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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 590: T-490

Papers of Ruth Batson, 1919-2009 (inclusive) 1951-2003 (bulk)


Papers of Boston, Massachusetts, community and civil rights activist Ruth Batson.


  • Creation: 1919-2009
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1951-2003


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Ruth Batson is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


3.75 linear feet ((5+1/2 file boxes, 1 folio box, 1 card file box) plus 3 folio+ folders, 1 supersize folder, 8 photograph folders, 2 folio photograph folders, 1 audiotape)

The collection includes correspondence, photographs, scrapbooks, speeches, writings, travel diaries, etc., documenting Batson's work as a civil rights advocate and educator in Massachusetts. Also included are reports, minutes, memos, publications, etc., from various organizations with which Batson was active, including Boston University, Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO), the Museum of Afro American History, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Ruth M. Batson Educational Fund. Letters, scrapbooks, photographs, and autographs document the political luminaries Batson worked with, including John F. Kennedy, Endicott Peabody, Edward M. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and others. There are three folders documenting Batson's participation as a member of Team 2 in the National Council of Negro Women's 1964 Wednesdays in Mississippi program. The program sponsored trips by northern women of different races and faiths to Mississippi to develop relationships between northern and southern peers and to create bridges of understanding across regional, racial, and class lines.

Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.

Materials arrived at the library unfoldered and in unlabelled folders; folder titles were created by the archivist. Files are arranged with interviews with Batson, her resume, and clippings about her first, followed by an alphabetical arrangement of the remaining files, and two oversized folders with items from throughout the collection.


Community and civil rights activist Ruth Marion Batson, daughter of Joel and Cassandra Watson, was born August 3, 1921, in Roxbury, Massachusetts. She attended the Nursery Training School of Boston, Boston University, and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and received her master's in education from Boston University in 1976. In 1941, she married John C. Batson; they had three daughters, Cassandra Way, Susan Batson, and Dorothy Owusu. John Batson died in 1971.

Batson was chairwoman of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) from 1963 to 1966. From 1966 to 1970, she served as assistant director and executive director of the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO), a voluntary integration program busing students from racially imbalanced (predominantly with minority students) districts in Boston to schools in the surrounding suburbs (predominantly with white students). At Boston University, she was the director of the consultation and education program (1970-1975), director of the school desegregation research project (1975-1981), coordinator of the clinical task force, and associate professor at the School of Medicine's Division of Psychiatry. From 1987 to 1990, she was president and director of the Museum of Afro American History (later the Museum of African American History). In 1969, she founded the Ruth M. Batson Educational Fund, which provided grants to African American students, educational institutions, and community organizations.

A board member of the New England Television Corporation and WNEV-TV, Channel 7, Batson also served on the board of trustees of Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston City Hospital, and the Citizens Training Group, Boston Juvenile Court. She was a member of the corporation of Massachusetts General Hospital, co-chairperson of the 1982 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) National Convention, co-chair of the National Advisory Committee on the Documentary Series Eyes on the Prize, and a member of the board of trustees of Tougaloo College, Jackson, Mississippi. She was also the first woman to serve as president of the New England Regional Conference of the NAACP.

Batson won numerous awards and honors, including the Sojourner Truth Award of the Association of Business and Professional Women of Boston and Vicinity (1967), the Mary Hudson Olney Award, the highest commendation from the Hall of Black Achievement (1990), and the lifetime achievement Opening Doors Award from the Women's Institute for Housing and Economic Development (2002).

Batson was a frequent guest speaker and wrote numerous articles and papers. In 2001, Northeastern University Press published Batson's The Black Educational Movement in Boston: A Sequence of Events (1638-1975).

Ruth Batson died October 28, 2003, in Roxbury, Massachusetts.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 97-M105, 97-M143, 98-M14, 98-M20, 2001-M194, 2007-M124, 2009-M140, 2013-M89

The papers of Ruth Batson were given to the Schlesinger Library by Ruth Batson between August 1997 and February 1998. Additional papers were given by Barbara Elam in January 1998, Dorothy B. Owusu in November 2001 and July 2009, Diana Korzenick in July 2007, and Mark R. Schneider in 2013.

Processing Information

Processed: March 2009

By: Johanna Carll

Updated and additional materials added: December 2022

By: Cat Lea Holbrook

Additional material received in 2009 was added to the collection in December 2022. This material is housed in #6.6. All other files remain in the same order. Folders are listed in intellectual, not numerical, order.


Batson, Ruth. Papers of Ruth Batson, 1919-2009 (inclusive), 1951-2003 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by a gift from the Radcliffe College Class of 1955.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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