McGill LibraryMcLennan Library Building
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Abraham Aaron Roback Papers
408 complete letters, 20 partial letters
5 greeting cards
1 mourning card
A.A. (Abraham Aaron) Roback (1890-1965), pseudonyms: Robert J. Acton, Frederick Ayers, & Anton de Borcka
Psychology professor A.A. Roback, the youngest of four children of a Jewish family in Goniondz, now in Poland, emigrated with his family to Montreal in 1892. There he attended public schools and the Talmud Torah Hebrew Free School before studying philosophy with J.W.A. Hickson and experimental psychology with William Dunlop Tait at McGill University; he graduated with honors and the Prince of Wales medal for philosophy in 1912. While there, he was an editor of the Keneder Adler, Montreal’s first daily Yiddish newspaper. He went on to earn a master’s degree (1913) and then a PhD. (1917) in psychology at Harvard University He then taught psychology for several years at Harvard, while working at the library assembling a collection of 10,000 Yiddish books and cataloguing the collection of the papers of Leo Weiner, a historian and the first American professor of Slavic literature. Roback’s academic career went on to include traveling fellowships at Princeton (1916-17) and Harvard (1923-25, from the National Research Council). He then taught at the University of Pittsburgh, Northeastern, Clark University and MIT, all the while writing 30 books and hundreds of articles on both psychology and Jewish culture, including Yiddish language and literature. Many of his works were published by his own Sci-Art company, including his major work, “The Story of Yiddish Literature” (1941), and the unusual “Dictionary of International Slurs (Ethnophaulisms).” A member of YIVO and of the board of governors of the Jewish Academy of Arts and Sciences, he spent most of his life in Massachusetts: from 1926 to 1949 he taught psychology for the Massachusetts University Extension, where in 1929 he initiated the first course in the United States on Yiddish literature. From 1949 to 1958, he chaired the department of psychology at Emerson College in Boston.
Collection consists of correspondence from J.W.A. Hickson between 1912 and 1956.