Boston

Women’s History Month in the Archive: Remembering Phyllis Ryan

This Women's History Month we're proud to highlight the collection of  Boston-based activist Phyllis Ryan. The Phyllis M. Ryan papers at the Northeastern University Library Archives and Special Collections trace the arc Ryan’s career trajectory through the 1960s to late '80s in Boston, documenting her role as a communicator, facilitator, and radical activist. However, Ryan is not the only figure present in her own collection. While the papers cover her work in Boston’s civil rights scene, combating institutional and political discrimination on the basis of race, ability, class, and faith, Ryan’s name and image appear alongside those of other public figures of the time.

A large portion of the papers are composed of newspaper clippings from and press releases to a wide range of publications. Many of Ryan’s most effective roles were operating as a go-between for progressive candidates and causes which she would relate to the press. The nature of Ryan's work frequently relegated her to a voluntary role of background character in the many political narratives she shaped, promoting movements and voices without promoting herself, creating access and elevating the voices of the marginalized without taking personal advantage.

Phyllis Ryan’s work in political activism began in school clubs while she attended Northeastern University, supporting local progressive campaigns, writing for the Northeastern News, and promoting collegiate activism on campus. After obtaining her degree, Ryan’s first major political successes began with raising awareness of housing discrimination in the Boston area with the Fair Housing Federation of Greater Boston. Ryan continued on to work in advisement and press representation for the Boston Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and was particularly active in the movement for racial integration of the Boston Public Schools. In response to the church bombings in Birmingham, Ala., during the 1960s, Ryan organized marches, sit ins, and a rally of 30,000 people on the Boston Common to raise awareness and solidarity. Significantly, she also organized Dr. Martin Luther King’s visit to Boston in April of 1965, working with local religious leaders to spend hours briefing Dr. King on the difficulties facing the Boston communities, and writing the speeches that he would give throughout his stay.

Ryan’s final political act of her long public career was a successful unification of Newton's local politicians to create wheelchair access for a nearby public lake. This act of path-making, public service, and barrier lifting is beautifully characteristic of Ryan’s public career.

Ryan’s careful voice and clear mind were operating influentially behind the scenes of so many political and social advances in Massachusetts, from combating right-wing extremist political campaigns to protesting the misuse of urban renewal funds, suing the New Haven (Conn.) Police Department for illegal wiretapping of politically active citizens’ homes, and advancing reform at Walpole State Prison. We invite you to look further at the life and work of an extraordinary public servant and iconic piece of Boston’s history of activism. While our reading room is currently closed, you can view the digitized collection online in the Digital Repository Service, and we hope to see you in person once the archive reopens!

Honoring “Jeep” Jones’s Legacy through Black History Month and Beyond

Clarence “Jeep” Jones, a former Deputy Mayor of Boston, Chair of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, and lifelong community activist, died Saturday, February 1, 2020. Jones was born a native to Roxbury in 1933, and grew up in a city that was both highly diverse, and divided along racial lines. 

Jones fondly recalled his childhood memories growing up in an interview with the Lower Roxbury Black History Project. He recounted that different friend groups developed rivalries across the neighborhood, but that they found a cathartic outlet through organized (and unorganized) athletic competitions. This resulted in what Jones reported to be “a very close-knit” community in Lower Roxbury, and set Jones on his trajectory to an athletic career in an out of state college. After a brief stint in the army, Jones returned home to Roxbury and worked in a number of youth engagement roles before being scouted for employment by Mayor Kevin White. 

 

While working in the city government, Jones became the first African-American person to hold nearly every role he was appointed to, most notably as the Chairman of the BRA and Deputy Mayor to Mayor White. In his role as Deputy Mayor, Jones played an integral role communicating and moderating between the black community of Boston and city administration through the Boston School Desegregation. Working as Chairman of the BRA, Jones participated in the groundbreaking act of granting the non-profit Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative eminent domain within a thirty acre area. DSNI remains the only non-profit to have received the right to self-determine development and use of land.

 

Jones is also credited with connecting various disadvantaged neighborhoods to the developing downtown area of Boston, encouraging a flow and flux of people and commerce. His services are recognized and honored in many formats across the years, including the naming of “Jeep” Jones Park in Roxbury, and an honorary doctorate in public service through Northeastern University.

