From the Archives: the History of Community Organizing in Baltimore

Have you ever been interested in Baltimore’s many community organizations and their efforts throughout the history of the city? If your research interests have ever lead you to wonder how citizens in Baltimore have been involved in local politics and issues, then why not search in the archives?

Waterfront Coalition Records, circa 1988

The Special Collections & Archives has a number of collections that document the actions and interests of community grass-roots organizations, neighborhood and community associations, community activists, and others.

One collection that provides insight into a local community organization’s efforts is the Waterfront Coalition Records. New additions were recently added to this collection and we have just updated the finding aid! This collection documents the work of a community coalition that represented Baltimore neighborhood and business groups including the Butchers Hill Association; Canton Highlandtown Community Association (CHICA); Citizens for Washington Hill; Fells Point Businesses Association; Fells Point Homeowners Association; the Owners, Renters, and Residents Association of Fells Point; Upper Fells Point Community Association; Little Italy Association; the Canton Square Association; the Canton Community Association; West Canton; Anchorage Homeowners Association; Canton Cove Condominiums; Fells Prospect; and the Preservation Society for Federal Hill and Fells Point. The Coalition monitored how the development of the waterfront and the urban renewal plans in the city effected the neighborhoods of Fells Point, Canton, Butchers Hill, and other areas.

Waterfront Coalition Records, circa 1987

The Waterfront Coalition was active throughout the late 1980s and 2000s and the collection contains a wealth of materials related to their involvement with the redevelopment of the American Can Company complex in Canton and the construction of the Wyndham Hotel in Inner Harbor East in the 1980s and 1990s. This collection would be particularly interesting to anyone interested in learning more about the communities around the waterfront in Baltimore or to researchers interested in how the Inner Harbor, Fells Point, and Canton neighborhoods have changed since the 1980s.

The Special Collections & Archives has many additional collections related to community organizing and organizations, neighborhoods, activists and other related topics!

Check out the list below for a few examples!

Waterfront Coalition Records, circa 1987

But, remember there are many more collections in the archives than what’s featured here so be sure to search for additional collections in our database!

The Baltimore Voices Company Records include oral histories and transcripts of interviews with individuals and groups discussing topics including labor, education, and community organizing. You can use the finding aid to learn more and then access and listen to the oral histories online at the Internet Archive!

The Betty Garman Robinson Papers document Robinson’s work as a community organizer in Baltimore for multiple groups throughout the 1990s and 2000s including the Save Middle East Action Committee (SMEAC), the Northeast Good Neighbors, and Clearing House for a Healthy Community (CHHC).

The Concerned Citizens for Butchers Hill Records include materials from a neighborhood nonprofit organization in Baltimore that focused on fair housing and the prevention of displacement of low-income renters in Butchers Hill.

The Northeast Community Organization Records contain materials related to the efforts of a community group that began in 1970 and aimed to help maintain the stability of the neighborhoods bounded by the Baltimore City line on the north, Greenmount Avenue and York Road on the west, 33rd Street on the south, and Hillen Road and Perring Parkway on the east.

The Southeast Community Organization Records document the work of a community organization that formed in the early 1970s during the political struggle over proposed highway construction through Baltimore City. SECO was an umbrella community organization that represented the interests of residents in Fells Point, Canton, Highlandtown, and other southeast communities.

The Dick V. Cook Papers are currently being processed and include materials on community organizing, the Civil Rights Movement, and other topics from Richard Cook, who was the Director of Social Work Community Outreach Service at University of Maryland School of Social Work from 1995 to 2013 and served as the director of the Greater Homewood Association in the 1970s.

These are just a few examples of the many collections documenting Baltimore history in the Special Collections & Archives! If you’re interested in community organizations, community organizers, activists, or other topics related to Baltimore’s history be sure to search our database of finding aids for archival collections or visit us in the archives!

If you would like to view and/or use the Waterfront Coalition Records (or any other archival collections) for yourself, please contact the Special Collections & Archives to set up an appointment!

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