A participatory project to collect and preserve the histories of the City University of New York

Community College 7

The history of the City University of New York (CUNY) has been fundamentally shaped and reshaped, in large part, by decisions of city and state officials, especially about where to site new colleges in the expanding municipal college system. One such controversy erupted in the early 1960s when CUNY officials and city politicians chose in 1963 to site a new community college (Kingsborough Community College) for Brooklyn in the largely white neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay, rather than in the largely Black and Puerto Rican neighborhoods of central Brooklyn. Five years later, in February 1968, when CUNY announced plans to establish a new “Community College 7 in or near Bedford-Stuyvesant… oriented to the Bedford-Stuyvesant Community and operated in consultation with the community,” the leaders of an extensive network of education advocacy groups and civil society organizations from that very community responded immediately and forcefully, with the memory of the struggle over Kingsborough Community College very much fresh in their minds. “Responsible Community Leaders,” wrote Ulysses Jordan, Chair of the Education Committee of the Bedford Stuyvesant Youth in Action Network “… were not consulted by the Educational Structure on both the state and local levels, in respect to programming and the planning stages for the development of this college," as this document in the Community College 7 collection indicates.

In the months that followed, appointed representatives of the Bedford-Stuyvesant network of advocacy groups met with CUNY officials to argue for and collaborate in planning a college that they hoped would fulfill their community’s shared vision of an institution addressed to the priorities and potential of the community’s Black and Puerto Rican cjtizens. For a few key activists and leaders, many of whom were simultaneously involved in the Community Control movement for racial justice in New York City’s K-12 schools, that vision was of a college planned and governed by Central Brooklyn community leaders and organizations. As their negotiations with CUNY officials continued throughout 1968, the group’s leaders also convened and facilitated large public meetings to engage local leaders, educators, and youth expressing and framing demands for the college, and to create a system and structure for active community engagement with and control over the new college.

Among the Bedford Stuyvesant’s community organizations’ collaborators was Donald Watkins, a white professor, dean, and Vice President at CUNY’s Brooklyn College. This collection, curated from Watkins’s papers (and generously made available to CDHA by Michael Woodsworth) details records of the meeting minutes, announcements, planning documents and correspondence of the educational coalitions and committees that convened to represent Central Brooklyn in the negotiations with CUNY over Community College 7. This collection complements the The Founding of Medgar Evers College collection on this site, curated by Florence Tager, which is drawn largely from CUNY officials’ documents, meeting minutes, and telegrams, memos, handwritten notes from those events. It was curated by Juliet Young, a doctoral student in the Graduate Center’s Urban Education PhD program.

Go to all 45 Items in collection.

8 Featured Items:

February 1968 Memo and Press Release from Youth in Action

In this February 6, 1968 memo, the leaders of Youth in Action (YiA), an anti-poverty organization based in Bedford-Stuyvesant, responded to CUNY’s announcement of a new community college in their community, expressing grave concerns that community [...]

June 1968 Draft Statement for the Bedford-Stuyvesant Coalition on Educational Needs and Services (B-SCENS)

In this June 1968 statement drafted for the Bedford-Stuyvesant Coalition on Educational Needs and Services (B-SCENS), Dr. Dave Berkman, Steering Committee member of the B-SCENS, presents demands for a new public college planned in and for central [...]

Presidential Search Negotiation Team June 6, 1968, Memo to the Bedford-Stuyvesant Coalition on Educational Needs and Services

On June 6, 1968, a Presidential Search Committee comprised of five representatives from Bedford-Stuyvesant and five officials of the City University of New York (CUNY) met to discuss how they would collaborate to plan and lead a new public college [...]

Proposal for a 1968 conference for the Bedford-Stuyvesant Community to allow for full participation in the development of Community College 7

On September 18, 1968, Jack Pannigan, head of Central Brooklyn youth club, Brothers and Sisters for African American Unity, drafted a proposal to his fellow members of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Coalition on Educational Needs and Services (B-SCENS) [...]

October 7, 1968, Letter from Al Vann to the editors of the New York Amsterdam News

On October 7, 1968, Al Vann, chairman of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Coalition on Educational Needs and Services, wrote a letter to the Editor of the New York Amsterdam News, responding to an editorial published a week earlier. The editors of the [...]

February 1968 Youth in Action Flyer: "Have Your Say in Planning for Your Community College"

In this February 1968 flyer distributed in the Bedford-Stuyvesant community of Central Brooklyn, educational advocacy groups and community-based organizations responded immediately and forcefully to the announcement by the City University of New [...]

July 1969 Progress Summary to the Community from Al Vann

In July 1969 Al Vann, Chairman of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Coalition on Educational Needs and Services (B-SCENS), wrote a “Progress Summary to the Community,” detailing the activities and positions of the Negotiation Team, delegated by the [...]

September 24, 1969 Letter from Al Vann to Porter Chandler

On September 24, 1969, Al Vann, Chairman of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Coalition on Educational Needs and Services (B-SCENS) wrote a letter to Porter Chandler, Chairman of the Board of Higher Education, responding to a recent Resolution of the Executive [...]

Go to all 45 Items in collection.

Community College 7