In his 1968 book Crossroads U.S.A., U.S. Senator Harrison A. Williams Jr. (D-NJ) argued for a vision of America that encompassed social justice, expanded educational and economic opportunity, environmentalism, and urban improvement as national goals. As pursued by the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and their congressional allies, including Williams, this liberal vision has been referred to as the Great Society, a term taken from a 1964 speech by President Johnson.
This digital exhibition considers the goals of the Great Society as exemplified by the Senate career of Harrison Williams and, from another angle, it places Williams´s legislative efforts in the context of the liberal vision held by many Americans in the 1960s and 1970s.
The Rutgers University Libraries wish to thank Jeanette Williams for donating the papers of her late husband, Senator Harrison A. ("Pete") Williams Jr. to the University, and acknowledge her generosity in making this collection accessible. The fundraising efforts of Former Congressman and Ambassador William J. Hughes; James Grogan, General President, International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers; and Williams´s aide and friend, John Molinari, along with many family, friends, and former staff members also contributed generously to this effort.
The Crossroads digital exhibition showcases Senator Harrison A. Williams Jr.'s efforts toward advancing legislation that reflected liberal ideology of the “Great Society” values espoused by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Themes highlighted in the exhibition are Williams´s work for migratory labor, social justice, education, labor, community action, health, the elderly, business regulation, metropolitan affairs, and the arts. The digital exhibition features images of photographs and documents, along with audiovisual materials documenting the legislation Williams worked on. This digital exhibition is a version of the physical exhibition Crossroads: Harrison Williams and Great Society Liberalism, 1959–1981, which was on display in the Special Collections and University Archives Gallery and Gallery ´50 in Spring 2009. Many, but not all of the objects in the physical exhibition are included in the digital version and some additional items that did not appear in the physical exhibition are included in the digital exhibition.
Williams's 1968 book Crossroads U.S.A. and the catalog for the original exhibition are also available.
The Senator Harrison A. Williams Jr. papers are held by Rutgers University Libraries Special Collections and University Archives. The finding aid for the papers is available at https://archives.libraries.rutgers.edu/repositories/11/resources/770.
Curator of physical and digital exhibition: Larry Weimer
Digital exhibition project manager: Caryn Radick
This digital version of the exhibition was made possible by a generous donation from Jeanette Williams. Thanks also go to Larry Weimer, Fernanda Perrone, Kabir Golfphin, Rhonda Marker, Chad Mills, Sam McDonald, Mary Ann Koruth, Isaiah Beard, Janice Pilch, Melissa De Fino, and Kalaivani Ananthan.
Jeanette Williams wishes to express her gratitude to former Rutgers University president Richard L. McCormick,vice president of information services and university librarian Marianne I. Gaunt, and head of Special Collections and University Archives Ronald Becker for their support and assistance in giving Senator Williams's papers a place at Rutgers.