In the Archives: Massachusetts Rock Against Racism – Antiracism in the ‘80s

Author: Kayla Allen, Archives Assistant and graduate student in the History MA Program at UMass Boston

Mass. RAR, Inc.: The First 5 Years, 1985 February 19. This video is an excellent summary of the work that Rock Against Racism did from 1979 to 1985. It shows news clips, different RAR performances, and interviews with RAR leaders, including Reebee Garofalo, Fran Smith, Mackie McLeod, and student leader/producer Trae Myers. Some of the clips also include footage from “But Can You Dance to It?,” recordings from break dance crew performances, and sections from a remake of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video.

One of our digital video collections is from a group called Massachusetts Rock Against Racism (RAR). Back in the late 1970s and 1980s, this organization formed in order to address racism in the Boston community. Founders and leaders from RAR felt that popular music could transcend boundaries and bring people together, no matter how different these people were. Adults formed the organization and then brought it to Boston youth, specifically high school students. They held festivals where students and adults performed all kinds of music including rap, reggae, rock, and Latin. The festivals also featured break dancing and speeches from local officials and activists, including Mel King. In addition to these concerts, RAR worked with students to create variety shows at their schools and to script and produce a TV show called Living in a Rainbow World. RAR broadcast all of these shows. The leaders of the organization hoped that not only would students get to express themselves and reach across racial divides in the program, but they could also gain valuable workforce skills by being actively involved in the production and broadcasting of their work.

Footage used in Madison Park Rocks, English High All the Way Live, and the Jeremiah E. Burke Jam, 1984 March 18. Here are clips from three of the Rock Against Racism productions in Boston high schools. These include news clips with people like Donna Summers as well as a diverse group of students dancing, rapping, and singing.

In our collection we have final and unedited footage of these broadcasts, including several episodes of Living in a Rainbow World, three of the RAR Youth Cultural Festivals in Jamaica Plain and elsewhere in Boston, and variety shows from different Boston high schools. In addition, we have digital video of interviews with the leaders of RAR such as Reebee Garofalo, Fran Smith, Dan Richardson, Mackie McLeod, and student leader Trae Myers, as well as footage from professional concerts like the “World of Difference” Rock Against Racism television special, and from a one-time music and dance program called “But Can You Dance to It?” We also have videos featuring related people and organizations, including Project Aries (a similar program in Charlotte, North Carolina) and Karen Hutt (a woman working with the Business Connection, a youth entrepreneurial development program in Cambridge).

World of Difference television special, 1985 July 26. This is a Rock Against Racism concert and television special that aired on WCVB Channel 5 on July 26, 1985. Performers included the Red Rockers (rock), the O’Jays (R&B), the Rainbow Dance Company of Boston (modern/lyrical dance), Livingston Taylor (singer-songwriter/folk), and George Benson (jazz, funk, soul, R&B). The production also includes interviews with people such as Reebee Garofalo, Natalie Cole, The Fools, and Al Jarreau.

To see the rest of this footage, take a look at our digital collection and its finding aid (which includes descriptions of all the other RAR documents we hold in the UASC). To learn more about the Massachusetts Rock Against Racism program both then and now, check out their active Facebook page.

Let me know if you stumble across the footage of five young boys dressed up in matching outfits, singing and dancing to “El Coquí (Merengue)” by Carlos Pizarro (hint: they performed at the second Youth Culture Festival).

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In the Archives: Disappeared Children in Argentina and the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo

Author: Kayla Allen, Archives Assistant and graduate student in the History MA Program at UMass Boston

Black-and-white photograph of a large crowd marching in a street

Manifestación [Demonstration]

Photograph of a grandmother and granddaughter embracing

Argentina Rojo de Pérez y Mariana Pérez, found grandchild and Grandmother

Some of the most fascinating material in our digital collections is a series of interviews and other documents relating to Rita Arditti’s work in Argentina. Rita Arditti spent many years conducting interviews with members of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo. These women worked hard (and still work) to advocate for the children and grandchildren that were kidnapped or born captive between 1976 and 1983 during the violent military rule in Argentina. The Grandmothers have worked to create a DNA database so that the children, after being stripped of their identity, can learn who they are even if their family has already passed away. The Grandmothers have also worked with forensic teams and archivists to actively learn more about the kidnappings and captive births, as well as to provide a database for the children to learn more about their families’ histories. A few of the Grandmothers have been reunited with their grandchildren so far, and they hold out hope that more connections will be made.

