Political Correspondence

From the end of 1975 through the spring of 1976, Moakley's anti-busing efforts continued, sometimes in new ways. This section will showcase these efforts through his correspondence with other officials, including Boston City Councilor (and ROAR founder) Louise Day Hicks, U.S. Attorney General Edward Levi, members of the FBI, and the members of the Massachusetts Black Legislative Caucus. His interactions with these people and groups show that even after his efforts to secure an anti-busing amendment failed, he continued to pursue other avenues, but it appears as though he began to recognize that his options were limited. In addition, materials here indicate Moakley's increasing frustration with and condemnation of racial violence in Boston.

 

Correspondence between Boston City Councilor Louise Day Hicks and Congressman John Joseph Moakley

Correspondence with Louise Day Hicks, December 1975

 

"The situation in Boston is testimony to the failure of forced busing"

At the beginning of December 1975, Congressman Moakley’s former political rival (and ROAR founder), Louise Day Hicks, wrote to him from her position as member of the Boston City Council. This correspondence includes her letter as well as Moakley’s response. Councilor Hicks thanks Moakley for supporting anti-busing legislation in Congress, specifically mentioning his testimony at the House Democratic Caucus, and urges him to continue his efforts. In his reply, Moakley thanks her for her letter and for her support. He assures her that even though prior legislation has not been passed in Congress, he will continue to support other means of ending forced busing.

Correspondence between Boston City Councilor Louise Day Hicks and Congressman John Joseph Moakley

Correspondence with Louise Day Hicks, December 1975/January 1976

 

"[T]he grave Constitutional questions raised by Judge Garrity's unprecedented decision"

Less than two weeks later, Councilor Hicks had reason to write to Congressman Moakley again, this time in reaction to the receivership orders for South Boston High School, and in this letter, her words are not as cordial. She implies that such an order violates due process of law as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. She asks Moakley to form a Congressional task force to investigate and report on the true meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. In his reply (included with Hicks' letter), Moakley asserts that he also disagrees with the receivership orders, but that the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, Civil Liberties and the Administration of Justice, which would be responsible for any legislation on the matter, has declined to take action. He includes a copy of Subcommittee Chairman Bob Kastenmeier’s letter to him, which outlines this decision. 

This reply from Moakley is a first indication that he has begun to recognize that his legislative efforts to stop busing may be futile in the face of a judiciary committee that refuses to act. Unlike in previous letters, this time he does not promise that he will continue with his anti-busing efforts in Congress; he only “hope[s] that [Judge Garrity’s] order will be overruled on appeal.”

 

Letter from Congressman John Joseph Moakley to U.S. Attorney General Edward H. Levi Notes detailing Congressman John Joseph Moakley’s phone call with Attorney General Edward H. Levi

Attorney General Levi phone call notes, May 1976

 

"The education system is barely able to function"

Still, in the spring of 1976, Congressman Moakley still had not given up all hope that he could bring an end to forced busing. On April 5, 1976, Moakley sent the first letter shown here to U.S. Attorney General Edward H. Levi, briefly describing the negative effects that busing has had on the city of Boston. He goes on to request that the Department of Justice “conduct a review of Federal court busing orders.” He likely hoped that after doing an investigation, the Department of Justice would realize that busing was not the answer to school desegregation and would take action either to allow and anti-busing amendment to move forward or to find other solutions.

Just over a month later, Moakley wrote to Levi again. In his next letter, he further describes the negative effects of forced busing in Boston and more forcefully asks Levi to take action. This time, he doesn’t just ask that the Department of Justice review the busing orders; he asks that the Department file “a friend-of-the-Court brief in support of a Supreme Court review of busing to achieve racial integration…in our nation’s school systems.”

At some point after writing for the second time, Moakley telephoned Levi to follow up on his letters. The third document here includes notes on their phone conversation, which indicate that Moakley called Levi to “urge him to file an amicus curiae [or friend-of-the-court] brief in support of a review of the Boston desegregation case.” Levi informs Moakley that his office has not made a decision yet, but that it is under “active consideration.” 

