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About this site

This site showcases materials from various Boston archives selected by graduate students in the History and American Studies departments at UMass Boston. As part of the History course, “Transforming Archives in a Digital Age” (taught by Marilyn Morgan, during the three years she directed the Archives Program at UMass Boston), students conducted archival research on the broad topic of de facto segregation in Boston and the integration of Boston Public Schools while learning to construct a collaborative digital archive and exhibit.

The project started in spring 2015 and, for three years, subsequent classes built upon the site. Students, working within the archives of Boston City Archives, Northeastern University, Suffolk University, the University of Massachusetts Boston, and the Schlesinger Library examined thousands of highly charged letters written to city, state, and federal officials as well as community groups. After completing research, students designed exhibits to document the stark and subtle manners in which parents, teachers, students, neighborhood groups, community organizations, churches, officials, and the local media responded to desegregation of Boston Public Schools as it occurred. While many supported the idea of school integration in theory, vitriolic letters protested the manner in which desegregation was implemented--busing students to schools outside of their neighborhoods. Exhibits capture the raw fears, violence, and racist behavior exhibited by some; at the same time, some reveal the hopefulness, compassion, and peaceful approaches voiced by other individuals and groups.   

The items presented here do not represent complete collections from any one archive; rather, students selected letters, drawings, photographs, memorandums, interviews, and other materials to provide a representative sample of perspectives on “forced busing” in Boston. Using varied media and materials from local archives, the exhibits weave together a narrative about this chapter in Boston’s history. Students also blogged about their experiences researching their topics on Reflections on Researching the Desegregation of Boston Public Schools.

Acknowledgments and Thanks

To the individuals, named and anonymous, who offered to share their personal stories in interviews, we remain enormously grateful. Our class offers deep appreciation to the repositories listed below; without them this project would not have been possible.

Special thanks and deep gratitude goes to UMass Boston's Healey Library and Joanne Riley, University Archivist, who provided our platinum subscription to Omeka.net. Without that subscription and the Library's ongoing support this site simply would not exist!

Our class extends special thanks to the following individuals for selflessly sharing their expertise and time. They provided essential assistance and support in the creation and implementation of this project. Their involvement enriched this project immeasurably.

The class of 2016 extends thanks to the following individuals who graciously shared their knowledge, served as fascinating guest lecturers, and/or provided assistance and research support.

The inaugural class would like to thank all the archives and special collections libraries who worked with students and granted permission to include materials from their collections in our collaborative digital archive and exhibit, including:

Boston City Archives preserves Boston's municipal archival records and makes Boston's municipal archival records accessible to the public. The School Department - Desegregation Era Records, Mayor Kevin H. White records, Louise Day Hicks papers, and the Fran Johnene collection proved especially helpful to this project.

Moakley Archive and Institute, Suffolk University collects, preserves, and makes accessible its archival holdings which include the University's institutional records, the Congressman Moakley Papers, and other research collections related to Suffolk faculty and alumni. The oral history project and papers of Joseph Moakley were especially helpful to this project. 

Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections secures and makes accessible the most important and at-risk historical records of Boston's African American, Chinese, GLBTQ, and Latino communities. Its Boston History Collections preserve the records of Boston-area social justice organizations that serve under-represented communities. The METCO records and Jean McGuire papers were especially helpful to this project.

University Archives & Special Collections, University of Massachusetts Boston gathers material that supports the university's urban mission and strong support of community service. It collects records of urban planning, social action, alternative movements, and community organizations. The Wendell Arthur Garrity papers on the Boston Schools Desegregation Case and Mosaic records were especially helpful to this project.

The Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America holds the finest collection of resources for research on the history of women in America. The library's holdings are strong in: women's rights and feminism; health and sexuality; work and family life; education and the professions; and culinary history and etiquette. The Ruth Batson papers were especially helpful to this project.

For more information about the class, the program, or the site, or if you would like to suggest a related archival collection, or share your personal experience with school integration in Boston, please feel free to contact Marilyn Morgan, former Director of the Archives Program at UMass Boston.