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MLK’s legacy at MIT

On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, we look back to April 5, 1968 when MIT mourned Dr. King and called the campus to act for racial justice.

The April 9, 1968 issue of the MIT student newspaper The Tech reported on a special memorial service for the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. at 12:10 PM on April 5th the day after King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. King was a prominent leader of the Civil Rights Movement and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was known for his use of nonviolent civil disobedience. King’s tragic death, at the age of 39, shocked, saddened, and enraged people around the world. How did the MIT campus respond?

Tech reporter Steve Carhart (Class of 1970, SM 1972) stated that the event was “hastily organized” by “an ad hoc group of faculty, students and members of the administration” and seven speakers spoke to the nearly filled Kresge Auditorium. Carhart wrote that “MIT President Howard W. Johnson opened the meeting, then the other six read excerpts from Dr. King’s speeches.” The article quotes brief remarks made by the last speaker, MIT Professor Harold Isaacs, who had been a friend of Dr. King. The impromptu memorial was not recorded, as far as we know, but some documents were found in the IASC.

In the Office of the President and Office of the Chairman of the Corporation records of Howard W. Johnson, there are prepared remarks by Johnson and Isaacs and excerpts, without citations, of King’s speeches assigned to five of the speakers (AC-0118, box 198, folder 6 “King, Martin Luther, 1968-1976”).

According to the list in AC-0118 and the story in The Tech, the speakers were as follows:

1. President Howard W. Johnson
2. Mr. Robert Tinker (PhD 1970)
3. Mr. Gustave M. Solomons, Class of 1928
4. Mr. Stephen E. Straus, Class of 1968
5. Miss Maria L. Kivisild, Class of 1969, (no assigned reading found in AC-0118)
6. Prof. Willard R. Johnson
7. Prof. Harold R. Isaacs

Only Willard Johnson and Maria Kivisild (now Ogrydziak) are still living. Johnson is Professor of Political Science Emeritus at the Institute. Ogrydziak, the first woman president of the MIT Undergraduate Association, is an architect in California.

In his prepared remarks, President Johnson said King’s life and example called “for a self-searching response from all of us, as individuals, as institutions and as a nation.” Isaacs said: “The bullet that felled Martin Luther King came out of … the madness of racism … that we all share in some way or other” and he closed with: “The question is what we do about it, each one of us beginning with himself.”

An editorial in the same issue of The Tech also called for action. The editorial “Apathy, the students and Dr. King”, appears to paraphrase a quote from a King speech read by Gus Solomons at Kresge. The source for both is very likely King’s 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail“. The Tech editorial likens “‘white moderates, who would rather have peace and security than justice'” to MIT students who “would much rather have ‘peace and security’ inside the confines of this institution than work for justice outside the boundaries of the campus.” The editorial suggests that a recent ruling ending graduate student draft deferments from the Vietnam War would end complacency and force classmates “to fight (in one sense or another) for what he believes in.”

The Tech archives and other MIT publications, Institute records and faculty papers in the IASC document how the MIT community reacted first to Martin Luther King’s death, and then responded in the months and years after April 4, 1968 to Dr. King’s challenge to build the beloved community of equity, diversity, inclusion and justice.

-Myles Crowley


Teaching Collaborations, Fall 2018

Emilie Hardman, Nora Murphy, and Myles Crowley worked with over 150 students and 15 members of the faculty in 14 courses during the Fall 2018 semester. We were pleased to collaborate with Nick Albaugh, Michelle Baildon, Tina Chan, Jen Greenleaf, Sofia Leung, Mark Szarko, and Ece Turnator on several of these classes.

These are the courses and the faculty:

  • 3.087/EC.S13, Materials, Societal Impact and Social Innovation (MSS), Ellan Spero
  • 11.S939, Cities of Contested Memory, Delia Wendel
  • 11.THT/4.THT, Thesis Research Design Seminar, Cherie Abbanat
  • 21H.103, The Ancient World: Greece, Eliza Gettel
  • 21H.281, MIT & Slavery, Craig Wilder
  • 21H.343, Making Books in the Renaissance and Today, Jeff Ravel
  • 21H.390, Theories and Methods in the Study of History, Ann McCants
  • 21L.014/21H.007, Introduction to Ancient and Medieval Studies, Stephanie Frampton and Eric Goldberg
  • 21W.021, Writing and Experience: MIT Inside, Live, JoAnn Graziano
  • 21W.825, Advanced Science Writing Seminar, Marcia Bartusiak
  • CMS 361.861, Networked Social Movements: Media and Mobilization, Sasha Costanza-Chock
  • STS.004, Intersections: Science, Technology, and the World, Deborah Fitzgerald
  • STS.088, Africa for Engineers, Clapperton Mavhunga
  • Digital Humanities programs at MIT, MIT Computation Center Project, Michael Cuthbert

We look forward to sharing our experiences in future blogs.

