Skip to main content

Catherine Roraback Collection of Ericka Huggins Papers

Call Number: JWJ MSS 96

Scope and Contents

Materials in the Catherine Roraback collection of Ericka Huggins papers document the activities of both Catherine Roraback and Ericka Huggins during the New Haven Black Panther trials. A majority of the collection contains Catherine Roraback’s legal files related to Ericka Huggins's trial, including memoranda on prison conditions, statements, depositions, affidavits, and FBI reports. Materials belonging to Ericka Huggins includes poems, correspondence, and other writings created during her imprisonment. Communist reading material requested by Huggins such as The Selected Writings of Mao Tse-Tung (1968) are also included.


  • 1961 - 2000
  • Majority of material found within 1969 - 1971


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Access

Box 10 contains restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The Catherine Roraback Collection of Ericka Huggins Papers is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Bolerium Books on the Elizabeth Wakeman Dwight Memorial Fund, 2012.


Organized into three series: I. Ericka Huggins Trial Proceedings (1961-2000). II. Correspondence (1969-1972). III. Ericka Huggins Personal Papers (1969-1975).


3.67 Linear Feet (10 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The Catherine Roraback Collection of Ericka Huggins papers consists of materials compiled by attorney Catherine Roraback during the New Haven trial of Black Panther Party leader Ericka Huggins. Included in the collection are Huggins' legal files, prison writings, clippings, correspondence and other documentation of the trial and Huggins' imprisonment.

Catherine Roraback (1920-2007)

Catherine Roraback was a Connecticut civil rights attorney who served as lead defense counsel for Ericka Huggins during her trial for the kidnapping and murder of Alex Rackley. Roraback was born on September 17, 1920 in Brooklyn, New York City, New York. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1941 and was the only woman to graduate from Yale University Law School in 1948. Upon graduation, Roraback took over her family's law practice in Canaan, Connecticut. From 1969 to 1971, Roraback defended Ericka Huggins, a leader in the New Haven chapter of the Black Panther Party who was charged with conspiracy in the murder of Alex Rackley, a member of the Black Panther Party. On May 25 1971, the trial ended in a hung jury and was declared a mistrial. After the trial, Roraback continued to practice law and participated in organizations such as the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union, an organization she co-founded, and became president of the National Lawyers Guild. Roraback died on October 17, 2007 in Salisbury, Connecticut.

Ericka Huggins (1948-)

Ericka Jenkins Huggins was born in Washington D.C. on January 5, 1948. Huggins attended Lincoln University where she met her husband, John Huggins, and together they moved to California to join the Black Panther Party. John Huggins was murdered by members of the rival black nationalist US Organization on the University of California, Los Angeles campus in 1969. After his death, Huggins relocated to New Haven, Connecticut with their daughter Mai and became a leader in the New Haven chapter of the Black Panther Party. On May 22, 1969, Huggins, along with Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale, faced charges that stemmed from the kidnapping and murder of Black Panther Party member Alex Rackley. The trial, which lasted from October 1970 to May 1971, ended in a mistrial and dismissal of all charges. Huggins was released on May 25, 1971. After the trial, Huggins remained in the Black Panther Party and became the director of the Oakland Community School in Oakland, California until 1981. She also became the first black woman and first woman to be appointed to the Alameda County Board of Education. Huggins also worked as a professor of sociology and African American studies in the Peralta Community College District.
Guide to the Catherine Roraback Collection of Ericka Huggins Papers
Under Revision
by Afua Ferdnance
May 2017
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
(203) 432-2977


121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours

Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.