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Muriel S. and Otto P. Snowden papers

 Collection
Identifier: M017

Scope and Content Note

The founders of Freedom House, Muriel S. and Otto P. Snowden were community activists in Boston best known for their co directorship of Freedom House in Roxbury.  Their activism began long before the founding of Freedom House in 1949 and lasted after their retirement from Freedom House in 1986 until their deaths.  Due to the Snowden's devotion to Freedom House and the Upper Roxbury community, their activities as Freedom House co-directors and those as members of the community often overlapped.

Speaking engagements and organizational memberships may have been a result of their work with Freedom House, and friendship networks outgrowths of relationships they developed through their work.  When the Records were accessioned, therefore, personal papers were intermixed with Freedom House records.  During processing, materials concerning the Snowden's responsibilities as co-directors of Freedom House were separated and removed from their personal papers (See Freedom House, Inc., Records 1941-1996 M16).  The Snowden's personal papers and the records of Freedom House were transferred in four separate accessions which were largely unarranged.

The Muriel S. Snowden and Otto P. Snowden Papers span ca. 1911-1990.  The collection consists of approximately 6.5 cubic feet of records.  The bulk of the collection documents family, education, employment and community work prior to Freedom House, representation on boards of outside organizations, public speaking engagements, and personal awards.  The earliest material, 1911-1935 is primarily family photographs.  Also included are political campaign materials from their work on the campaigns of local politicians, and a small amount of material from their consulting business, Snowden Associates. 

Dates

  • 1911-1990 (bulk 1947-1985)

Creator

Conditions Governing Access:

The collection is unrestricted.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use:

Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the University Archivist.

Historical Note

As the co-directors of Freedom House from 1949 until their retirement in 1984, the Snowdens were influential leaders in Boston's African American community.  Muriel Sutherland Snowden(MSS) (1916-1988) was raised in New Jersey, graduated from Radcliffe College in 1938, and attended The New York School of Social Work from 1943-1945.  In 1944 she married Otto P. Snowden and moved to Boston. She was a member of a number of civic organizations and was the Executive Director of the Cambridge Civic Unity Committee prior to co-founding Freedom House.  She was a lecturer on race relations and taught community organizing at Simmons College School of Social Work.  MSS was also a member of the board of many prominent institutions, including Babson College; Harvard University; the New England Aquarium; Shawmut Bank of Boston; Boston Museum of Science; the Boston Community-Media Committee; Civic Education Foundation, Lincoln Filene Center, Tufts University; the University of Massachusetts; the National Conference of Christians and Jews--New England Region; James Jackson Putnam Children's Center; and the Radcliffe Black Women's Oral History Project.  Muriel Snowden represented her community as the first African American to serve on many of these boards.

During the course of her life, Muriel Snowden received numerous honors and awards.  These included citations from the national Urban League Fellowship, Radcliffe College, Simmons College, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, and the Salvation Army.  In 1988 the Boston School Committee voted to rename Copley Square High School in her honor.  Muriel Snowden received honorary degrees from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Babson College, Stonehill College, and Boston College.  In June 1987, shortly before her death, she received a grant from the MacArthur Foundation.

Otto Phillip Snowden (1914-1995) lived in Boston most of his life.  He graduated from Dorchester High School, attended Howard University from 1933-1937 and was a Special graduate student at Boston University School of Social Work.  His student activism for civil rights began when he was in middle school and continued throughout his college years.  He directed St. Mark Social Center in Roxbury, Massachusetts both before and after serving in World War II.  He quit his job as Director to work without pay to found Freedom House.  From 1949 through 1984, he co-directed Freedom House with his wife.  He was a Commissioner of Boston's Parks and Recreation Department from 1949-1956, and in 1975 he became a Commissioner of the Boston Housing Authority.  Otto Snowden was also involved in many professional and civic associations, including the Boston Branch NAACP; Booth Memorial Home of the Salvation Army; Work Incentive Program, Division of Employment Security; Boston City Department of Civil Defense, Disaster Squad; American Red Cross, Boston Chapter; Massachusetts Committee for Jobs Unlimited for Negroes and Other Minorities; Mayor's Committee on Civic Progress (Hynes); Citizens Advisory Committee on Urban Renewal (Collins); and the National Conference of Christians and Jews--New England Region.  He was a trustee of Northeastern University from 1978-1995.

Otto Snowden's awards included life-time achievement award from the NAACP, Kiwanis Man of the Year award, Black Advocates for Quality Education award, and the Salvation Army Other award.  He received honorary degrees from Northeastern in 1980 and from Boston College and Simmons College in 1984.  He was co-recipient of numerous awards with his wife.

Extent

6.33 cubic feet (7 containers, 2 flat file folders)

Language

English

Overview

Muriel S. and Otto P. Snowden were the founders and co-directors of Freedom House, a center for neighborhood improvement and community activism in the racially mixed neighborhood of Roxbury, Massachusetts. From 1949 until their retirement in 1984, the Snowdens were influential leaders in Boston's African American community. Muriel S. Snowden was raised in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, graduated from Radcliffe College in 1938, and attended the New York School of Social Work from 1943-1945. She married Otto P. Snowden in 1944 and moved to Boston where she became active in many civic organizations. She was executive director of the Cambridge Civic Unity Commission. Otto Phillip Snowden lived in Boston for most of his life. He graduated from Dorchester High School, attended Howard University from 1933-1937, and was a special graduate student at Boston University School of Social Work. He was director of St. Mark's Social Center before and after his military service in World War II. He was active in many professional and civic associations and was co-recipient of numerous awards with his wife.

Overview

The collection documents family, education, employment and community work prior to the founding of Freedom House, as well as service on boards of outside organizations, and personal awards. Highlights include: speeches given by Muriel S. Snowden, materials concerning, and correspondence between, Muriel S. Snowden and her brother William Sutherland, a peace activist in the U.S. and Africa, materials that document the Snowden's efforts to create a democratic parent teachers association as members of the Higginson School's Home and School Committee, and personal photographs of the Snowden and Sutherland families, including daughter, Gail Snowden.

System of Arrangement:

Organized into 3 series: 1. Muriel S. Snowden Papers; 2. Otto P. Snowden Papers; and 3. Muriel S. and Otto P. Snowden Papers.

Physical Location

71/1, 72/4, FF1/D1
Title
Finding aid for the Muriel S. and Otto P. Snowden Papers
Author
Finding aid prepared by Nancy Richards; updated by Ellen Lassiter
Date
December 1997, November 2005
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections Repository

Contact:
92 Snell Library
Northeastern University
360 Huntington Avenue
Boston MA 02115 US