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Ben Barber papers

Identifier: Ben Barber papers

Scope and Contents

The Ben Barber papers comprise nine series of story proposals, journalism and poetry notebooks, and news service copy; correspondence between Barber, fellow journalists, editors and friends; administrative files and photographs that accompany his work as a journalist and senior editor for USAID; and personal papers from his time as a student and professor. Throughout his career as a journalist Barber focused on social injustice, economic policy and conflict in developing countries and beyond.

The Biographical and Personal series contains school papers Barber wrote while he was an undergraduate at Trinity College (1962-1964) and also while at University of Hawaii at Manoa as a Gannett Fellow in 1987. Also included are resumes, professional references and personal statements, as well as application materials for fellowships. A collection of maps and ephemera is here too, along with a draft copy of Barber's unpublished memoir. Organized alphabetically by folder title.

The Correspondence series includes both professional and personal correspondence from Barber's years as an international journalist and editorial director for USAID. Organized chronologically, then alphabetically by folder title.

The Writings series contains fiction and non-fiction story proposals loosely arranged in chronological order by decade. Much of the material was published, but not all. Includes drafts with detailed hand-written notes, as well as Compass and Observer News Service copy of articles that were published. Barber did create some folders and groupings of articles in different stages of the writing process, and in a few cases included the final published clipping. These are kept together when possible. Organized chronologically, then alphabetically by folder title.

The Poetry series includes five small notebooks that also double as address books and journals, as well as small pamphlets, books of published poetry, and single sheets of unpublished materials in dated folders. Organized chronologically, then alphabetically by folder title.

The Teaching and Workshop Materials series contains materials from courses and workshops Barber taught in the United States and Africa, including Georgetown and George Mason universities. Organized chronologically, then alphabetically by folder title.

The series on the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) documents Barber’s time there as a senior writer and editorial director for the FrontLines newsletter through notes, articles and photos. Organized chronologically, then alphabetically by folder title.

The Photographs series includes both professional photographs that document Barber’s work as a journalist as well as personal photos. Most are copies on printer paper. Organized alphabetically by folder title.

The Journalism Notebooks series includes 100-plus small notebooks Barber used while on location. The notebooks include source information and outlines for news feature that appeared in various publications. Notes on stories from Algeria, Burma, Calucutta, Cambodia, Chad, Delhi, Ecuador, Haiti, Iraq, Israel, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Mozambique, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Romania, Saigon, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Western Sahara, and other places are included. Organized chronologically.

The Published Materials and Press Clippings series contains publications and press clippings from the newspapers and magazines Barber reported for, including the Washington Times and USA Today, as well as the magazines The World and I, The American Legion, and Omni. Scrapbooks with photocopies of clippings are included here as well. Organized chronologically.


  • Creation: 1962 - 2016

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the John M.K. Davis Reading Room of the Watkinson Library, Trinity College Library, Hartford, Connecticut. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws when using this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with the duplication policy of the Watkinson Library.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information (e.g. social security numbers) in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.

Biographical / Historical

Born in Warwick, England in 1944, Ben Barber immigrated to the United States with his Czech parents and grew up in Bronx, NY as a child. He attended Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut graduating in 1964 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in French Literature. After graduation, Barber attended the Sorbonne in Paris for one year and received a certificate in French Language and Literature in 1965. Focusing his attention on writing and poetry, he traveled to Asia, North Africa and Europe. In the mid-1970s Barber began submitting features for publication. He returned to school to earn a Master’s degree in Journalism from Boston University in 1979.

Beginning in 1982, Barber worked as a freelance foreign correspondent for the Washington Times, USA Today, Christian Science Monitor, and many international publications. In 1986, he was awarded a Gannett Fellowship in Asian Studies from the University of Hawaii. He worked for UPI as an international desk editor from 1989 to 1990. He was promoted to State Department Bureau Chief and Assistant Foreign Editor at the Washington Times in 1994; it was during this tenure that Barber was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for pieces on the Hmong people in Laos and America. He also traveled with President Clinton to the Middle East peace talks and later with Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Middle East and Africa. Barber covered foreign affairs, economic development, conflict, health, and politics for the Washington Times until 2002.

From 2002 until 2010, Barber was a senior writer for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and was the editorial director of FrontLines, its monthly newsletter. While working for USAID, Barber reported on and photographed aid projects in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen, among others. In 2010 Barber began working as a foreign correspondent for the Huffington Post and the McClatchy Newspapers. His book Groundtruth: Work, Play and Conflict in the Third World was published in 2014. Over the years Barber worked as an adjunct international communications professor at George Mason University and Georgetown University, and taught media seminars to journalists in Africa.


25 Cubic Feet (20 records storage cartons, 9 clamshell boxes, 1 document boxes)

80.6 Gigabytes : Digital photographs

Language of Materials



Writings, notebooks, correspondence, and photographs document Barber’s work as an international journalist from the late 1970s to 2014. Contains materials from Trinity College as well as the notebooks of poetry he wrote after graduation (1965-1979). Materials from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), where Barber was a senior writer and editorial director of FrontLines (2002-2010), are included as well.


Arranged in nine series:

Series 1. Biographical and Personal, 1962-2014

Series 2. Correspondence, 1977-2011, 2016

Series 3. Writings, 1978-2014

Series 4. Poetry, 1965-1979

Series 5. Teaching and Workshop Materials, 1992-2002, 2013

Series 6. United States Agency for International Development (USAID), 2002-2010

Series 7. Photographs, 1982-2006, undated

Series 8. Journalism Notebooks, 1975-2013

Series 9. Published Materials and Press Clippings, 1978-2014

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was donated by Ben Barber (Class of 1965) on June 30, 2016.

Processing Information

Initially processed to the box level by Jennifer Hayner in 2017 and reprocessed to the folder level by Amy FitzGerald in 2022.

Boxes of loose papers loosely sorted by decade according to series titles were gathered into individual folders and arranged chronologically from earliest to latest dates. Some rearranging of series occurred as well as the addition of a new series, correspondence. All materials were rehoused in acid-free folders and boxes, and rusty fasteners removed.

Guide to the Ben Barber papers
In Progress
Jennifer Hayner
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Watkinson Library - Archival Collections Repository

Trinity College Library
300 Summit St.
Hartford Connecticut 06106