Marshall Bloom (AC 1966), journalist, editor and key agent in the development of the alternative press in the United States in the 1960s, was born in 1944 in Denver, Colorado. As a child he was an accomplished student and was active in B'nai B'rith, school newspapers and other organizations. He entered Amherst College in 1962, majoring in American Studies and becoming involved in numerous campus activities, among them FORUM (the student lecture committee) and The Amherst Student. Under Bloom's leadership as Chairman of the Student in 1965, the newspaper dramatically increased its coverage of national issues. At graduation Bloom was awarded the Samuel Bowles Prize for proficiency in journalism. Bloom's affinity for social protest and controversy was evident in the 1966 Commencement ceremony, at which Bloom was one of 19 graduating seniors who walked out to protest the College's decision to award an honorary degree to Robert McNamara, then Secretary of Defense, for his role in the continuing Vietnam War.
Bloom's college years saw an awakening of his interest in the civil rights movement. He participated in marches in the South in 1964 and 1965, and was arrested. In 1965 he joined student editors from the Harvard Crimson to found the Southern Courier, an independent newspaper based in Selma that emphasized coverage of civil rights and black Southern life, issues largely ignored by the mainstream (white) Southern press. Bloom worked as staff writer and Montgomery, Alabama bureau chief in the summer of 1965. In his senior year at Amherst he wrote his thesis on the life of southern Jews in Selma, Alabama.
After graduating from Amherst Bloom attended the London School of Economics to study sociology for one year. He gained notoriety on both sides of the Atlantic for his involvement in student protests against the School's appointment of Walter Adams, then head of University College of Rhodesia, as its next director. The Socialist Society at LSE, in particular, was harshly critical of his appointment because of his role in promulgating the Rhodesian government's apartheid policy. Bloom, then president of the Graduate Students' Association, organized a meeting to protest this decision on January 31, 1967. LSE administrators banned the meeting on short notice, but it took place anyway; a university porter trying to maintain order in the crowded hall died of a heart attack. For their involvement in this tragic incident, Bloom and another student were suspended.
Back in the U.S. in 1967, Bloom returned to journalism. In mid-1967 he was appointed Executive Director of the United States Student Press Association, an organization sponsored by the National Student Association that operated Collegiate Press Service (CPS). In August Bloom attended the Sixth Congress of the Student Press at the University of Minnesota, where his appointment was to be confirmed. However, Bloom had recently courted controversy by denouncing the National Student Association for having accepted funds from the Central Intelligence Agency. Many delegates to the Congress of the Student Press, accordingly, voiced their objection to Bloom's appointment and it was eventually rescinded by USSPA's National Executive Board.
While still in Minneapolis, Bloom co-founded, with Raymond Mungo of Boston University, a news organization - at first called Resistance Press Service - whose purpose was to deliver feature stories and news to the "underground" press, student press, radio stations and independent weekly newspapers and magazines as an alternative to established news services such as AP and CPS. The name of the organization was soon changed to Liberation News Service (LNS). LNS achieved initial success and became firmly established after the October 1967 anti-Vietnam War protests at the Pentagon in Washington by reporting on aspects of the antiwar movement that had been ignored or misunderstood by mainstream media. The organization sent out inexpensively produced offset-printed "packets" to its subscribers generally two or three times a week. First based in Washington, D.C., where it received financial assistance from the Institute for Policy Studies, it moved to New York City near Columbia University in 1968. LNS eventually served as many as 400 subscribers throughout North America and Europe.
In 1968 an ideological split developed within LNS. Bloom and Mungo, representing one faction, wanted LNS coverage to emphasize the pacifist and cultural aspects of the radical counterculture, while an overtly Marxist political faction, headed by Allen Young and George Cavalletto, felt loyalty to Students for a Democratic Society and sought to run LNS in a more disciplined way to effect political change. On August 11, 1968 Bloom's faction moved from New York City to a farm in Montague, Massachusetts, north of Amherst, taking with them the LNS printing press, office equipment and several thousand dollars. (LNS published from the new location starting with issue #100.) Discovering the "heist," the New York faction traveled to Montague and accused Bloom and others of absconding with LNS funds and property that were rightfully theirs. The encounter became physically violent until the New York faction received a check for $6,000. For a time, the New York and Montague factions continued to produce LNS news packets simultaneously. Within a year, however, the Montague faction ceased publication, and oriented themselves increasingly toward agricultural subsistence and rural communal life. (LNS in Massachusetts seems to have ceased with issue #120, January 1969, while issues from New York City continued to be produced through 1981.)
In March 1969 Bloom traveled to California. Among the people he visited was Lisbeth (Liz) Meisner, formerly an editor and administrative coordinator in the LNS office in Washington. Correspondence in the collection indicates that the two discussed plans to marry.
Bloom's diaries during 1969 indicate that he was privately quite troubled about many things: debts, civil relationships and the sharing of labor among those on the Montague farm, the viability of the farm as an experiment in living, religious doubts, disagreements with his father, the Vietnam War, and the threat of Selective Service. (In October 1969, Bloom had received a notice from the Selective Service to report for a physical examination; this may have been only his most recent of a series of encounters with the military draft.) On November 1, 1969, Bloom unexpectedly took his life by carbon monoxide poisoning in his parked car on a wooded road in nearby Leverett. Bloom did not leave a suicide note, only a sheet of typewritten instructions that served as his Last Will and Testament. In subsequent years, several writers have pointed to the death of Marshall Bloom as a sign of the "failure" of the radical counterculture, while others simply were saddened by the passing of a talented and very charismatic but increasingly troubled man.