Black History Boston: Ruth Batson

Today, we are proud to honor the life and contributions of Ruth Batson, the champion of educational desegregation!

Ruth Marion (Watson) Batson was born on August 3, 1921, in Roxbury. She was born to Joel Watson and Cassandra Buchanan, who both immigrated from Jamaica. Ruth graduated from Girls Latin School in 1939 and attended the Nursery Training School of Boston, which was associated with Boston University. At the age of 19, Ruth married John C. Batson. 

Ruth Batson Flyer
Photo Credit: Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University

Inspired by her mother's interest in civil rights, Ruth became the Chairman of the Public Education Sub-Committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1953. Four years later, she became the chairwoman of the New England Regional Conference of the NAACP, where she worked as a lobbyist for civil rights. Ruth was the first black woman on the Democratic National Committee and the first woman elected president of the NAACP's New England Regional Conference

In the early 1960s, she challenged the Boston School Committee. She stated that Boston Public Schools were largely segregated. She also pointed out that there was a correlation between schools with high black enrollments and inadequate school facilities. 

After serving as chairwoman of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination from 1963 to 1966, Ruth helped launched the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) voluntary desegregation program. As a member of the leadership team, she helped grow METCO from transporting 225 black urban children to several suburbs to 1,125 children to 28 communities. She left that position in 1969. 

She served in several roles at Boston University:

  • Director of the Consultation and Education Program (1970–1975)
  • Director of the School Desegregation Research Project (1975–1981)
  • Coordinator of the Clinical Task Force
  • Associate Professor at the School of Medicine's Division of Psychiatry
  • Recipient of a Masters of Education in 1976

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