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Margaret Randall Photograph Collection

Identifier: PICT-000-663

Scope and Content

The collection contains Margaret Randall’s portraits of family and friends, her landscape photography, and photos of events related to her life as a writer, poet, oral historian, and political activist. The collection consists of proof sheets and prints that correspond to negatives, except for a few folders that contain only negatives, which is noted in the folder description. The collection contains 5 series parsed into smaller subseries that reflect Randall’s thematic emphasis on people, landscape, and events. Although people, landscape, and events are inseparable in Randall’s work and there is obvious overlap in these categories, Randall’s own descriptions of the photo determined the category used for series and subseries placement. Margaret Randall assisted with identification of the images during the series development with written categorization on the proof folders. Many of the contact sheets have red or black marker surrounding an image that Randall used to identify photos she wanted to use in one of her books or the photography sections of her website.

Series 1: Original Accession. These folders contain photos separated from the Margaret Randall papers in 2006. There are 4 folders with images of Randall with her family; portraits of Randall used for book covers and publicity; images of Randall after her deportation hearing; images of Randall and Audre Lorde and Ron Kovic; and, photos taken of, and with, Ruth Hubbard for the various projects that they worked on together.

Series 2: People. These folders contain people that Randall photographed throughout her life. The 3 subseries group the photos into family, identified people, and events that involve people engaged in activities. Subseries 1 includes the Randall family as a grouping. These are images of Randall taken by other photographers and pictures she took of her immediate family members such as her parents, spouse, siblings, children and grandchildren. In her writing, Randall describes her family as being a favorite subject for her photography. Subseries 2 includes images of identified people that Randall photographed during her life. Some identified people appear in different series depending upon the context and date of the photos, and over the years Randall would take multiple photos of her subjects in different time periods and decades of their lives. These photos tell the story of not only change over time for her subjects, but also Randall’s own history as a photographer working with familiar subjects and treasured friends spanning several decades. Subseries 3 includes events such as poetry festivals, parades, trips around the world with family, friends and activists, and images she took of people engaged in formal and informal work settings.

Series 3: Place. These folders contain photographs of places around the world where Randall lived briefly and/or visited on trips. The first, and larger of the two subseries includes countries arranged in alphabetized order. The images contain national monuments and parks, rivers and mountain ranges, archaeological sites, animal and plant-life indigenous to the country, ancient and sacred sites, architecture, local farmers’ markets, and indoor and outdoor cityscapes and scenes. The smaller, second miscellaneous subseries contain photos that focus on cemeteries, churches, tombstones, and graveyard landscapes.

Series 4: Cuba. These folders contain photos that Randall took during the years she lived in Cuba from 1969 to 1980. The subseries follow the major themes of people, places, and events in identified groupings and unidentified groupings. The photos include Randall’s earliest images when she officially began her work as a photographer in the late 1970s working under the tutelage of Ramon Martinez Grandal. Randall describes her decision to learn photography in her book To Change the World: My Years in Cuba Rutgers: University Press, 2009.

Series 5: Nicaragua. These folders contain photos Randall took in Nicaragua from November 1979 to January 1980 during her first visit to Nicaragua, and the photos she took during the four years she lived in Nicaragua from 1980 to 1984. Similar to the other sections of the collection, the subseries is arranged with people, places and events. Notable in these images are Randall’s work where she first explores conducting oral histories with her subjects while photographing them as they describe their lives and experiences. These photographs are especially significant because they are images taken during the first years of the victorious Sandinista National Liberation Front, and include significant people and events involved in revolutionary activities. Importantly, Randall’s images create a record of the remarkable women who fought in and won the Nicaraguan revolution in such positions as field commanders, rank-and-file guerillas, messengers, intelligence agents, keepers of safe-houses and other important roles. These images compliment the many books and poems that Randall has written on the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua.


  • 1936-2005


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Duplication of print and photographic material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for copyright compliance. For more information see the Photographs and Images Research Guide and contact the Pictorial Archivist.


