Community leader Mel King donates papers to the Archives at UMass Boston

The Africana Studies Department and the Joseph P. Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston are pleased to announce the recent acquisition of the Melvin H. King papers, which will be preserved and made publicly available for research by the University Archives and Special Collections Department.

Black and white photograph showing crowd of people on a stage, including Mel King, his daughter Pamela, and his wife Joyce

Mel King (center, with fist raised), with his wife Joyce (to his left) and his daughter Pamela (to his right) on the evening of the Boston mayoral primary in 1983, which King won by 98 votes. October 11, 1983. Photo credit: Marilyn Humphries.

Born in 1928 in Boston’s South End neighborhood to immigrants from Guyana and Barbados, Mel King has had a long and significant career as a political activist and community organizer. He graduated from Boston Technical High School in 1946 and earned a B.S. in mathematics from Claflin College in 1950 and an M.A. in education from Boston State College in 1951. King served as the Director of Boys’ Work at Lincoln House, a settlement house in the South End, and as the Director of the New Urban League of Greater

Boston. In 1968, he organized a “Tent City” demonstration in protest of a planned parking garage in the South End. Twenty years later, in 1988, a housing complex was built on that site and dedicated as Tent City. The Archives in the Healey Library holds the records of the Tent City Corporation, as well as other additional papers related to King’s work and activism.

Image of a flyer for Melvin H. King's campaign for Boston School Committee in 1964 and 1965

Front of flyer for King’s 1964-1965 election campaign for the Boston School Committee (click image for PDF of flyer)

King worked as an Adjunct Professor of Urban Studies at MIT for twenty-five years, where he founded and served as the Director of the Community Fellows Program in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. He published a book, Chain of Change: Struggles for Black Community Development, through the South End Press in 1981. King has received honorary doctoral degrees from New England School of Law, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Boston Architectural College, and University of Massachusetts Boston.

King ran for election to the Boston School Committee in 1961, 1963, and 1965, and served as a State Representative in Massachusetts from 1973-1982. In 1983 he was the first Black mayoral candidate in the City of Boston to make it to the General Election. He founded the Rainbow Coalition Party in Massachusetts, which merged with the Massachusetts Green Party to become the Green-Rainbow Party in 2002.

On behalf of the King family, Rep. King’s daughter, Pamela, said: “Melvin H. King, Sr., Joyce King, and family are pleased to donate the papers and works of Melvin H. King, Community Leader, former State Representative and author to the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Healey Library Archive. Mel received his Masters in Mathematics from Boston State Teacher’s College which was incorporated into the UMass Boston system. He also received an Honorary Doctorate at the recommendation of former Chancellor Keith Motley who had requested to have Mr. King’s papers be placed in the archives at the university. We thank the Africana Studies Department and Professor Jemadari Kamara for assisting with the donation and Andrew Elder of the Archives Department for making the transition of materials to the library. We hope the students, faculty and staff will utilize the collection and add to the growing links in the Chain of Change.”

Image of flyer for Mel King's reelection campaign for State Representative

Front of flyer for King’s 1974 reelection campaign for Massachusetts State Representative (click image for PDF of flyer)

“Given UMass Boston’s deep commitment to anti-racism, community engagement and social justice, we are honored to serve as the research home of the Mel King papers,” said Interim Dean of Libraries Joanne Riley. “On behalf of the Healey Library, I would like to express our gratitude to Representative King for donating these materials documenting his phenomenal work and influence, and to his family for helping us organize the smooth transfer of 80 cartons to campus. We are excited about working with faculty and students from Africana Studies and from across campus to prepare the collection to be publicly available for research.”

The Melvin H. King papers comprise 80 boxes of original archival materials documenting King’s lifetime of work as a Boston-based organizer, politician, activist, and educator. Topics include restorative justice, housing, education, agriculture and urban farming, advocacy for formerly incarcerated people, and computer literacy training. Among the materials in the collection are articles, audiovisual materials, books, correspondence, journals and notebooks, magazines, newspapers and newsletters, pamphlets and flyers, photographs and slides, poetry, reports, speeches and campaign materials, and various ephemera. Additional materials related specifically to King’s mayoral campaign in the early 1980s are housed in the Archives at Roxbury Community College.

This acquisition was made possible by Dr. Jemadari Kamara and Dr. Tony Van Der Meer in UMass Boston’s Africana Studies Department.

Color photograph shows King giving a speech in front the Trinity Church in Copley Square.

Boston mayoral candidate Mel King speaking at a rally in Copley Square in October 1983.

For more information about the Melvin H. King papers, including updates on when the collection will be available for research, please visit blogs.umb.edu/archives or contact library.archives@umb.edu.


University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston was established in 1981 as a repository to collect archival material in subject areas of interest to the university, as well as the records of the university itself. The mission and history of UMass Boston guide the collection policies of University Archives & Special Collections, with the university’s urban mission and strong support of community service reflected in the records of and related to urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, war and social consequence, and local history related to neighboring communities. To learn more, visit blogs.umb.edu/archives.

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In the Archives: Columbia Point and UMass Boston

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

Color photograph of the UMass Boston campus as seen from the water

UMass Boston campus on Columbia Point in Dorchester, circa 1974

From the university’s inception in the mid-1960s, UMass Boston trustees started to plan where to put the permanent campus, as Park Square was always intended to be temporary. Originally several sites were considered, including Highland Park in Roxbury, Copley Square, and North Station, but the final choice was Columbia Point. Many students and faculty members disapproved of the decision, while others were pleased and looked forward to the new space. It was a contentious time for all parties involved. Even so, the plan went forward and the construction of our current campus began.