Black-and-white photo of a street poster of a pregnant woman

‘Embarazada,’ afiche en una calle de Buenos Aires (de la colección de las Abuelas) [‘Pregnant Woman,’ poster in a Buenos Aires street (from the Abuelas’ collection)]

In our collection, we have photographs of the Grandmothers, images from their own photograph collection, interviews and transcripts of the interviews in Spanish, and a fully digitized copy of the Spanish version of Rita Arditti’s book, De por vida: historia de una bu?squeda: las Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo y los nin?os desaparecidos (Searching for Life: The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and the Disappeared Children of Argentina). We also have videos of Grandmothers Estela Barnes de Carlotto and Rosa Tarlovsky de Roisinblit speaking at events in the United States (with an English translator).

To learn more about the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and their work, check out our digital collection. You can find the English translation of Searching for Life: The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and the Disappeared Children of Argentina in the Healey Library and through UMBrella. There’s also an English article written by Rita Arditti on the Wellesley Centers for Women website, and the Grandmothers have their own website. Learn more about Rita Arditti here.

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In the Archives: A Revolutionary Campus Created in Park Square

Author: Kayla Allen, Archives Assistant and graduate student in the History MA Program at UMass Boston

Black-and-white photo of Albert Fulchino and John W. Lederle standing with Audrey Taub

Albert Fulchino and John W. Lederle with Audrey Taub, the first student accepted into the Boston campus of the University of Massachusetts, 1965

Until the mid-twentieth century, there was only one public university serving students in our state, the University of Massachusetts located in Amherst. In the 1960s, the Massachusetts legislature decided that we needed another: a school in the city that would serve the people of Boston and the surrounding area. The first student accepted to the Boston campus was a young woman named Audrey Taub, and the school made a big to-do of the occasion. 

UMass Boston’s first campus was at Park Square, and it opened in 1965. Our collections show this community forming at a tumultuous time, a period of protest in an America ready for revolutionary change. According to David Outerbridge, class of 1970

“Looking back through the haze of fifty years, I would like to say my four years at UMass Boston were a seamless progression of academic and personal growth. And in some measure they were, but they were also extremely difficult years when the world impinged on our lives in a way that changed the experience of college. Vietnam and the Civil Rights struggle overshadowed everything. My focus couldn’t be entirely on my studies. There were books on the war to read, teach-ins and demonstrations to go to. The pull of engagement in the world was strong.”

UMass Boston became a place where students could learn, not just academics, but about life. They were often directly participating in the struggles of their era, both on and off campus. On page seven of the September 22, 1969 edition of Mass Media, UMass Boston Afro-American Society President Alvan Johnson called for equity at UMass Boston:

“Even though advancements have been made in several areas, much more needs to be done. For instance; of a possible 275 faculty members, nine are Black; of a possible 3,500 students, six to seven percent are Black; course offerings are still very limited, and there still is no major either in African or Afro-American studies. The faculty and administration have responded to the voice of the minority in its midst.

But silence on our part now might be mistaken for contentment. I assure you, this is not the case. We have several projects to undertake, many more dragons to slay before this university is fit for people of all ‘races, creeds, and national origins.’”

We have several collections and posts to share pertaining to the Park Square campus. There are wonderful stories and photographs collected from alumni like David, faculty, and staff in the Park Square History Project on our UMass Boston Memories blog. Please browse and/or contribute! 

To read more from students (like Alvan Johnson) who experienced the Park Square campus, be sure to check out our digitized run of the Mass Media

Black-and-white photo of the front of UMass Boston's main building in Park Square

Facade of UMass Boston’s main Park Square building [viewed] from Statler Park

We also have a collection of over 180 digitized photographs (and its finding aid) taken on and around the original UMass Boston campus. Many of the photographs feature the main building at 100 Arlington Street and the library in the Armory across the road. I’ve selected a few of these photographs for you to check out at the end of this post.

