Archives Diary: “An Isolated Example, but Very Encouraging”: Citywide Coordinating Council Monitoring Records

 “Don’t just stand there…Do something!” Boston Globe political cartoon reprinted in the Blackstone Square Community School annual, 1976.

“Don’t just stand there…Do something!” Boston Globe political cartoon reprinted in the Blackstone Square Community School annual, 1976, Carton 29, Folder 8, Citywide Coordinating Council, MS.1990.031, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

In our first blog post on the CCC, we introduced you to the records of the Citywide Coordinating Council (CCC), the autonomous citizen body created in 1975 by Judge W. Arthur Garrity Jr. charged with overseeing the implementation of comprehensive school desegregation in Boston Public Schools. The collection, in total, measures a good 64 linear feet — a healthy amount of material, prepared and waiting for researchers to dig into — and while we would love to profile each part of this complex collection of records in depth, alas, we must rein in our historical enthusiasm. Instead, we would like to give you a little peek into one of our favorite – and potentially most useful – parts of the CCC: school monitoring records.

On June 5, 1975, Judge Garrity called concerned citizens and parents to action by establishing citizen participation groups, under the authority of the CCC, in charge of inspecting schools and evaluating their compliance with desegregation orders. In addition, these groups were meant to serve as advisors to school personnel and suggest improvements to new education and desegregation programs when necessary. The Community District Advisory Councils (or CDACs) were the most authoritative of the bodies and most actively involved in monitoring tasks. Composed of ten parents, two students, and eight court appointees, this group reported directly to the CCC’s District Council Liaison (DCL). The CDACs evaluated schools in the eight areas that most challenged effective learning in Boston’s school districts: physical condition of facilities; transportation and safety; vocational education; bilingual education; special needs programs; desegregation of students, faculty and administrative staff; student government and discipline; and school/university educational pairings.

Monitor’s report from Brighton High School, 1976.

Monitor’s report from Brighton High School, 1976, Carton 34, Folder 31, Citywide Coordinating Council, MS.1990.031, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Reports on these issues were submitted in two ways:  detailed questionnaires completed by students, faculty, and staff and long-form narratives composed by a school monitors.  The long-form narratives offer some of the most interesting insight into the struggle for desegregated schools.  While always illuminating, the narratives can be disheartening.   Monitors reported violent incidents between black and white students, a great need for police presence in schools, and unequal treatment of black teachers and staff.  Monitors themselves were often treated with hostility by school administrators.  At Brighton High, one monitor observed, “I am forced to the conclusion that [the headmaster] regards my presence in the school as a threat …. Teachers who are friendly to me and supportive of desegregation have asked me to ‘please, don’t quote me. I don’t want to get in trouble with the boss.’”

Though the situations monitors described were often enough to evoke hopelessness in even the most fervent supporters of education equality, there were at least a few signs of improvement.  In January 1976, for example, monitors at Hyde Park High School described an environment so threatening that “150-200 black students gathered downstairs in the cafeteria for a ‘sit-in.’ Upon further investigation we learned the reason for the ‘sit-in’ – in light of the incident which occurred after school on Tuesday the black students did not feel it was safe for them to carry out a normal day at the high school.”  In May, however, monitors found a changed atmosphere. One monitor felt tensions in the school had relaxed;  “I just saw something here I never conceived happening in South Boston,” he elaborated, “In the lunchroom study hall, black and whites, male and female, sitting at the same table, talking normally. When the bell rang, they left together, still talking just like friends. An isolated example, but very encouraging.”

Monitoring flow chart, 1977.

Monitoring flow chart, 1977.

In a program that often saw little progress, even an isolated incident gave those who worked for toward success of Boston’s desegregation efforts a chance for hope.  Most promising was the fact that students were beginning to socialize together without pressure from adults.  Perhaps it would not be so unusual in the future.

The school monitoring records are far from the only interesting part of this newly processed collection, which is now open for research.   Please see the finding aid online, or contact the Burns Library Reading Room at 617-552-4861 or burnsref@bc.edu if you have any questions about these fascinating records. This collection would make a great resource for research on Boston’s complicated relationship with race and education.

  • Alexandra Bisio, Archives Assistant, Archives &  Manuscripts, John J. Burns Library

About John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections at Boston College

The University’s special collections, including the University’s Archives, are housed in the Honorable John J. Burns Library, located in the Bapst Library Building, north entrance. Burns Library staff work with students and faculty to support learning and teaching at Boston College, offering access to unique primary sources through instruction sessions, exhibits, and programming. The Burns Library also serves the research needs of external scholars, hosting researchers from around the globe interested in using the collections. The Burns Library is home to more than 200,000 volumes and over 700 manuscript collections, including holdings of music, photographic materials, art and artifacts, and ephemera. Though its collections cover virtually the entire spectrum of human knowledge, the Burns Library has achieved international recognition in several specific areas of research, most notably: Irish studies; British Catholic authors; Jesuitica; Fine printing; Catholic liturgy and life in America, 1925-1975; Boston history; the Caribbean, especially Jamaica; Nursing; and Congressional archives.
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