Community Group Interactions
In addition to letters from individual constituents, Congressman Moakley also received mail from community organizations. Most of these organizations encouraged him to act, or to continue to act, in Congress on behalf of his district to put an end to forced busing. This section of the exhibit includes a sampling of correspondence from some of these community groups, as well as selected non-correspondence materials from Moakley's files that provide further insight into the missions of anti-busing groups. Continuing the theme from the previous section of personal reactions to forced busing, the primary source documents in this section shed light on the ways in which people organized in their opposition.
The button shown here was distributed by one of the most prominent anti-busing organizations, South Boston-based Restore Our Alienated Rights, or ROAR.
"Lawlessness and contempt for the law" in South Boston
The first letter in this section is an anomaly in that it represents the opinions of a group that was not anti-busing, but that was opposed to the way that the Boston Police Department and Boston Mayor Kevin White handled the violence that accompanied the start of busing in September of 1974. Just days after school started, two representatives of the Columbia Point Health Association at the Columbia Point Housing Project in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood originally sent this letter to Massachusetts Governor Francis Sargent, with a copy (shown here) sent to “Senator Joseph Moakley” [sic]. In their letter, they ask Governor Sargent to call upon Judge Garrity to bring in federal marshals to help black children from the Dorchester neighborhood get to school in South Boston safely. They describe frequent “assaults” upon these children and their families in South Boston and criticize the Boston Police Department and Boston Mayor Kevin White for “obvious inability and lack of commitment” in dealing with the issue. While the rest of the materials here relate to anti-busing organizations, this letter is nonetheless a good example of the passion with which community groups reacted to busing and of the types of requests that such groups made of public officials.
"The need for constructive oppostion...has never been greater"
The rest of the materials in this section relate to Congressman Moakley's interactions with specifically anti-busing community groups. The correspondence here from May of 1975 includes a letter sent to Moakley from the president of Mass. Citizens Against Forced Busing, Inc., Marianne Procida, as well as Moakley’s response. In her letter, Ms. Procida thanks Moakley for his “strong ant-busing stand” in Congress and requests a meeting with him for her group. In his response, Moakley agrees to a meeting, letting her know that his staff will contact her to schedule it. Moakley's quick reply indicates his willingness to work together with grassroots organizations in their opposition to forced busing.
"The forcibe busing of children to desegregate our public schools is unconstitutional"
Another anti-busing organization in Boston was the West Roxbury Information Center (WRIC). Congresman Moakley's files do not contain any correspondence with this group, but they do contain a copy of the WRIC's first newsletter, called "The True Paper" (shown here). The first issue is, according to its creators, part of a series of publications that will present “a factual account of busing and its affect [sic] on the children of Boson, the citizens of Boston, and the city itself.” It begins by denying that the Information Center promotes "racism, bigotry, and violence.” The group asserts their constitutional right to free speech, and that they will use this right to protest “this illegal act being perpetrated on us by a Federal Judge, who has exceeded his judicial powers.” The newsletter outlines the group’s formal mission statement, provides information on several recent developments regarding the busing issue, and includes a mailing list reply form as well as contact information for the Center and for Massachusetts politicians.
"The use of innocent children in a social experiment is repugnant:
The correspondence shown here is between ROAR and Congresman Moakley and is from October of 1975. In the first letter, Rita Graul, chairperson of the anti-busing organization Restore Our Alienated Rights (ROAR), expresses her group's support for a constitutional amendment to ban forced busing and asks Congressman Moakley to support such an amendment, as well.
The next series of correspondence is from mid-October 1975 and includes a telegram sent to Moakley from ROAR, as well as Moakley’s response. In their telegram, ROAR asserts a more foreceful stance, “respectfully demand[ing]” that Moakley be present at a congressional conference with President Gerald Ford that is being organized by Senator John Tower of Texas to discuss alternatives to forced busing. In his response, Moakley assures the group that he has been working closely with Senator Tower to arrange such a meeting with President Ford, and that the president has agreed to the meeting, which will be scheduled soon. Moakley also sent ROAR a copy of a letter that he sent to Senator Tower thanking him for his support; this letter is included with this correspondence. From Boston Globe accounts of the time, we know that while Moakley did wish to join Senator Tower at his meeting with President Ford, his request to attend was denied. As his legislative files reveal, at the end of October Moakley did go on to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee to assert his opposition to busing, but those efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.
"We demand...we demand...we demand..."
In December of 1975, following the receivership orders for South Boston High School, ROAR again asserted its demands, this time in a formal ten-item list, a copy of which is available in Congressman Moakley's files. Among other demands, the group insists that Boston's representatives in the U.S. Congress address numerous perceived injustices at South Boston High School and that these same representatives "play a leadership role" in the passage of a constitutional amendment to ban forced busing. (Although there is no record of Moakley's response (if any) to this list of demands, we know from Boston Globe accounts that he continued to support anti-busing legislation into the 1980s.)
"Mourn for the Cradle of American Liberty!"
The specific origins of final document in this section are unknown, but it expresses the representative feelings of group who refer to themselves as the collective "parents of the children of Boston.” In the statement, which is likely from December of 1975, the writers express their anger over the receivership of South Boston High School, calling Judge Garrity’s orders unconstitutional. They assert their belief that their elected officials in Congress, including Moakley, have not done enough to denounce the receivership and call on them to take action. The writers also make reference to a sit-in at the "Federal Building," which could be the same sit-in at the John F. Kennedy Federal Building mentioned in a Boston Globe article from December 17, 1975. The article describes "[a] group of demostrators, most of them members of Restore Our Alienated Rights" who staged a sit-in "in the Boston offices of the Massachusetts congressional delagation as a means of demanding action from their representatives.
As the documents in this section show, between the start of school in September of 1974 and the receivership orders in December of 1975, several different community organizations shared their thoughts with (and made demands of) Congressman Moakley. The chronology of documents here ends in December of 1975, but the next section, which consists of Moakley's correspondence with other public officials, picks up there and continues into 1976. Because it includes several letters written by Moakley, the next section further illuminates his anti-busing actions in 1976, which are not as well-documented in other sections of his records.