You can continue to celebrate the legacy of Clarence “Jeep” Jones by visiting and listening to his oral history in the Lower Roxbury Black History project or view records related to his activism linked below.

 

 

Select Archives and Special Collections materials are now available in the Digital Public Library of America

NAACP pickets School CommitteeNearly 9,000 primary source documents and images curated and digitized by Northeastern University Libraries' Archives and Special Collections are now available in the Digital Public Library of America. The DPLA is a national resource that brings together digital materials held by American libraries, archives, and museums. Northeastern University Libraries' contribution to DPLA was made possible through our membership in Digital Commonwealth (our local DPLA Hub), who harvest the metadata and thumbnails from the DRS and make them available in the DPLA. The full set of contributed materials include videos from Northeastern's Holocaust Awareness Week programming, records from the Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción community development program, and many more. More than a third of the contributed materials document the desegregation of Boston Public Schools and busing of students in the 1970's and 1980's. With assistance from the library's Digital Metadata & Ingest group, Archives staff organized, selected, and digitized approximately 3,300 photographs, documents, and other printed ephemera created in the years before and after the busing proclamation was issued by Judge Garrity in 1974. The Archives chose to focus on Boston's history of desegregation as part of a coordinated effort with other institutions in the Boston Library Consortium to collect and digitize materials that "illuminate the complexity of state- and city-wide politics, community activism, and advocacy." As Northeastern, UMass Boston, Suffolk University, and other Boston-area institutions make their primary source materials available to the public, the DPLA's collection of artifacts documenting the desegregation of Boston Public Schools will grow. The end result will be a robust shared archive that will aid in national teaching and learning activities focused on the history and legacy of segregation and racism in the Unites States. The Boston Public Schools, for example, are already integrating these primary sources into the curriculum in an effort to “ensure that every Boston Public Schools student learns about this important and troubling chapter in our city’s history.” These 9,000 files are just the beginning of Northeastern University Libraries' contribution to the DPLA; we will continue to contribute to Digital Commonwealth and DPLA as more materials become available in our local repository.

The Media and Boston Public Schools Desegregation

The following is a series written by archivists, academics, activists, and educators making available primary source material, providing pedagogical support, and furthering the understanding of Boston Public School’s Desegregation history. View all posts [caption id="attachment_153804" align="alignleft" width="374"]Unpublished photograph by Clif Garboden September 1974 Unpublished photograph by Clif Garboden
September 1974[/caption] When the court-ordered desegregation of the Boston Public School system led to controversial practice of busing in the 1970s, the local and national media covered it prolifically. Pictures of protests and school buses flanked by police officers made for eye-catching footage. But as Phase II of Busing approached in September of 1975, some residents felt they were being unfairly represented.  Citizens of Charlestown complained that "the national media is always throwing up that we're a violent people" as Newsweek reporters camped out to see "the second act of Boston's national spectacle." To some extent, the Boston Phoenix, did the same.[1] However, very few pictures of anti-busing protests appear in the paper. Those that do create an impact; one chilling example however shows a group of young white men standing around a burning effigy captioned with a racial slur published on September 16th. [caption id="attachment_153798" align="alignright" width="277"]The Boston Phoenix, September 16, 1975 The Boston Phoenix, September 16, 1975[/caption] The Boston Phoenix instead chose to focus on individuals, a piece on Judge Wendell Garrity, the federal judge who ordered the desegregation, ran on September 9, 1975 and an article written by Tom Sheehan, ran on September 16, 1975, titled “Three Families in the Midst of Busing” which profiled three families dealing with busing in different ways. The Hollis family, an African-American family being bused from Jamaica Plain to Charlestown, the McDonoughs, a white family being bused who supported the endeavor, and the Wrenns, a white family who opposed the decision. Even the articles regarding the protests focused on police officers and how they dealt with the protester's attitudes towards them rather than the protesters themselves. Alongside these articles Boston Phoenix readers looked into the faces of those taking part in the drama; school committee members, police officers, parents, and most all, the children. One of the most prolific of these photographers, capturing the faces of these players was Clif Garboden. [caption id="attachment_153803" align="alignleft" width="300"]The Boston Phoenix, September 16, 1975 The Boston Phoenix, September 16, 1975[/caption] Clif Garboden began working for the Boston Phoenix as a freelancer in the late 1960s, eventually coming on the staff full-time. Garboden rose  to the position of Senior Editor by the time he left the Boston Phoenix in 2009. During the turbulent years of the sixties and seventies, Garboden took his share of photographs of events but many times he focused on the individuals involved. While he was still a college student at Boston University, his photographs captured speakers, musicians, and professors for BU News. Even at that early point in his career, his photographs show the events occurring without losing the individuality of the people in the crowd. His work during Busing is no different. The September 9th article on Judge Garrity includes not only a photograph by Garboden of the school committee in session which gives a sense of their work environment but the next page also provides close-ups of the members, their large name plagues dominating the foreground and their expressions betraying their thoughts and emotions of the subject matter. In the article “Three Families in the Midst of Busing”, Garboden photographed the pro-busing family the McDonoughs. While the photographers of the other two families chose to portray their subjects in the midst of action, Garboden’s shots are portraits, leaving it up to the reader to make their own judgement. This is not simply an editing choice, the Garboden Negative Collection, now available at Northeastern University’s Archives, shows that every shot he took was framed in this manner. [caption id="attachment_153806" align="alignright" width="399"]Anti-Busing Rally, Charlestown, August 1975 Unpublished Photo by Clif Garboden Anti-Busing Rally, Charlestown, August 1975
Unpublished Photo by Clif Garboden[/caption] The Garboden Negative Collection offers a peak into the editorial practices of the Boston Phoenix.  Garboden did take photographs of an anti-busing rally in Charleston but none of them ever made it to the paper. He took pictures of the reporting being done by the television news stations, possibly for an article regarding how the rest of the media was portraying the events. Instead, one of the most beautiful pictures he contributed to the Busing articles shows a lines of children, mostly Asian-American lined up at a bus stop in Chinatown accompanying an article by Nancy Pomerene. Although only one was published, the negatives show the amount of time Garboden took trying to preserve the sweet smiles of children who just wanted to go to school. In the midst of the hullabaloo Garboden and the Boston Phoenix tried to highlight the stories of those overshadowed by the rest of the media and their collections allow those narratives to remain for future generations.      
 

