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Joseph D. Warren papers

Identifier: M087

Scope and Content Note

The Joseph David Warren papers document Warren's political roles in advocating for African American causes in Massachusetts in the 1980s and Michael Dukakis' 1988 Presidential election campaign. The papers provide perspective on such issues as minority involvement in politics, urban renewal action in Boston's Roxbury and Dorchester neighborhoods, and the needs of Massachusetts minorities in the areas of employment, housing, education, business development, and human services.

Warren compiled this collection of correspondence, news clippings, photographs, and as research for his proposed book, tentatively titled "Assessing the Approaches and Effectiveness of Organizing the Black Community." In particular, there are reports and correspondence from the so-called "Warren Commission," a political advocacy group organized by Warren to serve as the means by which to "organize the Black community" and provide it with a political voice. There is a strong emphasis on the relationship between the African American community and Michael S. Dukakis and the effort Warren made toward bolstering Dukakis' image in that community. Also included are subject files that Warren initially collected as part of his research for his book, but did not incorporate into the existing organization of the proposed book as well as records from the Massachusetts State-wide Issues Hearings, which were sponsored by the Warren Commission in 1982.


  • Creation: 1972-2003
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1980-1990


Conditions Governing Access:

Northeastern University records (Box 6, folder 64) are closed for 25 years from the date of their creation. Student and personnel files (Box 6, folders 61-62) are closed for 75 years from the date of their creation.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use:

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

Historical Note

African American politician and educator Joseph David Warren was born to Geroldine McDaniel Warren and Harold H. Warren, Sr. in Harlem, New York on April 2, 1938. In 1956, he joined the United States Naval Reserve. He rose to the rank of commander, a post he served until his retirement from the armed forces in 1994. Warren received a Bachelor of Science in Economics from North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1969, an Master of Arts in Social Research in 1972 from Brandeis University, and a Ph.D. in Social Work in 1983, also from Brandeis.

In addition to a series of lecturer and administrative posts at Brandeis and Boston University, he served as Massachusetts Assistant Secretary of Education from 1975 to 1979. In 1978, Warren received a joint appointment to the Northeastern University Department of African American Studies as an Associate Professor and Urban Assistant to President Kenneth G. Ryder. In this newly created position, he represented Ryder as chair of both the Youth Advisory Council of the City of Boston and the Access Committee for the Massachusetts Advisory Council on Vocational and Technical Education. In 1982, Warren was appointed director of the Northeastern University Office of Community Affairs, which addressed issues involving Northeastern University's relationship with its communities throughout Massachusetts. Under his leadership, the Office of Community Affairs opened Balfour Academy the following year. Designed to provide educational opportunities to inner-city youth, Balfour Academy accepted 50 children from the Mission Hill-Fenway neighborhoods annually and graduates of Balfour Academy were granted scholarships to attend Northeastern University.

Warren also led a political advocacy group, nicknamed the Warren Commission, through which he hoped to create a voice in the Massachusetts and, later, national political arenas for African Americans and other minority groups. The Warren Commission worked to improve socio-economic conditions for minority groups and endorsed candidates whom it believed would address minority needs. The Warren Commission supported Michael S. Dukakis' 1982 election to his second term as Massachusetts governor. As governor, Dukakis appointed Warren to his Community Development Coordinating Council, a committee designed to improve the economic and social conditions in Boston neighborhoods, particularly Roxbury and Dorchester. The Community Development Coordinating Council was responsible for several urban renewal projects, including improving conditions along the Orange Line through the Southwest Corridor.

An active member of the Democratic Party, Warren led efforts to amend the platform and charter of the Massachusetts Democratic Party to address the needs of minorities in 1984 and 1986. He was also involved in the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee and Minority Democratic Caucus, and served as a delegate at several state and national Democratic conventions in 1984 and 1986. From 1982 to 1989, Warren was Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Human Resources Center, an office which Dukakis organized to assist with employment, training, health issues, and other human service programs. Warren also served as a senior political advisor to Dukakis during his 1988 Presidential Election Campaign.