Margaret Randall, writer, photographer, and activist was born in New York City in 1936. Randall and her family moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico when she was 11. She attended public schools in Albuquerque. Her father taught music and her mother worked as a translator. After high school, she attended the University of New Mexico for one year.

In 1955, Randall left Albuquerque for Europe. She lived in Spain for one year, followed by a move to New York City, where she pursued her writing career and participated in the beatnik movement. Prior to this move, she divorced her first husband. In 1960, Randall moved to Mexico City with her infant son. From 1960-1969, she lived in Mexico. She co-edited the literary magazine El Corno Emplumado from 1962-1969, at different times with Harvey Wolin, Sergio Mondragón (whom she married), and Robert Cohen. Randall and Mondragón had two daughters. At that time, Randall became a Mexican citizen and lost her US citizenship. In 1969, Randall and Mondragón divorced. Randall had her third daughter with Robert Cohen. She tried unsuccessfully to regain her United States citizenship. Repression towards supporters of the Mexican student movement, which Randall was identified with, resulted in her going underground. She, Robert Cohen, and her four children then moved to Cuba, where they lived from 1969-1980.

In Cuba, she worked for 6 years for the Cuban Book Institute, and then as a free-lance journalist and writer. She became an oral historian and a photographer, and began focusing on women, documenting the lives and struggles of Cuban, Chilean, Peruvian, Vietnamese, and Nicaraguan women. In 1980, Randall moved to Nicaragua with her two youngest daughters, where she continued working as an oral historian, photographer, and journalist.

Randall returned to the United States (Albuquerque) in 1984, and married Floyce Alexander. She began teaching in Women's Studies and American Studies at the University of New Mexico. In 1985, Randall was denied permanent resident status by the INS under the McCarran-Walter Act, which was used to exclude people from the U.S. based on perceived adherence to "subversive" ideologies such as communism. She was told to leave the country within 30 days. The Center for Constitutional Rights took on Randall's case. Supporters formed defense committees across the United States. During this battle, she continued to teach and also began to give readings and lectures throughout the United States. She began speaking about her case and similar ones challenging the McCarren-Walters Act. In 1989, the INS decided that she had always been a U.S. citizen and she should never have been subjected to deportation hearings. Resolution of her case enabled Randall to "come out" as a lesbian, which becomes evident in her writings and teachings. She married painter and teacher Barbara Byers in 2013. Randall has also spoken and written as an incest survivor. Randall's life and works are grounded in politics, action, resistance, and everyday life. Randall continues to live and write in Albuquerque, NM.

Excerpted from: Trisha Franzen. "Margaret Randall." In Contemporary Lesbian Writers of the United States: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook, edited by Sandra Pollack and Denise D. Knight, 472-32. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993.


41,720 items (28 boxes) : approximately 40,000 negatives, 1,700 contact sheets, and 20 photographic prints

Language of Materials



The collection contains photographs of Margaret Randall, her family and friends, and events related to her life as a writer and political activist.

Physical Location

B2. Shelved by Pictorial Number. Boxes 34-47 (albums and oversized material) shelved in B2 Big Box area. Film and CDs stored on B3 East wall.

Images available online

Selections of the Margaret Randall Photograph Collection are available online via the New Mexico Digital Collections.

Related Material

See Margaret Randall's personal website

Center for Southwest Research, Willard Lecture Series, Retrieving the Real History: Exploring the Margaret Randall Archives at UNM, October 2020.

Separated Material

Photographs were separated from Margaret Randall Papers.

Processing Information

Series 1 was processed in 2006.

Series 2-5 were accessioned in May 2014 and processed in 2017.

2019 addition of 35 photograph albums and other photographic material is unprocessed; contact Pictorial Archivist for further information. In 2022, Margaret Randall annotated contact sheets, adding additional identifcations.
Finding Aid of the Margaret Randall Photograph Collection, 1936-2005
Processed by Pictorial Collections Staff
© 2006; 2014
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.
  • 8/16/2021: RMOA import review complete

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131