In addition, many of the UMass Boston yearbooks have been digitized by the Internet Archive. Here you can see the 1969, 1970, and 1971 yearbooks, the three issues we have digitized that were created on the Park Square campus.

There is so much more to say about this incredible campus and the experiences of the people that learned and worked there. It feels almost impossible to conclude this post here, but I must (for now). Please keep your eyes peeled for future posts featuring the collections that tell the stories of UMass Boston.

If you’re interested in learning a bit more about 100 Arlington Street as it is now, check out this blog post written by Andrew Elder in 2014, right after the building was converted into a luxury apartment complex.


All photographs featured here are courtesy of the University Archives and Special Collections Department, Joseph P. Healey Library, University of Massachusetts Boston: University of Massachusetts Boston, historic photographs.

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In the Archives: Boston Normal School, “The most outstanding institution of its kind”

Black-and-white photo of young women performing a play outside of a school building

“Students performing a play.” Here we can see some of the Boston Normal School students putting on a play. I am unsure as to where this play took place, but given the photograph’s estimated time frame, it was probably at the Rice Building, the home to the Normal School from 1876-1907 (Flynn 1980, XVI).

Author: Kayla Allen, Archives Assistant and graduate student in the History MA Program at UMass Boston

Black-and-white photo of children sitting at tables in a classroom

“Primary school students in Appleton Street School within the Rice Building.” This is one of my favorite photographs from the collection. Here are young children in the model classroom at the Rice Building. Normal School students would get practical experience by teaching these little ones and working with master teachers. There were some beautiful classrooms in the Rice Building!

In the nineteenth century, the education of young children was changing. The standards a teacher had to meet before getting their own classroom were improving and more and more young women were encouraged to obtain an education beyond elementary school. One school that followed these educational trends over a century was the Boston Normal School (BNS). The City of Boston formed the Normal School to train girls to become teachers in the Boston Public School (BPS) system. The school grew and morphed and changed, eventually becoming the Teachers College of the City of Boston, then a state college, then Boston State College, and was then absorbed into the University of Massachusetts Boston.

The time frame for the University Archives and Special Collection’s Normal School digital photograph collection is from 1872 to 1922. This is the period after the Normal School separated from Girls’ High, its original partner, and became its own institution solely focused on the training of teachers. The school moved from a shared building with Girls’ High to the Rice Building on Dartmouth and Appleton Streets, and a couple of decades later, moved to its final space at 625 Huntington Avenue. At both of the newer locations, the school developed model schools with children from the community, staffed by some of the best teachers in the state who became mentors to the Normal School students (Flynn 1980, 47). 

Black-and-white photo of the exterior of a Boston Normal School building

“Boston Normal School exterior.” This is the Boston Normal School as it stood at 625 Huntington Avenue. To its left (our right) is the gymnasium that they shared with the Girls’ Latin School. Girls’ Latin had a similar building to the Normal School on the other side of the gymnasium. Behind the gymnasium was a courtyard, and behind the courtyard was the Patrick A. Collins Building, which also connected the Normal School and Girls’ Latin (Flynn, 37). Essentially, the buildings altogether made up one large square.

During this span of fifty years, the Normal School training program moved from two years long to three years long, and when students graduated, they did not get a degree but instead received certification that they could teach in the BPS system. The standards for teacher training changed greatly over the years of the Normal School, and at some points, the curriculum was different each year. Following the history of this school is similar to following the history of teacher training throughout the United States. One thing that made our Normal School particularly special is that up until 1931, Boston students did not have to pay to attend and students from outside the city had to pay very little (Flynn, 3). The City of Boston wanted any young woman interested in becoming a teacher in their schools to be able to do so, regardless of socioeconomic status.

Eventually, in 1922, following the trend of normal schools across the country, Boston Normal School became a teachers college and developed a curriculum that would allow students to get a bachelor’s degree in education in four years and a master’s in five. At this point, BNS had been allowing male students for a little over a decade. Clearly, times were changing, and the standards for teacher training were starting to settle into the ones we have today.

Be sure to check out the Normal School digital photograph collection and the finding aid for its home, the Boston State College collection. There are some gems waiting to be discovered!


