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The Justice George Lewis Ruffin Society records

Identifier: M124

Scope and Content Note

The records of the George Lewis Ruffin Society document the complicated racial tensions that existed in the criminal justice field and resulted in a racial imbalance in the Boston Police Department. Working closely with the College of Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, the Society has worked to raise the number of minorities in the upper ranks of the Boston Police Department by sponsoring promotional examination prep courses, fellowship programs, and annual Convocations. Correspondence, notes, reports, programs and class materials from each of these major areas of work make up the bulk of the collection.

The Ruffin Society's commitment to ensuring a racial balance within the criminal justice profession resulted in programs, workshops, and events such as the Stop and Frisk Workshop, the Neighborhood Peace Corps, Criminal Justice Day, Mayor's Youth Leadership Corps, Roxbury Youthworks Curriculum, College Day, Pioneer Valley Project, the Use of Deadly Force Seminar, and the Professional Training and Development Program. This collection also documents the creation of the "Long Road to Justice" exhibit, sponsored by the Ruffin Society, which documents the African American struggle for equality in Massachusetts.

This collection also contains meeting minutes and notes relating to the annual Board of Directors' meeting, financial documents, membership lists, and correspondence


  • Creation: undated, 1848-2009
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1984-2005


Conditions Governing Access:

Records containing student information from the Justice George Lewis Ruffin Society Fellowship Program are restricted until 2082. Please contact the University Archivist for more information.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use:

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

Historical Note

The George Lewis Ruffin Society, named after the first African American in Massachusetts to earn a law degree and serve as a judge, was started in 1984 in response to dwindling numbers of minority officers within the Boston Police Department. In 1984 the Boston Police Department employed only one minority superior police officer. The founding members of the Society, which included Judge Julian Houston, joined forces with Northeastern University's College of Criminal Justice in hopes of "creating a greater understanding between the minority community and criminal justice profession, as well as to promote and encourage the advancement of minorities in the field of criminal justice" (Online Exhibit, "Long Road to Justice," Massachusetts Historical Society, c. 2000). The membership of the Society was mainly comprised of middle and senior criminal justice managers seeking to create more opportunities for advancement and professional development in the lower ranks of the profession.

In 1985, under the leadership of its new president, Superintendent of the Boston Police Department Joseph C. Carter, the Society held a public exhibit at the Social Law Library in Boston of personal papers and documents belonging to Justice George Lewis Ruffin. Under Carter's leadership, the Ruffin Society also sponsored the first preparation course for minority officers taking the promotion exam given by the Boston Police Department. In 1986, 15 minority sergeants were sworn in as superior officers, and all but one of this group had taken the Ruffin Society's preparation course. Included within this group were the first Asian, Hispanic, and African American female sergeants in the history of the Boston Police Department. The Ruffin Society also sponsored a conference in 1986 for African American leaders in the Roxbury and Dorchester communities to address the new "Stop and Frisk" laws. The "Stop and Frisk" laws gave patrolling policemen the legal power to stop and frisk any passerby the officer thought suspicious. Many in Roxbury and Dorchester in particular felt that these laws were used unfairly to harass young men from their communities and the Ruffin-sponsored conference was held to help local law enforcement and civilians understand the implications of the "Stop and Frisk" laws. The Society, through a 1987 grant from the Hyams Foundation and the Boston Foundation, established the Ruffin Fellows Programs which offered tuition-free admission to the Master of Science in Criminal Justice Program at Northeastern University, room and board, and a stipend to exceptional college students hoping to pursue careers in the criminal justice field. In 1992, the Society held its first convocation to discuss how minority communities can deal more effectively with crime. The convocation would go on to become an annual event, examining topics such as the emerging role of genetics in the criminal justice field, controlling crime, the O.J. Simpson trial, domestic violence, the African experience in the Massachusetts courts, the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act (2000), and sexual abuse among children in minority communities.

In 1999, the Society began developing the "Long Road to Justice" exhibit, with the help of Museum Design Associates. The "Long Road to Justice" was designed to be a traveling exhibit detailing the history of African Americans in the Massachusetts court system. The exhibit, chaired by Judge Julian Houston, was completed in 2000 and opened at the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse in Boston. The Society continues to sponsor annual Convocations and Promotional Exam Prep Courses in addition to maintaining the "Long Road to Justice" exhibit.


George Lewis Ruffin Society is founded.
Founding members of the Ruffin Society meet with Northeastern University's Dean Norman Rosenblatt and Associate Dean Robert Croatti to establish an alliance between the University and the Ruffin Society.
Ruffin Society is incorporated as a non-profit organization; Joseph C. Carter, Superintendent of the Boston Police Department is elected to be the first president; Ruffin Society sponsors first preparation course for the Boston Police Department's promotional examination.
Ruffin Society establishes the Ruffin Fellows Program for minority students looking to pursue advanced degrees in criminal justice.
Ruffin Society sponsors first statewide Convocation of minority criminal justice professionals. Over 600 people attend the event at Northeastern University to discuss how minority communities can better deal with crime. Convocations become an annual event.
Ruffin Society sponsors the "Long Road to Justice," a traveling exhibit on the African American struggle for equality in Massachusetts, chaired by Judge Julian Houston and which opens on September 28 at the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse in Boston.


7.50 cubic feet (9 containers, 11 flat file folders)




The George Lewis Ruffin Society was founded in 1984 in response to dwindling numbers of minority police officers in the Boston Police Department. Its goals are to create greater understanding and communication between minority communities and the criminal justice system through annual convocations, events, courses, workshops and "The Long Road to Justice" traveling exhibit which documents the history of African Americans in Massachusetts.


The records of the George Lewis Ruffin Society document the Society's work to build a better relationship between minorities and the criminal justice system. The collection includes course materials from workshops and courses sponsored by the society; correspondence; Board of Director's meeting minutes; Convocation materials; materials pertaining to "The Long Road to Justice" exhibit such as funding and content proposals, correspondence, letters of support; and exhibit materials such as photographs and other visual aids.

System of Arrangement:

Organized into four series: 1. Governance and Administration; 2. Events and Programs; 3. "The Long Road to Justice" Exhibit; and 4. Audio-Visual Materials

Physical Location

58/2-3, FF4/D8, FF6/D10

Related Materials:


  • "The Justice George Lewis Ruffin Society, 2004," M124, Box 1, Folder 78
  • "The Justice George Lewis Ruffin Society: An Oral History, n.d." M124, Box 1, Folder 79
  • "Mission Statements, 2001," M124, Box 1, Folder 60
  • Online Exhibit, "Long Road to Justice," Massachusetts Historical Society, c. 2000
Finding aid for the Justice George Lewis Ruffin Society Records
Finding aid prepared by Dominique Tremblay and Hanna Clutterbuck; updated by Hanna Clutterbuck
June 2007, October 2007
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