University Archives Receives Grant to Digitize Photographs Documenting Boston's Roxbury Neighborhood, 1950-1975
The Northeastern University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections Department has won a grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Library Services and Technology Act administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. The $20,336 award is for a project to digitize and make available on the Web 2,265 photographs and negatives, dating from 1950-1975, from the Freedom House collection.
In 1949, Freedom House was established by African American social workers Muriel S. and Otto P. Snowden to centralize community activism in the fight for neighborhood improvement, good schools, and harmony among racial, ethnic, and religious groups in Roxbury. Early programming focused primarily on activities for children, youth, and adults that would strengthen relations between the African American and Jewish residents of Upper Roxbury. Among the earliest projects Freedom House undertook was an application preparation workshop in collaboration with the American Friends Service Committee to help minority students and recent graduates apply for jobs. One of the few interracial pre-schools in the city at the time operated out of Freedom House, and throughout the 1950s, social programs for African American and Jewish teenagers focused on fostering brotherhood and good citizenship. Lectures at the popular Coffee Hours and Teas, and Sunday-at-8 forums covered a variety of current political, cultural, and social topics, including the civil rights movement. Speakers included Bayard Rustin (architect of the 1963 March on Washington), Louis Lomax (social critic and author), and representatives from the Freedom Riders and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
The images to be digitized document early activities to create an integrated Roxbury, citizen participation in the urban renewal of Roxbury, and early oversight of Boston Public Schools desegregation. The photographs include images of well-known figures (including Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Senator Edward M. Brooke, Senator John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Senator Edward Kennedy, Sammy Davis, Jr., Kitty Dukakis, and Boston mayors John B. Hynes, John F. Collins and Kevin H. White), local community activists (including Melnea Cass, Ellen Jackson, Herbert Tucker, and Hyman Kaplan), Freedom House events (including the Ebony Fashion Fair, anniversary celebrations, Coffee Hours and International Teas, playschool, youth group activities, and Citizens' Urban Renewal Action Committee meetings), and the Roxbury neighborhood (including images of individual buildings, the Roxbury Garden Project, Pilot House, Marksdale Gardens, Camfield Gardens, Trotter School, and the Roxbury YMCA).
This project continues Northeastern University Libraries' dedication to preserving and making accessible the history of Boston's African American community. View a list of special collections available for research in the NU Archives and Special Collections Department.