Nora Murphy

A few haikus / For all the adieus

April is National Poetry Month. It has also seen a number of archives staff members departing ways. Here are our odes…

Liz, archives guru,
purveyor of gummy bears
enjoy greener isles 🍀
Dana, your journey
has just begun, bye for now,
see you in Waltham
Katherine, MITemp life
happily comes to an end
… but sadly for us 😞
Jonathan, working
with you has been wonderful.
We wish you the best! 🌠🕺🏿
the April showers
bring May flowers and also
archives departures

Dana’s Adieu

Dana Hamlin recently left the Institute Archives and Special Collections. She shared this reflection just before she departed.

After eight years, I’m bidding a bittersweet farewell to the MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections (IASC) to become the archivist at the Waltham Public Library. As a history nerd, I’m looking forward to immersing myself in the records of Waltham’s past and working with their local history collections. I was curious to see if there were any Waltham connections in the IASC’s collections, so I’ve been doing a bit of digging in my last few weeks.

My favorite finds were hand-drawn maps of Waltham (in addition to being a history nerd, I’m also a huge map nerd). One is in the papers of William O. Crosby (MC-0068), a professor of geology, which shows the city circa 1890. The other is more recent, a 1963 map of “routes from Boston to Waltham” by Kevin Lynch (MC-0208). I especially enjoyed reading Lynch’s observations about different areas – Waltham is a “very interesting town” with a center described as “congestion”; my old neighborhood in Watertown is described as an “uninteresting residential area”; and Kenmore Square is a “good big bottleneck.”



I also discovered the PowerPoint slides and script to a talk the MIT Libraries’ former director Ann Wolpert gave at the Waltham Public Library back in 2001. While the title of the talk, “Who Let the Web Out?”, is a bit dated (whatever happened to the Baha Men?), it made me smile at the memory of how Ann used to work in quotes and witticisms anytime she spoke.

Other finds included a consulting report for the Waltham Watch Company, records of a former professor’s software company that was headquartered in Waltham, and an Urban Studies thesis that included a section on the history of Waltham (which was an especially helpful crash course for me!). In what feels like a game of “Six Degrees of Separation,” the IASC also has the papers of Loammi Baldwin, a civil engineer, who appears to have been friends with Benjamin Thompson, aka Count Rumford, the namesake of the Rumford Institute, which donated its books to Waltham in 1863, which was the start of the Waltham Public Library. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of stumbling across cool tidbits like this in the course of working in an archive!

And so, farewell IASC and MIT. I hope to uncover more connections to you in my new role, and look forward to all the cool tidbits that are waiting out there to be found.

— Dana Hamlin

Collection Highlight: Mamusse wunneetupanatamwe Up-Biblum God

October 9th is celebrated as Columbus Day on the national level and Indigenous Peoples’ Day here in Cambridge. As it is a holiday fraught with colonialism, it only felt appropriate to highlight a book from our collections written in the Wôpanâak language, spoken by the Wompanoag people of Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Mamusse wunneetupanatamwe Up-Biblum God (also known as the Eliot Bible) was the first bible to be printed in America, and was first produced by John Eliot in 1663. The book held by MIT is a second edition copy printed in 1685, and donated by I. Austin Kelly of the class of 1926.


Title page of Mamusse wunneetupanatamwe Up-Biblum God (Eliot Bible).

Eliot was a Puritan missionary based in Roxbury, Massachusetts, who dedicated his life to the conversion of Native Americans to Christianity. In 1646, Eliot began studying the Wôpanâak language with the help of Cockenoe, a captive from the Pequot War described conversely as both a servant and a slave.[1]

Eliot was aided in translating the bible by his former students John Sassamon, and Job Nesutan, both Native American converts.[2] The book was printed by Samuel Green, Marmaduke Johnson, and James Printer (born Wowaus) at the Cambridge Press, located at Harvard Indian College.[3] Printer was a Nipmuck and Christian convert, was instrumental in the creation of the second edition – likely serving as both a typesetter and editor.[4]

Historian Linford D. Fisher said of the book,

Scholars now increasingly recognize what a complicated book it is – simultaneously a product of settler colonialism, of the “invasion within,” as James Axtell famously put it, and a thoroughly indigenized creation in which Natives greatly aided in the translation, typesetting, and printing and, to some degree, adopted it as their own in Indian communities in southeastern New England.[5]

and of missionary work,

…it is impossible to extricate the evangelization process from the violence of colonization, at least as experienced by Natives.[6]

However, MIT’s Eliot Bible has proved to be a valuable source for relearning the Wôpanâak language, which was reported to have last been spoken in 1833.[7] In 1993, the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project began under the direction of Jessie ‘Little Doe’ Baird, MIT SM 2000.[8] Baird, alongside linguist Ken Hale, compared the Eliot Bible to the King James Bible to start relearning Wôpanâak vocabulary and grammar.[9] Today, the project has compiled a dictionary of over 11,000 words, and is providing classes to teach Wôpanâak.[10]

Mamusse wunneetupanatamwe Up-Biblum God can be viewed by appointment in the Institute Archives and Special Collections, in print or digital form.

