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Forrest O. Wiggins papers

Identifier: ua-00979

Scope and Content

The diverse opinions represented in statements, newspaper accounts and correspondence, all reflect the controversy that surrounded the Wiggins Case. The issues of race, academic freedom, the conservative political climate of the McCarthy Era, the Legislature's supposed interference in University matters, and accusations of poor newspaper reporting based on alleged misquotes by the press, all played a role in the controversy, and are documented in the collection. An example of the type of materials found in the collection is a reply to the statement issued by the ACLU's Committee on Academic Freedom on February 1, 1953 from Robert C. McClure to Louis Joughin, dated April 21, 1953, which is located in the correspondence files. The Wiggins Case and further details about Wiggins’ teaching career are also found in his Biography File (2 folders), available in University Archives.


  • 1946-1966
  • (bulk 1951-1952)


Language of Materials


Use of Materials

Items in this collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only.


Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). Requests to publish should be arranged with the University of Minnesota Archives.

Biographical Sketch of Forrest O. Wiggins (1907-1982)

Forrest Oran Wiggins was born in Vincennes, Indiana in 1907 to Charles and Cora Cosby Wiggins. He graduated from Butler University in Indianapolis with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1928 and the University of Wisconsin with a Masters degree in 1931 and a Ph.D. in 1938. From 1928-1929 he did postgraduate work in Paris, France, receiving a diploma in French from Alliance Française. He taught at several colleges in the South before being hired at the University of Minnesota in 1946 as an instructor of philosophy, making him the first African American to be given a regular full time teaching appointment with the rank of instructor at a state university.

On December 7, 1951, Wiggins received a letter from University President James L. Morrill informing him that his contract would not be renewed under the tenure regulations governing instructors. The regulations stated that faculty may be dismissed within 7 years after their initial appointment. Wiggins' non-reappointment was based on the recommendation of Errett W. McDiarmid, Dean of the School of Science, Literature and the Arts (SLA). In a letter to President Morrill on December 4, 1951, he wrote, "I believe that Professor Wiggins continuance is not justified either on the basis of his scholarly record or his potential contribution to the Philosophy Department." However, George P. Conger, chairman of the philosophy department, and other members of the faculty protested the termination of Wiggins' appointment in letters and statements to the University Administration and the Board of Regents.

Wiggins, a self-professed socialist, blamed his dismissal partly on his liberal ideas. He also believed that pressure had been put on the University Administration by the State Legislature, which allegedly would not grant budget requests to the University unless certain faculty members were dismissed. Wiggins was one of a total of 39 instructors whose contract was not renewed at that time. Wiggins felt this action was prompted by a copy of a speech entitled "The Ideology of Interest" that he gave in January 1951 at a symposium sponsored by student and professional organizations on "Conflict in the Social Order," and that was distributed anonymously to members of the Legislature.

Immediately after Wiggins announced his dismissal to one of his classes, students met and drew up a petition in protest. Two other groups were formed the following day and issued separate petitions. These groups then met with the Board of Regents on December 14, 1951 to discuss their views. While the Regents deliberated in executive session the three groups met together and formed the Tri-U Student Association.

After the Regents announced that the contract termination of Wiggins would stand, a meeting of Tri-U was held and attended by over 200 students. Out of this meeting an off-campus organization was formed called the Student Action Committee (SAC). The Committee wrote a statement of principles and adopted a petition that asked for clarification of the "grounds on which Dr. Wiggins has been considered incompetent,” published in A Student Report on the Dismissal of Forrest O. Wiggins(Student Action Committee, undated.) A total of 2035 signatures were obtained in four days and the petition was sent to President Morrill on December 21, 1951. Morrill issued a statement to the Student Action Committee, dated January 7, 1952, stating the position of the University, denying accusations that academic freedom, leftist political beliefs or pressure from the Legislature were reasons for Wiggins' non-reappointment. Rather, as reiterated by Morrill, Wiggins’ dismissal was based solely on deficiency in professional competence and scholarship. This in turn prompted a meeting of almost 800 students sponsored by the Student Action Committee, criticizing Morrill's statement. The Committee issued a statement, "Student Action Committee's Report and Analysis of its Activities from December 21, 1951 to January 9, 1952.”

Various other organizations also became involved in the Wiggins Case. On February 5, 1952 the NAACP condemned Wiggins' dismissal. The Minnesota Branch of the AAUP investigated the case on January 15, 1952 and found no violation of academic freedom. As a result, the Student Group for Political Analysis issued a publication entitled "DeFacto" attacking the AAUP's report and criticized the decision of the AAUP in a February 1952 statement. The ACLU's Committee on Academic Freedom also investigated the Wiggins Case and in a statement dated February 1, 1953, concluded, "Dr. Wiggins has not received full justice from the University of Minnesota and that he is entitled to appropriate redress." The National Student Association (NSA) also investigated the case but the All-University Congress passed a resolution stating that it did not authorize an investigation by the NSA, thus making the investigative committee report to the NSA congress illegal.

Forrest Wiggins left the University of Minnesota in June 1952 and was hired at Allen College, Columbia, South Carolina that fall, only to be dismissed from there in 1957. He continued to teach at various other small colleges in the South until his retirement in 1971. He died in Merritt Island, Florida in 1982.


.2 Cubic Feet (1 hollinger)


Collection contains materials regarding the termination of Forrest O. Wiggins from the philosophy faculty at the University of Minnesota.

Related Materials

Conflict and the Social OrderSeries I. Sponsored by Fifteen Student and Professional Organizations of the University of Minnesota. Speakers: Herbert McClosky, Benjamin N. Nelson, Mulford Q. Sibley, Forrest O. Wiggins. Moderator: George B. Vold. Centennial Lecture Series [1], 1951. (MLB/C333 v.1)

Forrest O. Wiggins papers, 1946-1966
Karen Klinkenberg
November 1996
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

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