[1] Dumanoski, Dianne. "Charlestown - 'My Town" - Braces for Busing." The Boston Phoenix, September 02, 1975.

“Neighborhood Matters” Fall 2015 lunchtime movies announced

Neighborhood Matters is a lunchtime series that celebrates the ways in which community groups have shaped the neighborhoods surrounding the Northeastern campus. This series is co-curated by the Northeastern Center for the Arts and the Archives and Special Collections at the Northeastern University Library.
 The Series' fall series includes three films about the North End, Chinatown, and the impacts of the City's 1974 school desegregation efforts.

Boston’s North End: America’s Italian Neighborhood
Tue, Oct 13, 2015
12:00 pm, Snell Library 90, Free Lunch
Special Guest: Maureen McNamara; Filmmaker Nancy Caruso, Co-founder, North End Waterfront Central Artery Committee From 1870-1900, more than 4 million southern Italians left their home country, fleeing violence, social chaos, and widespread poverty. Boston’s North End tells the story of the individuals and families who found their way their way to Boston and settled in what became one of America’s oldest “Little Italy” communities.

The Struggle Over Parcel C: How Boston’s Chinatown Won a Victory in the Fight Against Institutional Expansionism and Environmental Racism
Tue, Oct 27, 2015
12:00 pm, Snell Library 90, Free Lunch
Special Guests: Giles Li, Executive Director of Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center (BCMC) Tunney Lee, Chief Architect in Chinatown's development and professor emeritus at MIT The Struggle Over Parcel C was created by Mike Blockenstein with the Asian Community Development Corporation and Boston-area high school students and is part of A Chinatown Banquet. This series of short documentaries explores the history, culture, and politics that shaped Boston’s most densely populated residential neighborhood, Chinatown.
Tue, Nov 10, 2015
12:00 pm, Snell Library 90, Free Lunch
Special Guests Donna Bivens, Director Boston Busing/Desegregation Project at the Union of Minority Neighborhoods (UMN) Dr. Polly F. Attwood, Northeastern University’s Department of Education Can We Talk? Learning from Boston’s Busing/Desegregation is a film that provides an intimate look at how people’s lives and the Boston community were changed by the 1970’s educational and racial crisis that garnered national attention.