Abe Osheroff and Gunnel Clark Endowed Fund

The Abe Osheroff and Gunnel Clark Fund provides financial resources for undergraduate and graduate students to support human rights projects that promote social change through direct action and adhere to the principles that guided Abe’s lifelong activism.

The Abe Osheroff and Gunnel Clark Fund provides financial resources for undergraduate and graduate students to support human rights projects that promote social change through direct action and adhere to the principles that guided Abe’s lifelong activism.

Abe Osheroff

Abe Osheroff

Abe Osheroff (1915-2008) dedicated his life to the pursuit of social justice. As a young man, Abe was active in community organizing efforts in his native Brooklyn. At the age of 20, he joined the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, a group of U.S. volunteers who fought alongside the Spanish Republican forces in an effort to stave off the fascist Franco regime. It was in the crucible of the Spanish Civil War that Abe’s deep commitment took shape: although he was wounded in battle, and Franco’s forces went on to install a fascist dictatorship that ruled Spain for 36 years, Abe’s willingness to put his life on the line for justice was not vanquished.

Back in the United States, Abe went on to participate in political organizing and social activism. He returned to military service, signing up for the US Army to fight against Hitler once the US entered the war. In the United States, too, his work required courage and commitment. As a labor union organizer working among coal miners in Pennsylvania and Ohio, for example, he was repeatedly threatened for his work. Similarly, when Abe participated in the civil rights movement, building a community center with residents of Holmes County, Mississippi during the famed Freedom Summer of 1964, his car was firebombed and he was threatened by police because he was working with African-Americans.

Gunnel Clark

Gunnel Clark

His efforts later took him to Central America and led him to be a vocal critic of the war in Vietnam. Abe also returned to Spain in the early 1970s, where he produced a documentary film, Dreams and Nightmares, which exposed the US government’s support of the Franco dictatorship. For Abe, it was an outrage and injustice that his own government would lend support to a fascist regime, and particularly important that American citizens demand accountability for what was done in their name.

Within these movements for social change, Abe was known as not only a talented and courageous organizer, but a critical thinker. Once a member of the Communist Party—and persecuted under McCarthyism for his affiliation—Abe publicly renounced the American Communist Party when he learned of the horrific abuses committed under Stalin. And although Abe travelled to Nicaragua to help provide poor peasants with decent living conditions, and was deeply critical of US intervention there, he also spoke out against corruption and abuses of power under the Sandinistas. For Abe, no cause was more important than that of basic human decency, and the defense of the vulnerable against abuses of power—what Abe called “radical humanism.”

Later in life, Abe and his wife, Gunnel Clark, settled in Seattle, where they were active participants in movements opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Abe also engaged in many efforts to share his energies with young people, among them teaching at the University of Washington.

Learn more about Abe Osheroff:

Fund Eligibility

Jessica Ramirez marches for farmworkers' rights in Burlington, Washington.

UW alumnus Jessica Ramirez used the Osheroff and Clark fund to support a historic berry boycott campaign led by farmworkers. Learn more about her work.

The Osheroff and Clark fund provides financial resources for undergraduate and graduate students to support human rights projects that promote social change through direct action. In 2019, we anticipate having approximately $3950 available to distribute; the entire amount may be issued in a single award or split between multiple awardees. The number of awards and amounts will vary depending on the number and quality of applications.

All hands-on human rights projects aiming to achieve real-world impact — in other words, to improve human rights — are eligible, whether the work is to be carried out in the United States or elsewhere in the world. In keeping with Abe’s and Gunnel’s belief that accountability begins at home, priority will be given to projects that speak to the particular roles and responsibilities of United States institutions (including government, private sector entities, and the university itself) in human rights.

  • All undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Washington (Bothell, Seattle, Tacoma) are eligible to apply.
  • US citizenship/permanent resident status is NOT REQUIRED.

Selection Criteria

Preference will be given to projects with the following characteristics:

  • Feasibility. The project has clearly specified objectives, a specific and realistic work plan (including tasks and timelines if appropriate), and the candidate possesses the skills and resources to carry out the work required.
  • Hands-on engagement. The project will have a practical human rights benefit. While it may be appropriate to also receive degree credit for this work, this is not a necessary component. The award places primary emphasis on real-world impact.
  • Partnership. The project will be undertaken in conjunction with an established organization working in the topical or geographic area where the project is to be carried out. This ensures that the student’s work is viewed as productive and positive contribution by groups that are already active in the field, and that the student will benefit from the guidance of experienced leaders.
  • Vision. The project clearly reflects the legacy of Abe Osheroff, in particular his insistence on accountability for the role of our own institutions (including government, private sector entities, and the university itself) in human rights.

Application Materials

To be considered, apply between February 19, 2019 and March 29, 2019 at 5:00 pm (Pacific Standard Time) via the Jackson School Fellowship and Scholarship Application System.

You will be asked to provide the following information:

  • Biographic information, status as student, contact information, GPA, unofficial transcripts, etc.
  • CV/Resume with current contact information (phone, address, and email).
  • Proposal that answers the following questions:
    • Statement of purpose describing the project, your qualifications to execute this proposal, and the project’s timeline. (approx. 500 words)
    • Keeping in mind Abe’s and Gunnel’s commitment to accountability, how will your project bring about greater accountability for US institutions? (approx. 250 words)
    • Are you, or have you been involved with any campus or off-campus organizations working for human rights? Which ones and what is/was the nature of your involvement? (approx. 250 words)
  • A detailed budget describing how the funds would be used and, if applicable, how this support would supplement other funds, fellowships, and grants..
  • A letter of support from the primary organization with which you will be partnering.
  • The names and full contact information (campus address, phone, and email) of two University of Washington faculty members who are familiar with your work.

If you have any questions about the application process, please do not hesitate to contact us at uwchr@uw.edu.