Born in New York City, New York on April 2nd.
Entered U.S. Naval Reserves.
Received a Bachelor of Science from North Carolina A&T University.
Lecturer in Urban Studies at Brandeis University (Waltham, Mass.).
Received an Master of Social Work degree from Brandeis.
Executive Director, Upward Bound Program at Brandeis University (Waltham, Mass.).
Assistant Professor of Planning and Applied Research at Boston University School of Social Work.
Warren Commission active in state-wide and national political arenas.
Massachusetts Assistant Secretary of Education.
Served as Minority Advisor to Michael S. Dukakis.
Served as chairman of the Newton Community School in Newton, Mass.
Joint appointment as Associate Professor of African American studies for the Afro-American Institute and Urban Assistant to Kenneth G. Ryder.
Involved in the design of the Ruggles Street MBTA station.
Member of the Boston Mayor's Youth Advisory Council.
Appointed Director of the Northeastern University Office of Community Affairs; Appointed member of the Massachusetts State Democratic Committee.
Member of Michael S. Dukakis' Community Development Coordinating Council.
Received a PhD from Brandeis University, member of Phi Kappa Phi; Balfour Academy opened
Commander, Naval Reserves.
Led an effort to revise the Massachusetts Democratic Party's charter.
Received a grant to study potential employer needs in the Southwest Corridor.
General election coordinator and leading advisor on Michael S. Dukakis' Presidential campaign.


8.50 cubic feet (10 containers)




African American politician and educator Joseph David Warren was born to Geroldine McDaniel Warren and Harold H. Warren in Harlem, New York on April 2, 1938. In 1979, he organized what became known as the "Warren Commission," a political advocacy group that worked to improve the social and economic conditions of minority groups and to ensure that their needs were represented in the Massachusetts and federal governments. Warren served as a political aide and advisor to Michael S. Dukakis during Dukakis' second (1982-1986) and third (1986-1990) terms as Massachusetts governor. Warren also served as Dukakis' senior advisor during his 1988 presidential campaign. In addition, Warren was a member of Michael Dukakis' Community Development Coordinating Council, from 1982-1989 and was involved in several urban renewal projects in the Southwest Corridor of Boston, Mass. Warren also worked to increase hiring of minorities for government jobs and contracts. In addition to his political activities, he has worked at Northeastern University since 1978 as an Associate Professor in the Department of African American Studies and served as the Urban Assistant to Northeastern University President Kenneth G. Ryder. In 1982, Warren became director of the Northeastern University Office of Community Affairs, which was responsible for managing the school's relationship with communities throughout Massachusetts.


The Joseph D. Warren papers document African American involvement in Massachusetts politics between 1980 and 1990 and in Michael S. Dukakis' 1988 Presidential campaign. A majority of the collection contains correspondence, news clippings, and reports that Warren collected and organized for a book, which he tentatively titled Assessing the Approaches and Effectiveness of Organizing the Black Community. The proposed book will examine Warren's efforts to advance African American and other minority causes and involvement in politics, with particular emphasis on the relationship between the African American community and Dukakis both in Massachusetts and nation-wide. In particular, there are reports and correspondence from the so-called "Warren Commission," a political advocacy group organized by Warren to serve as the means by which to "organize the Black community" and to provide it a political voice. The collection also contains material from the State-wide Issues Hearings sponsored by the Warren Commission in December 1982. In addition, there are also subject files that document minority involvement in the Democratic Party, Dukakis' 1988 Presidential Election Campaign, and urban renewal projects in Massachusetts.

System of Arrangement:

This collection is arranged into three series: 1. Book Research; 2. Subject Files; and 3. State-wide Issues Hearings.

Physical Location

64/4, 55/3, 55/4


  • Bronner, Ethan, "Southwest Corridor: Setting a New Course," The Boston Globe, 2 November 1986, Metro Section, p. 1.
  • Claffey, Charles. "Roxbury's Turn for Renewal; Minority Groups Want More Input into Dudley Station Revitalization Plan," The Boston Globe, 17 February 1985, sec. A, p. 21.
  • Frederick, Antoinette. Northeastern University, Coming of Age: The Ryder Years. Boston, MA: Northeastern University, 1995
  • "Joseph David Warren, Dr." Who's Who Among African Americans, 15th ed. Gale Group, 2002. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: The Gale Group. 2003.
Finding aid for the Joseph D. Warren Papers
Finding aid prepared by Jessica Parr; updated by Ellen Lassiter; updated by Migyeong Geum
June 2003, March 2005, November 2012
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections Repository

Snell Library
360 Huntington Avenue
Boston MA 02115 US