Scholar Exhibits

Boston’s 1960s Civil Rights Movement: A Look Back

The Boston’s 1960s Civil Rights Movement: A Look Back collection was created in the spirit of the African symbol Sankofa that in the Akan language of Ghana is loosely translated as “Go Back to Fetch It,” meaning to learn from one’s past. It consists of more than 14-hours of WGBH radio and television programming created during the 1963-1967 period of the civil rights movement in Boston. The collection provides an opportunity for students and scholars to get a closer look at some of the historic events in Boston’s civil rights history as they actually unfolded, from the perspective of the activists, participants and other stakeholders.

The collection features discussion panels presenting the views of local civil rights leaders, educators and other activists that provide the historical context of the efforts of Boston Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), African American parents and their allies to desegregate the Boston Public Schools a decade before the court-ordered busing in the 1970s. It also includes broadcasts and interviews with local and national civil rights leaders, community residents, the clergy and public officials related to events such as the March on Roxbury, the NAACP Sit-In at the Boston Public School Headquarters, 15 Beacon Street, the Mothers for Adequate Welfare Sit-In and the Roxbury Uprising. The bulk of the Boston’s 1960s Civil Rights Movement collection is the more than 8-hours of programming that focuses on the 1963 and 1964 Stay-Out for Freedom campaigns, a nonviolent, direct action movement against de facto segregation in the Boston Public Schools led by James Breeden and Noel Day. One of the first school boycotts in the North, it is also the subject of the accompanying essay. It includes radio recordings of interviews with the leaders and children, press conferences and live broadcasts of the day’s activities of the Freedom Schools.