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Morris B. Abram papers

Identifier: Manuscript Collection No. 514

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of the papers of Morris B. Abram from 1873-2000 and contains correspondence, speaking engagement files, writings by Abram, subject files, and personal papers. Correspondence consists of letters between Abram and United States Presidents, congresspeople and other government officials, international dignitaries, organizations, and individuals, as well as personal correspondence. Speaking engagement files document speeches, press conferences, interviews, television and radio appearances, and testimonies before Congress and include audio and video recordings. Writings by Abram include materials related to Abram's autobiography, The Day Is Short, published in 1982. Abram also wrote newspaper articles and other essays that cover a wide range of topics, including human rights and civil rights issues, medical ethics, Abram's battle with leukemia, Israel, the United Nations, and United Nations Watch. The bulk of the subject files are related to organizations with which Abram held leadership positions or was affiliated. Files for these organizations may include correspondence, reports, photographs, and audiovisual materials, as well as other relevant materials. Subject files also contain other professional papers, materials pertaining to Abram's unsuccessful political campaigns, and files related to legal cases or topics of interest to Abram, as well as photographs and audiovisual materials that were not directly associated with a particular organization or speaking engagement. Personal papers include materials related to Abram's education, his military service, family members, and family history research, as well as oral histories, appointment books, calendars, personal financial records, personal photographs, and audiovisual materials.


  • 1873-2000

Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Restrictions on Access

Special restrictions apply: Collection stored off-site. Researchers must contact the Rose Library in advance to access this collection.

Use copies have not been made for audiovisual material in this collection. Researchers must contact the Rose Library at least two weeks in advance for access to these items. Collection restrictions, copyright limitations, or technical complications may hinder the Rose Library's ability to provide access to audiovisual material.

Researchers must contact the Rose Library in advance for access to unprocessed born digital materials in this collection. Collection restrictions, copyright limitations, or technical complications may hinder the Rose Library's ability to provide access to unprocessed born digital materials.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.

Biographical Note

Morris Berthold Abram was born in 1918 into a Jewish family in Fitzgerald, Georgia, the son of Sam Abram, a Romanian immigrant, and Irene Cohen Abram. He received a bachelor's degree from the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia) in 1938. Abram then was selected as a Rhodes Scholar; however, his admission to the University of Oxford (Oxford, England) was delayed due to World War II. Instead, he attended the University of Chicago Law School (Chicago, Illinois), where he received a Juris Doctor degree in 1940 before serving as an U.S. Army Air Corps public relations officer. After the war, he enrolled at the University of Oxford, where he received a bachelor's degree in 1948 and a master's degree in 1952. During his time at Oxford, he joined the staff of the International Military Tribunal prosecutors at the Nuremberg trials.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Abram was a civil rights attorney. Abram spent fourteen years in a legal battle to overturn the county unit system in Georgia, culminating in the Supreme Court case Gray v. Sanders (1963). In 1963 he joined the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison (New York, New York). In addition, Abram was appointed to several government posts in the 1960s, including as the chief counsel to the Peace Corps, the United States member of the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorites, and the United States Representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

Abram was also active in Jewish advocacy organizations and a leader in Jewish public life. He served as president of the American Jewish Committee (1963-1968), before serving as president of Brandeis University (Waltham, Massachusetts) from 1968-1970. In the 1980s, Abram chaired two important Jewish advocacy organizations, the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (1983-1988) and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (1986-1989).

In 1973, Abram was diagnosed with leukemia. Despite receiving a terminal diagnosis, Abram survived his battle with the illness, which prompted him to write an autobiography, The Day Is Short (1982). Abram went on to serve on several commissions related to health care issues and medical ethics: the New York State Moreland Act Commission on Nursing Homes and Residential Facilities (1975-1976), the President's Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research (1979-1983), and the National Leadership Committee on Health Care (circa 1987-1989).

In his later life, Abram served in several presidential appointed roles. President Ronald Reagan appointed Abram as vice-chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights (1983-1986). In 1989, President George H.W. Bush appointed Abram as the Permanent Representative of the United States to the European Office of the United Nations, a post which he held until 1993. In 1990 he served as the United States Representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

In 1993 Abram founded the United Nations Watch, a non-governmental organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, and became a vocal critic of the United Nations.

Abram was married three times, to Jane Maguire (married 1944-1974), Carlyn Fisher (married 1975-1987), and Bruna Molina (married 1990 until his death in 2000). He had five children with Jane Maguire Abram: Ruth; Ann; Morris Berthold, Jr.; Adam; and Joshua.


122.375 linear feet (234 boxes, .25 linear feet of born digital materials (BD), and AV Masters: 6 boxes (5.25 linear feet and 1 CLP))


Papers of civil rights lawyer, human rights advocate, Jewish activist, and diplomat Morris B. Abram, including correspondence, speaking engagement files, writings, subject files, and personal papers.

Arrangement Note

Organized into 5 series: (1) Correspondence, (2) Speaking engagement files, (3) Writings by Abram, (4) Subject files, and (5) Personal papers.


Gift of Morris Abram, 1986, with subsequent additions.

Appraisal Note

Acquired by Director of Libraries, Herbert Johnson, as part of the Rose Library's holdings in the history of the civil rights movement and Atlanta. Archivists removed and securely shredded personal financial records and medical records.

Related Materials in This Repository

Related Materials in Other Repositories

American Jewish Committee Archives

American Jewish Committee Oral History Collection, New York Public Library

Morris Abram Oral History Interview, Georgia Government Documentation Project, Georgia State University

Oral History Collection, Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library

Separated Material

The Rose Library holds books formerly owned by Morris B. Abram. These materials may be located in the Emory University online catalog by searching for: Abram, Morris B., former owner.


Arranged and described at the file level by Rebecca Sherman and Allison Stickley-Miner, 2022-2023. The collection arrived at Rose Library primarily in labeled folders but with limited organization; archivists devised the arrangement, refoldered materials, foldered loose items, and provided or clarified folder titles. Archivists left photographs in the folders or context in which they were found; loose photographs were interfiled by subject.

Brenna Edwards processed three floppy disks in 2018; no data could be recovered from the 5.25" floppy disks due to degradation. Those three disks were removed and discarded in 2023. Additional unprocessed born digital materials (six 5.25" floppy disks) were located in 2023 and remain in the collection.

This finding aid may include language that is offensive or harmful. Please refer to the Rose Library's harmful language statement for more information about why such language may appear and ongoing efforts to remediate racist, ableist, sexist, homophobic, euphemistic and other oppressive language. If you are concerned about language used in this finding aid, please contact us at

Morris B. Abram, 1873-2000
Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University
June 11, 2008
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Repository Details

Part of the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library Repository

540 Asbury Circle
Atlanta Georgia 30322 United States