Black-and-white group photo of Boston Normal School students outside of a school building

“Boston Normal School Class of 1919.” This photograph shows the students of the 1919 Boston Normal School graduating class with a man I believe to be Wallace C. Boyden, their headmaster. It is a particularly striking image; the girls’ faces look as if they’re floating in a sea of white. With the brick and marble facade of the building, it’s probable that this photo was taken on the Normal School campus at 625 Huntington Avenue.

The most invaluable source of information for this blog post was the 1980 History of Boston Normal School – Teachers College, 1852-1952 by Elizabeth D. Flynn, which we have in our digital collections. Flynn was once herself a student of Boston Normal School and created this text as an effort to preserve the school’s story. If you are at all interested in the history of teacher training in the United States or the Normal School itself, Flynn’s work is a fascinating read. 

The quote in the title of this blog post is taken from the article “How Vivid the Memories,” by Lillian Towne, Normal School class of 1885, in the Centennial issue of The Torch, a Normal School publication. Her article is quoted in Elizabeth Flynn’s book on page twenty-seven.

All images shared here are courtesy of the University Archives and Special Collections Department, Joseph P. Healey Library, University of Massachusetts Boston: Boston State College collection.

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In the Archives: A Peek Beneath Boston

Black-and-white photo of workers standing inside Sumner Tunnel

“Shield in Final Position.” Here is the Sumner Tunnel tunneling shield in its final position after breaching the Boston Vent Shaft. Presumably, that means it was all set and ready to start digging under Boston Harbor. These men were standing at the back of the shield. You can see how the tunnel was constructed behind it as the shield moved on.

Author: Kayla Allen, Archives Assistant and graduate student in the History MA Program at UMass Boston

Our Sumner Tunnel collection consists of a fascinating set of photographs and papers. It doesn’t only offer us information about the Sumner Tunnel. It gives us a visual understanding of underground and submarine construction work. It shows us the economics and geography considered in the 1930s improvement of Haymarket Square. It lets us peek at the architecture of Boston at the beginning of the twentieth century. Many of these compelling photographs show us extant and extinct buildings, ranging in location from Haymarket Square up to Clark Street. Other photographs give evidence of the different kinds of supports that buildings and streets needed while the tunnel was being constructed beneath them. Still more show Boston’s streets with a bird’s eye view.

My favorite pieces of the collection show the construction of the tunnel and buildings related to its use. When I started writing this blog post, I had no clue how underwater tunnels were created. Through research, I learned that the Sumner Tunnel was created with something called a tunneling shield. This is a cylindrical piece of machinery inspired by a type of boring worm. Mechanical constructions push the large tube through dirt, soil, or sand and create a pathway. Workers mine the dirt that comes in from the holes in the flat shield at the front of the tube and place supporting structures in the tunnel behind the tube as it moves. Compressed air at the front of the tunneling shield helps to make sure that the tunnel doesn’t collapse (1). With our photograph collection, we get a strong idea of how this worked for the creation of the Sumner Tunnel. We’ve included some photographs of the Sumner tunneling shield at the end of this post.

I was also intrigued by the photographs of the construction of above-ground buildings. Our collection shows the origins of the Traffic Tunnel Administration Building at the very end of the tunnel (where they originally started digging) and the North End Sumner Tunnel Ventilation Building between Clark and Fleet Street. The photographs show the process of constructing the Administration Building and give us a peek at the tunnel’s exit. They also show the tunneling shield entering into a large rectangular concrete vent. After the shield moved on towards the Harbor, workers built a structure over that vent that pumps poisonous air out of the tunnel and fresh air in. This building is still in use today, and you can see it as you walk along North Street. 

Be sure to check out the collection and its finding aid. I’m sure that they will inspire you to learn a little bit more about our incredible city! If you’d like to learn more about the Sumner Tunnel as it is today and its upcoming centennial restoration project, click here.


All images shared here are courtesy of the University Archives and Special Collections Department, Joseph P. Healey Library, University of Massachusetts Boston: Sumner Tunnel (Boston): construction photographs.

References

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Tunneling shield.” Encyclopedia Britannica, May 11, 2011. https://www.britannica.com/technology/tunneling-shield.

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