Claudia Willett

Lawsuit Against the MBTA for Unlawful Censorship of Condom Campaign Ads

Did you know that in 1994, the AIDS Action Committee sued the MBTA for unlawful censorship of a subway campaign featuring the use of condoms?  Seems hard to believe, but you can read all about it in our Archives and Special Collections, which has received a donation of new material from former AIDS Action Committee Director Thomas McNaught (1991-1996).

This donation adds to the existing AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts Records in the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections.

While processing the new materials I noticed the photo of Captain B. Careful on the Boston Common. It stood out  for a few reasons. His sheer ingenuity for costume design. The huge smile on his face even though it was noticeably cold outside.

[caption id="attachment_8106" align="aligncenter" width="279" caption="Captain B. Careful, Condom Campaign. AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, Inc. (M61, Box 42, Folder 14.)"][/caption]

Less tangibly his image stood out to me because he symbolizes a continuity in Boston's legacy of advocating for the power of knowledge and striving toward equal rights and opportunity for all. 

In 1992,  AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts (AAC)  introduced New England's first public service television AIDS prevention campaign directed at gay men.

They also launched the United States' first statewide transit campaign for AIDS awareness by placing condom posters on 437 buses throughout Massachusetts ultimately leading to a legal battle with the MBTA.

Highlights of the collection include:

  • photographs and press
  • outreach material regarding the condom campaign
  • materials on the AAC's education and prevention campaigns
  • documentation regarding the AAC’s lawsuit against the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) for unlawful censorship of a subway campaign featuring the use of condoms in 1994

Our Marathon: The Boston Bombing Digital Archive – WBUR Oral History Project Announces Lesson Plans

In the wake of the events that occurred on April 15, 2013 at the 117th Boston Marathon and on April 19, 2013 in Watertown, Northeastern University English Professor Elizabeth Maddock Dillon and Assistant Professor Ryan Cordell recognized the obvious need for a space where people could tell and share their stories with each other.  They believed that sharing stories from survivors, families, witnesses, visitors to the city, and everyone around the world touched by the event will speed the healing process, and wanted to create that space as a gift to the community. Together, they established the Our Marathon: The Boston Bombing Digital Archive, a crowd-sourced, digital archive of pictures, videos, stories, and social media related to the Boston Marathon bombing.  Thus far, they have acquired an archive of almost 10,000 items, 3 interactive exhibits, and 3 major collections.

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[April 21, 2013, from the Public Submissions collection]

This summer, I contributed to this remarkable endeavor as a Simmons School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) graduate summer intern sponsored by the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections Department and supported by the Project Co-Director James McGrath. In addition to exhibit building and social media, the main task of my internship was to create lesson plans for schoolroom use. Because children were affected by this crisis as well, the team at Our Marathon thought it would help the healing process for children to use the Our Marathon archives—to remember and share stories in the safety of their own classrooms.  Additionally, it can be difficult for teachers to navigate the complex questions young students ask and a resource like the digital archive can work as a great tool to facilitate age appropriate discussion. To that end, I helped create a Teaching Resources page for Our Marathon. This page showcases five lesson plans for Kindergarten through Grade 12 that utilize Letters to the City of Boston and The Copley Square Memorial collections,  and the WBUR Oral History Project as the basis for a teaching unit. These lesson plans are designed to demonstrate mastery of grade and subject appropriate Common Core Standards. Hopefully, these assignments will generate more student submissions to the archive as well as create a platform for an important dialogue amongst students and teachers. I look forward to reading about their experiences in the Our Marathon archives.