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Civil Rights Activist Mark Levy Donates Collection of Materials to Library
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Phyllis Cohen Stevens
Deputy Director of News Services
phyllis.cohen-stevens@qc.cuny.edu

(718) 997-559
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Maria Matteo
News Assistant
maria.matteo@qc.cuny.edu
(718) 997-5593

1960s CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST MARK LEVY DONATES
PERSONAL COLLECTION OF MATERIALS TO QUEENS COLLEGE LIBRARY

-- Donation by QC Grad Will Serve as Foundation of a New College Archive Chronicling One of the Most Important Social and Political Movements in American History --

civil rights archives
Library school students (left to right) Heather Ball, Killi Petrowki and Matthew Michaels, who are working on the Civil Rights archive project, hold posters, a T-shirt and other memorabilia from the recently donated collection.

FLUSHING, N.Y., February 23, 2009 -- In the 1960s Queens College students, like many of their contemporaries, were actively engaged in the Civil Rights Movement in the South and participated in lectures, rallies, marches and other activities opposed to racial segregation and discrimination. A turning point occurred in 1964 during “Freedom Summer,” when Queens College student Andrew Goodman, along with James Chaney and Michael Schwerner, was slain in Mississippi trying to register African Americans to vote.

Mark Levy, who graduated from Queens College that same year, was one of those activists. As co-director and teacher of the Meridian Freedom School in Mississippi, he was assigned to the same project as Goodman and Schwerner. During that time he amassed a significant collection of photos, posters, buttons, letters, student writings, news clippings and other memorabilia, which he has donated to the college’s Benjamin Rosenthal Library.“Mark’s collection helps us better understand the role played by QC students during a time of great turmoil and transformation in our nation’s history,” says Chief Librarian Robert Shaddy. “It is appropriate on the 45th anniversary of Freedom Summer that these materials reside at the college as outstanding reminders of how student activism can make a huge difference in effecting major changes in our society.” Fittingly, the library’s iconic clock tower is dedicated to the memory of the three slain civil rights workers.

The acquisition will serve as the foundation of an expanding archive of original materials from that era. Levy, who recently retired as executive director of the medical residents’ union CIR/SEIU, has been in contact with other alumni from the 1960s who are prepared to donate original materials from their collections. Donations are also expected from college faculty and staff who were involved in the Civil Rights Movement.

Civil rights activist and QC grad Mark Levy shows Library professor Ben Alexander samples from Levy's collection of materials from that era, now part of a new Civil Rights archive. The library will preserve, catalog and make these materials available.
“History should be told as more than a story of ‘great men and martyrs,’” says Levy. “It should also be a portrayal of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. We envision that this collection will teach and inspire future generations about the commitment, experiences and skills exhibited by many QC students who fought for social justice at this pivotal time in our history.”

 

The library’s new archival collection aims to give a fuller picture of the activism of QC students and faculty during this time. Levy notes that among other things, in the 1960s QC students were involved in civil rights work in several states in the south, including Virginia, Mississippi, and Alabama; they participated in the 1963 March on Washington; they picketed in opposition to segregation and discrimination at the 1964 World’s Fair and at local department stores; and they tutored in South Jamaica and at community-based educational help programs in Harlem.

According to Ben Alexander, a professor in QC’s Graduate School of Library and Information Studies and the head of special collections and archives, Levy’s materials are being organized and catalogued and will be ultimately digitized to be more accessible to the campus community and general public. QC faculty and graduate students are also recording and transcribing oral histories from other alumni activists for the archives.

“We are very grateful for Mark’s contribution,” says Professor Alexander. “This acquisition represents our commitment to establishing and cultivating a special collections department that will be highly regarded and used by scholars, but as importantly, incorporated into the college’s curriculum.”


 
 

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