Black History Month: Black History at UMass Boston

Author: Maci Mark, Archives Assistant and graduate student in the Public History MA Program at UMass Boston

Happy Black History Month! Black History Month is celebrated during the month of February every year as a way of celebrating important people and events from across the African diaspora. Here at UMass Boston, we have many collections about the Black history of Boston and our campus. Over the course of the month, we will be highlighting some of these collections and stories.

Students sitting in classroom desks listening to a lecture

Students listening to a lecture in a classroom on the Park Square campus, circa 1965-1974

First founded in 1964, the University of Massachusetts Boston was created to serve the urban population of the City of Boston. UMass Boston was envisioned as a place of education for underserved communities, and to support working class students, first generation students, and those that could not afford the elite private schools which made up the educational offerings in Boston. UMass Boston has served these communities for more than fifty years, including the Black community of Boston. Black students have always been a core part of the campus community and have fought to make change and feel represented on campus. 

Only three years after the university’s establishment, by the 1967-1968 academic year, UMass Boston had 100 Black students out of its 2,600 student population. While 26 Black students out of every 100 is not a lot, especially with the university’s goal of supporting urban students (which at the time meant thousands of Black students), this actually made UMass Boston one of the most racially diverse schools in the country at the time.

Black students on campus quickly formed the Afro-American Student Association to find community and advocate for their needs on campus. The students in this organization, led by Alvin Johnson, led protests and staged a sit-in at the 1970 summer class registration to demand the hiring of more Black tenure-track faculty and more Black students admitted to the university. At this time there was only one Black tenured professor on campus, James Blackwell.

James Blackwell sitting in front of a chalkboard


Professor James Blackwell teaching a class at the Columbia Point campus, circa 1974-1978

Despite being the first and only Black tenured professor on campus, Professor Blackwell had a big impact. He was an early advocate for a Black Studies department on campus, which was established as the Afro-American Studies Department in 1973 (currently the Africana Studies Department). 

The advocacy did not stop in the 1970s. The William Monroe Trotter Institute for the Study of Black Culture was founded in 1984. This institute allowed for further research and study into Black life and culture. 

Portrait of Harold Horton

Dr. Harold Horton, the first Associate Director of the William Monroe Trotter Institute, circa 1984-1989

The work that Alvin Johnson started with the Afro-American Student Association in the 1970s continues with the many cultural community groups for Black students that exist on campus today to help students find community and advocate for themselves, including the Black Student Center, Haitian American Society, African Students Union, Ghanaian Student Association, and the UMB NAACP Campus Chapter.

University Archives and Special Collections works to have engaging collections that reflect the history of Black Bostonians and Black students at UMass Boston, including (but not limited to) the recently-donated Mel King papers, the Theresa-India Young papers, the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive, the Reverend Edward B. Blackman papers, and the Robert C. Hayden: Transcripts of oral history interviews with Boston African American railroad workers. Check out these collections to learn more about the Black history of Boston. To learn more about the history of UMass Boston, check out UMass Boston at 50: A Fiftieth-Anniversary History of the University of Massachusetts Boston by Michael Feldberg.

References

Feldberg, Michael. UMass Boston at 50: A Fiftieth-Anniversary History of the University of Massachusetts Boston. Boston: UMass Boston, 2015.


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: 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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Historic university records, publications, and photographs now available for research

University Archives & Special Collections (UASC) in the Joseph P. Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston is pleased to announce that six collections of previously unavailable archival material are now open for research.

Man leans against a pole with street signs for Arlington Street and Columbus Avenue in front of a University of Massachusetts building

UMass Boston’s original campus at Park Square in downtown Boston, circa 1964-1974. From UAPHO-0001, box 2, folder 34.

This is the second in a series of posts to announce newly available collections, toward the goal of making all of UASC’s collections, both processed and unprocessed, open for research. Collections that have not been processed, or that are minimally processed, will be made available upon request to researchers in approximately two to three weeks, depending on the size and complexity of the collection. Contact library.archives@umb.edu for more information.

