About the Project

In 2015, Northeastern’s University Archives and Special Collections began coordinating a multi-archive scanning project whose goal was to make available archival material that relates to what how and why school desegregation happened in Boston, as well as the after effects it had on the community. This effort was made possible with financial and administrative support from the Boston Library Consortium (BLC), whose leadership has been essential to this project.

The BLC members participating in this project include:  University Archives and Special Collections at UMass Boston, the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections, The State Library of Massachusetts’ Special Collections, and Boston College Libraries. Additional archival partners include The Moakley Archive and Institute at Suffolk University and the Boston City Archives.

These partner institutions scanned materials in the collections they hold which relate to the desegregation of Boston’s public schools. The time frame covered originates with the Brown v. Board of Education decision (1954), works through the Civil Rights Act (1964), into and past the Morgan v. Hennigan case (1974), and the resulting citywide unrest, through the withdrawal of the court in the 1980s.

The outcome has been to create a digital library of material that can be widely disseminated for both curricular and scholarly use. This School Desegregation and “Busing” Digital Library is a lightweight, nimble project that attempts to lay the technical and descriptive groundwork for cross-institutional collaboration through the technical infrastructure of the DPLA and Digital Commonwealth. It also serves as the kernel of what all hope becomes a long-standing collaboration between the Boston Public Schools (BPS) and local archives. In an ideal world, all 57,000 BPS students visit an archive during their K-12 years. Realistically, digitizing this material allows teachers unfettered access to a deep pool of primary source material which can inspire students to learn more about the history of their own city and become emerging leaders.

“The central issue is not transportation; it is equal protection under the law.”
– Jesse Jackson (New York Times, March 8, 1982)

Beyond Busing
The most intense period of school desegregation in Boston is oftentimes referred to as the “Boston Busing Crisis,” identifying the historical moment with the violent backlash to busing. This backlash is most certainly reflected across our collections, such as in anti-busing chants distributed at protests or angry letters written to Federal Judge W. Arthur Garrity. At the same time, school desegregation was much more than busing alone, as reflected in the Morgan v. Hennigan decision itself and its far-reaching effects including the desegregation of BPS administrative staff and faculty. In these collections you will also find, for example, information about Civil Rights activism leading up to desegregation, the role of Latinos and advocacy for bilingual education, the hard work of parents and students in the implementation of desegregation, and the reflections of participants years later. 


Find below a list of  press related to the Boston Public Schools Desegregation Collection: