Ruth Batson

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Ruth M. Batson (1921-2003), civil rights activist and outspoken advocate of equal education and the desegregation of Boston Public Schools, served on the Public Education Committee of the NAACP Boston Branch and later served as the executive director of the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO). Throughout her life, in various professional roles, she championed fair and equal public education. [1]


Early life[edit]

Ruth Marion (Watson) Batson was born August 3, 1921 in Roxbury, Massachusetts to Jamaican immigrants, Joel R. Watson and Cassandra D. Buchanan. She attended the Everett School in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Batson graduated from the Girls Latin School in 1939.[2]

Higher education[edit]

As a young woman, Ruth Batson attended the Nursery Training School of Boston, which was associated with Boston University. She later received a Master of Education degree from Boston University in 1976.[3]

Marriage and children[edit]

At age nineteen, Ruth Watson married John C. Batson. The two parented three daughters: Cassandra Way, Susan Batson, and Dorothy Owusu. John Batson died in 1971.[3]


Ruth Batson died on October 28, 2003, at the age of 82.[1]


Inspired by her mother's interest in civil rights, Batson became the chairman of the Public Education Sub-Committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1953. In April 1957, she became the chairwoman of the New England Regional Conference of the NAACP, where she worked as a civil rights lobbyist. In the early 1960s, she challenged the Boston School Committee, charging that Boston Public Schools were largely segregated. She also pointed out that schools with high black enrollments received inadequate facilities. Batson accused school administrators with ignoring "a basic American concept that equal opportunity should be available to all people regardless of race, color, or creed."[1]

Batson was the first black woman on the Democratic National Committee and the first woman elected president of NAACP’s New England Regional Conference, a role in which she served from 1957 to 1960.[1]

After serving as chairwoman of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination from 1963 to 1966, she helped launched the METCO (Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity) voluntary desegregation program. As associate director then director, she helped guide METCO’s growth from transporting 225 black urban children to several suburbs to 1,125 children to 28 communities. She stepped down in 1969.[1]

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, and associate professor at the School of Medicine's Division of Psychiatry.[3]

Honors, decorations, awards and distinctions[edit]

In 1989 Batson received an honorary Doctorate of Pedagogy from Northeastern University.[4] In 1993, she received an honorary degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston.[5]

She was a member of the board of visitors of Boston University’s School of Medicine; trustees, Boston City Hospital; member, Corporation of the Massachusetts General Hospital and former member of its board of trustees; and board member of Roxbury Community College Foundation.[citation needed]


She was the author of The Black Educational Movement in Boston: A Sequence of Historical Events (1638-1975), a comprehensive chronology documenting the heroic efforts and contributions of African American parents to educational history in Boston. Northeastern University's School of Education printed the manuscript of nearly 900 pages in October, 2001.[6]


She was the founder in 1969 of the Ruth M. Batson Educational Foundation, which provided grants to African American college students for tuition and emergency needs. The Batson Foundation also awards grants to educational institutions and community organizations whose program objectives reflect the philosophy of the Batson Foundation.[3]

More recently Batson had directed the revitalized Museum of African American History in Beacon Hill, stepping down in 1990.

Her financial support for medical students at Boston University School of Medicine, the school, under the leadership of Dr. Aram Chobanian, established the Ruth Batson Scholarship in 1997. Since that time the school has awarded more than US$500,000 in scholarships to 40 Boston University minority medical students, including four MD/PhD students. Each year Ms. Batson visited the medical center to have lunch with the Batson Scholars, hear their life’s stories and share her experiences, especially with the health care system in America.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d e David Abel and Edgar J. Driscoll Jr., "Ruth Batson, leading figure in education, civil rights," Boston Globe, 10/29/2003.
  2. ^ "Ruth Batson's high school graduation portrait". Fourteen portraits of Ruth Batson. Harvard University Library. Retrieved 18 October 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Batson, Ruth. Papers of Ruth Batson, 1919-2003 (inclusive), 1951-2003 (bulk): A Finding Aid". Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America. Harvard University Library. Retrieved 18 October 2016. 
  4. ^ "Commencement Speakers & Honorary Degrees". Archives & Special Collections. Northeastern University Libraries. Retrieved 18 October 2016. 
  5. ^ "Chief ANC and Government Negotiators at South African Multi-Party Talks To Address UMass Boston Commencement". The UMass Boston Friday Report. 2 (22): 1. May 7, 1993. Retrieved 18 October 2016. 
  6. ^ Batson, Ruth (2001). The Black Educational Movement in Boston: A Sequence of Historical Events: A Chronology. Boston: Northeastern University School of Education. 

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