To learn more about the collections that were made available this week, click the collection title in the list below.

  • University of Massachusetts Boston. Office of University Events and Ceremonies records, 1965-2016: Materials include convocation and commencement programs, invitations, and photographs. The programs include the order of events, names of degrees, honorary degrees, certificates, award recipients, and commencement facts and acknowledgements.
  • Publications Office records, 1979-1991: The Publications Office produced the majority of the university’s publications. On August 1, 1998, Chancellor Sherry H. Penney conducted reorganization of several departments at the administrative level to strengthen communication and enrollment efforts. This reorganization created one unit that was responsible for enrollment and communication services. Materials consist of files kept by regular staff and include receipts and correspondence for creating publications such as catalogs, invitations, and posters for various departments across campus. Some of these publications can be found within this collection.
  • University of Massachusetts Boston historical photographs, 1964-2009: These photographs document the history of the University of Massachusetts Boston from its founding in 1964 through 2009. Topics include the planning and establishment of the campus, campus construction, the founding convocation, commencements, student life, campus landscapes, campus building interiors, and campus events. Formats include photographs, slides, negatives, DVDs, CDs, and VHS tapes.
  • University of Massachusetts Boston. Government Relations and Public Affairs Office, 1982-2005: The Division of Government Relations and Public Affairs serves as the primary point of contact and source of information about the University of Massachusetts Boston, university events, and achievements. These photographs, negatives and CDs in the collection document the activities of the division.
  • University of Massachusetts Boston. Faculty Senate, 1967-1984: The Faculty Senate is the governing body of the College of Liberal Arts (CLA). Its primary task is to attend to collegiate matters, and its actions and views are to be considered the official actions and views of the college. These records document the activities of the Faculty Senate. Materials include by-laws, minutes, reports, correspondence and notes. Materials on various university committees can also be found in the collection.
  • University of Massachusetts Boston. Chemistry Department records, 1971-2012, bulk 1990-2005: These records document the activities of the Chemistry Department at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Materials consist of files kept by regular staff and faculty, and include semester highlights, annual reports, program proposals, a proposal for the Science College, and correspondence.

For questions about these collections or to schedule a research appointment, please contact library.archives@umb.edu or 617-287-5469.


University Archives & 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 & 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 & Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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Office of Institutional Research, Assessment, and Planning records, 1964-2012, now available

Original UMass Boston Plan, 1964 September

University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston is pleased to announce that archival materials from the university’s Office of Institutional Research, Assessment, and Planning records, 1964-2012, have been fully processed and are available for research. Read the finding aid for this collection.

This collection documents the activities of the Office of Institutional Research and Planning at the University of Massachusetts Boston from the establishment of UMass Boston in 1964 through 2012. The bulk of this collection contains long range plans, five-year plans, enrollment reports, statistical portraits pertaining to retention and student enrollment, white papers, notes, and correspondence.

One document of note is the 1964 University of Massachusetts plan for the creation of a public university in Boston to serve the educational needs of the metropolitan area. Included in the plan are the minutes of task force meetings, proposed curriculum, space projections, student distribution information, and sites for consideration downtown and in the Greater Boston area.

The Office of Institutional Research, Assessment, and Planning provides data in support of policy formation, decision making, assessment, and planning. Annual publications include: Fast Facts, Who Are Our Students? and Statistical Portraits. The office is the primary source for official campus statistics, complying with federal, state, and university reporting standards and requirements. The office coordinates or completes the major college guides and professional association surveys, and conducts student surveys and special research studies in support of university policy formation, assessment, and accountability (1).

The finding aid for the Office of Institutional Research, Assessment, and Planning records is available here.

For questions about this collection or to schedule a research appointment, please contact library.archives@umb.edu or 617-287-5469.

For more information about the history of UMass Boston and related collections held in University Archives & Special Collections at UMass Boston, click here.

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Sources:

1. “Home Page.” Office of Institutional Research, Assessment, and Planning. University of Massachusetts Boston, n.d. Web. 11 Jan. 2017.


University Archives & 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 & 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 & Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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