Again, though, Moakley’s efforts were in vain. A Boston Globe article from May 30, 1976, reports that Levi decided not to “intervene” and did not file a friend-of-the-court brief.

 

 

Correspondence and memoranda regarding the FBI examination of attacks on Andre Yvon Jean Louis in October 1974 and Theodore Landsmark in April 1976

FBI memoranda and correspondence, October 1974 and April 1976

"The inhumanity, the indecency, and the outrageousness" of the attack on Theodore Landsmark

This next document relates to a consequence of forced busing that Moakley abhorred: racial violence. Consisting of twelve pages, the document includes FBI memorandums related to Congressman Moakley’s inquisitions into FBI investigations of two racially-motivated attacks on black men. The first two pages, dated October 9, 1974, refer to the beating of Andre Yvon Jean-Louis, a Haitian immigrant, by a group of men in South Boston. The remaining pages include reports dated April 15, April 14, and April 8, all of 1976 (they appear in reverse chronological order), relating to the beating of black attorney Theodore Landsmark by a group of white youths on City Hall Plaza. Also included in the second group of reports is a copy of an April 6, 1976, letter to FBI director Clarence Kelley from Congressman Moakley, in which he asks that the FBI “pursue vigorously an investigation into this matter [the Landsmark attack] to determine what steps the federal government can take to deter those who would wrongly believe that such attacks will be tolerated…”

Although the documents presented here do not actually mention forced busing, the attacks on Andre Yvon Jean-Louis and Theodore Landsmark are widely believed to have occurred as the result of racial tensions that were exacerbated by busing (newspaper accounts from the time period will attest to this). These attacks, and others like them, are likely a large part of the reason why Moakley continued to oppose busing at that time, even as his efforts fell short. In fact, he wrote to FBI director Clarence Kelly in regards to the Landsmark attack on the same day, April 6, 1976, that he first wrote to Attorney General Levi asking for a federal investigation into busing in Boston. He clearly felt that busing and violence were interrelated, and he wanted both to stop.

 

Correspondence between members of the Massachusetts Black Legislative Caucus and Congressman John Joseph Moakley

Correspondence with Massachusetts Black Legislative Caucus, April/May 1976

 

"I stand prepared to continue working...to stem the tide of violence"

This final selection of correspondence includes an April 26, 1976, letter to Congressman Moakley from members of the Massachusetts Black Legislative Caucus, a division of the Commonwealth’s Great and General Court, as well as Moakley’s response. In their letter, the caucus members condemn recent racial violence in Boston, particularly the attack on Theodore Landsmark. They assert that such attacks are part of a pattern of violence perpetrated by white youths and condoned by white adults and even local politicians. They “demand” that these politicians be investigated by the U.S. attorney general’s office and that federal funds to Boston be cut off “until it is established that a viable program has been created by Boston City Officials that guarantees access to all.” In his response, Congressman Moakley assures the caucus members that he “share[s] [their] anguish over the situation in our City today” and further condemns the recent acts of racial violence. He states, however, that he does not agree that funds should be withheld from the city, because too many people would be impacted by such funding cuts. Still, he goes on to assert that he will “continue working…to stem the tide of violence.”

 

As the documents in this section reveal, the spring of 1976 saw Moakley’s take new avenues in his anti-busing efforts. Instead of limiting his efforts to legislative action, he went all the way to the attorney general to seek judicial action. In the wake of increasing racial violence, he called on the FBI to intervene. As he wrote to the Black Legislative Caucus in April of 1976, “Today Boston is divided into angry and frightened communities.” As a politician so invested in his constituents, both black and white, the impact of forced busing was a heavy burden for him to bear. While the busing story certainly does not end where this exhibit’s chronology does, in the spring of 1976, the primary source materials provided here document the most tumultuous years surrounding Judge Garrity’s decision, and they illuminate the efforts of an elected official who wanted equal educational opportunities for all of his constituents, but who did not see forced busing as the way to achieve this.

To read transcripts of oral history interviews with Congressman Moakley himself, as well as with others who were close to him, please click through to the final section of the exhibit. 

Political Correspondence