In 1967, Jim Jacobs began teaching at Macomb County Community College in Warren, Michigan, after earning a bachelor’s degree in political science from Harpur College in New York, and a master’s degree in political science from Princeton University. In his early years at Macomb, Jacobs led many of the progressive movements on campus, including the first march on the Warren Tank Plant in 1970, and a campus strike over the U.S. invasion of Cambodia and the Kent State University shootings. He was the faculty sponsor of the leftist campus group, the Macomb Liberation Front, which led its support to Jacobs – as did many in the community -- when the college attempted to terminate his employment in 1970, citing Jacobs’ participation in a secretarial strike as its basis. An arbitration tribunal rejected the college’s arguments, and Jacobs retained his position.
During the 1970’s, Jacobs was active in Marxist-based groups in Detroit, in particular the Detroit Marxist Leninist Organization (DMLO), the Detroit Organizing Committee (DOC), and the Detroit Local Center (DLC). Jacobs’ writings and papers of this time period reflect the difficult task of working within society while studying and defending a radical view, as the revolutionary groups of the 1960’s attempted to retain their appeal and influence in the 1970’s without losing their core ideology. In 1977, Jacobs was awarded his Ph.D. in Political Science from Princeton. In 1978, a new left-leaning, multi-racial group, the Detroit Alliance for a Rational Economy (DARE), was formed, and the collection contains many of Jacob’s papers from his years of participation in DARE, as well as from his participation in other community groups at that time.
In the mid-70’s, Jacobs joined the landmark legal case, Benkert v. Michigan State Police, as a plaintiff; the Benkert court ruled that it was unconstitutional for the state police to maintain an intelligence unit designed to root out “subversives” and to pass on secret surveillance files on lawful citizens to third parties. Jacobs, himself a victim of the “Red Squad” spying program, wrote about the case for The Nation, assisted plaintiffs’ attorney Richard Soble with formulating a method for all victims to view their secret files, and was active in post-Benkert attempts to further rein in political surveillance in Michigan.
The collection ends with the early 1980’s. Since then, Jacobs has gone on to serve in leadership roles at Macomb Community College, and currently directs the college's Center for Workforce Development and Policy. He specializes in the areas of occupational change and technology, suburban economic development, the retraining of displaced workers, and needs assessment of occupational programs, and has published widely in these areas.