To learn more about the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project visit their website at If you are interested in learning more about how the Eliot Bible was used for the project, read the feature “Language Reclamation 101” in Technology Review.

— Chris Tanguay

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Archives + Teachers = Enriched Learning Experiences

Thirty-four K-12 teachers visited MIT on Monday, 17 July, 2017, as part of a 3-week NEH Summer Institute with the theme “Foreign Exchanges: The U.S. and the Wider World in the Twentieth Century“. The purpose of the Summer Institute is to provide the teachers and opportunity to “bolster teachers’ abilities to present a more thorough and nuanced account of American foreign relations…”. The Institute was co-directed by MIT history faculty member Chris Capozzola, and Ann Marie Gleason, a Program Director at Primary Source. In the course of the Institute the teachers attended lectures, learned about online resources, visited local museums, and for their sole opportunity to work with original materials, visited MIT.

We were contacted by Chris 3 weeks in advance, and discussed the purpose of the visit, the desired outcome, and relevant topics. The focus of the visit was MIT’s glopbal engagement and impact from post-WWII through the early 1970s, so the goal was to select materials that might be integrated into a curriculum in order to engage students and facilitate discussion. Thirty-nine boxes from 21 Institute and faculty collections were retrieved from storage to find material about relevant topics. Eight topics were selected:

  • The 1958 Brussels Universal and International Exhibition (MIT was asked to be in charge of the theme & exhibits in the U.S. Pavilion);
  • Arms Control (MIT faculty actively supported making arms control an issue in the 1960 U.S. presidential campaign);
  • Atomic Bomb (MIT physicist Philip Morrison was in the Mariana Islands at the behest of the U.S. government when the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki);
  • Cuidad-Guayana, Venezuela, development project (MIT and Harvard worked with the regional government to proposed a planned urban area);
  • Peace Corps (MIT economist Max Millikan helped to shape the concepts behind the Peace Corps);
  • Project Troy (MIT was asked by the U.S. government to determine how to get around Russian interference with U.S. communication to the Russian people);
  • Vietnam War (MIT’s March 4 teach-in illustrated one way in which the war and other contemporary issues were discussed on a college campus); and
  • MIT – yearbooks from 1942, 1952, 1962 and 1972 reflected changing perspectives at MIT and beyond the community.

What’s next? For the teachers: several have asked for copies of documents they feel will stimulate discussion in their classrooms. For the IASC: identified sets of documents that faculty at MIT might use in their courses. For staff at the IASC: an opportunity similar to one we experience every day – learning more about our collections so that we are better able to direct researchers to relevant materials. A win-win-win!

– Nora Murphy

Providing Comments for the Commentator

Tom Rosko has been a commentator during MIT’s commencement procession every year since 2005. The only exception was in 2009 when other commitments prevented his participation.

Listening to the commentary, you might wonder how Tom has come to know as much as he does.

Image from webcast of MIT Commencement, 2017, Commentators Tom Rosko & Matt McGann, June 9, 2017

Image from webcast of MIT Commencement, 2017, Commentators Tom Rosko & Matt McGann, June 9, 2017

Tom’s first stint as a commentator for an MIT event was the inauguration of Susan Hockfield on 6 May 2005. Building on information provided by the MIT Information Center, staff at the IASC combed through records in the IASC for information about previous MIT inaugurations. Who was the first MIT president to have an inaugural ceremony (Pritchett in 1900)? When and where were Pritchett’s, and subsequent, inaugurations held? Where are copies of inaugural addresses (now available online on the IASC web site Who processed at the various inaugurations? What music was played? Finding these and other tidbits of information helped to enrich the commentary.

Similar research about commencement happens every year. About 6-8 weeks in advance of commencement, temporary staff or students under Nora’s direction collect information about previous commencements, 100, 75, 50, 25, and 10 years earlier. Who spoke? Were there notable graduates? Where were they held? What was the weather? Were there any unusual occurrences?

Over the years, an increasingly thick binder of information accompanies Tom when he attends rehearsals in preparation for commencement. As his experience and knowledge have increased, coincidentally his physical location during the procession has vastly improved. In recent years he and Director of Admissions Matt have been located in a classroom overlooking Killian Court, but earlier years saw the commentators located under the staging in cramped quarters balancing binders and microphones (and even umbrellas when it rained!) on their laps.

Nora Murphy