Our University Archives Historic Photographs digital collection consists of more than 3,600 digitized photographs documenting the Columbia Point campus from its creation through 2009. The collection includes aerial shots of the peninsula before, during, and after construction started in 1971. The main structures on the land at the time were the Calf Pasture Pumping Station, Boston College High School, and the Columbia Point Housing Project, all of which are represented in our collection. 

Our photographs also document events that took place at the Columbia Point campus, including festivals, dinners, commencement ceremonies, receptions, lectures, open houses, and many others. The images show us the buildings on campus and give us a peek into the lives of UMass Boston students, faculty, and staff, both in and out of class.

We expect our photograph collections to grow as the campus continues to evolve. Check out our University of Massachusetts Boston, historic photographs, 1964-2009 collection to see the photographs we’ve collected so far, as well as the collection’s finding aid.

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In the Archives: François Sully and the Vietnam War

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

Black-and-white photo of Francois Sully standing in a foxhole holding his camera

Sully in foxhole at Binh Gia,  January 9, 1965

One of the largest digital photograph collections we have in the University Archives and Special Collections is that of François Sully. Sully was a soldier with the French Army until he was discharged in Saigon in 1947. After he left the French forces, he became a photojournalist and documented the war for news sources including Time and Newsweek. He took photographs of politicians and officers, soldiers and civilians, and villagers and their villages. Many of his photos show the destruction and violence of the long war, while others show people going about their daily lives as best they could. Some of the subjects include religious figures, the aftermath of battles, celebrations such as Tet, ancient monuments and tombs, student protests, and the lives of Europeans in Vietnam. 

Later on, Sully created two publications about the war and the experiences of those that lived through it: Age of the Guerilla: the New Warfare (New York: Parent’s Magazine Press, 1968; reprinted by Avon, 1970) and We the Vietnamese: Voices from Vietnam (New York: Praeger, 1971).

Our digital collection includes more than 1,000 photographs taken by François Sully and his companions. Check it out here, as well as its finding aid. You can also request access to Sully’s written materials by emailing us at library.archives@umb.edu

If you are interested in learning more about the US experience in the Vietnam War, we have several oral histories recorded and transcribed of Congressional Medal of Honor recipients that served in the Army, the Marine Corps, and the Navy at the time. Interviews were conducted by student veterans in Professor Erin Anderson’s course, “Oral Histories and the Veteran Experience.” Three of the interviews, those of Jack H. Jacobs, Harvey C. Barnum Jr., and Thomas G. Kelley, discuss the war in Vietnam. 

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Theresa-India Young exhibition at the Piano Craft Gallery

University Archives and Special Collections is pleased to highlight an exhibition that features the artwork of Theresa-India Young and other contemporary artists. Legacy: A Continuous Thread will be held at the Piano Craft Gallery from October 1-24, 2021. A reception is scheduled for October 15 from 6:00-9:00 pm.

Postcard for "Legacy: A Continuous Thread" featuring Theresa-India Young and contemporary fiber artists

Postcard for “Legacy: A Continuous Thread” featuring Theresa-India Young and contemporary fiber artists

University Archives and Special Collections holds the Theresa-India Young papers, 1917-2011, bulk 1975-2008. This collection documents the life and work of fiber artist, interdisciplinary arts teacher, and educational consultant Theresa-India Young. The collection also contains personal papers relating to Young’s family, her early years in Harlem, and her education, travel, and genealogical research, particularly into her Gullah heritage. Young’s interest in and advocacy for multiculturalism and diversity in education is well-documented throughout the collection, with a particular focus on unearthing and preserving African and Native American traditions. Her fiber art was informed by her research into African aesthetics and traditions, particularly weaving and hair braiding. Much of her research is preserved in the collection in the form of clippings, handwritten notes, and varied publications. As a longtime resident of the Piano Factory, Young lived and worked within a dynamic local arts scene. The collection documents her relationships with other local artists, like Allan-Rohan Crite, as well as the issues they faced, such as affordable housing.

In the late 1960s Young was a student at the Harlem Youth Arts Program (Haryou Act) and studied with painter Norman Lewis and was an apprentice to Zelda Wynn, Costume Designer for the Dance Theatre of Harlem. She graduated from the High School of Art and Design in 1968 and studied at various institutions, such as Parsons School of Design and SUNY at New Paltz, where she received a degree in Arts Education and African Studies in 1973. In 1972 she studied West African Religion and Art at the University of Legon in Accra, Ghana.

In 1975 she won a scholarship to Boston University’s Program in Artisanry for Textiles. Since that time, she resided in the Boston area and maintained a home and studio at the Piano Factory artists’ building. From 1978-1983 she was Artist-in-Residence at Northeastern University’s African American Master Artist-in-Residency Program (AAMARP).

For more information on Theresa-India Young’s life and work see the finding aid for the Theresa-India Young papers.


University Archives and Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives and Special Collections welcomes inquiries from individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in donating materials of an archival nature that that fit within our collecting policy. These include manuscripts, documents, organizational archives, collections of photographs, unique publications, and audio and video media. For more information about donating to University Archives and Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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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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