Against Poverty. He retired from the UAW in 1971, but continued and expanded his teaching activities. Throughout his career, Sexton wrote and spoke extensively on labor and union issues. He published frequently in magazines and journals and authored a book, "Blue Collars and Hard Hats," with his wife. He died in New York on January 17, 1988.


9.5 Linear Feet (17 MB, 1 SB)


Brendan Sexton held various offices in key labor organizations, including president of the New York Workers Alliance, national secretary of the Workers Defense League, regional director of United Steelworkers of America (USWA), and United Auto Workers (UAW) director of education. He served as a faculty member and advisor on labor education to numerous academic institutions, among them the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Harvard, Princeton and Cornell. Sexton’s papers document his prolific career in the labor movement and the academic community, particularly relating to the UAW Education Department and his research in labor history and labor education.


Part 1: Arranged in 1 series. Series 1 (Box 1). Files are arranged alphabetically by subject.
Part 2: Arranged in 4 series. Series 2 (Boxes 4-5), Series 3 (Boxes 5-11), Series 4 (Boxes 11-14), Series 5 (Boxes 15-17). Files are arranged alphabetically.


The papers of Brendan Sexton were placed in the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs in May 1981 by Brendan Sexton and opened for research in August 1983. Additional papers were placed in the Archives by his wife, Dr. Patricia Cayo Sexton, in February 1988 and opened for research in October 1988.


Approximately 100 photographs relating to Brendan Sexton and various UAW functions and 25 transparencies of an art mural have been placed in the Reuther Audiovisual Collection, labeled "AV Box 1." Material received and placed in the Reuther library include numerous labor magazines, newspapers and pamphlets, Union publications and government documents, many with articles written by Brendan Sexton, as well as two copies of "Blue Collars and Hard Hats," by Patricia Cayo Sexton and Brendan Sexton, New York: Random House, circa 1971.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library in August 1983 and revised in October 1988. Finding aid revised and updated September 2020.
Guide to the Brendan Sexton Papers
Processed by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA