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 and achievements[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, and graduated in 1935. At age nineteen, Ruth Watson married John C. Batson. The two parented three daughters: Cassandra, Susan and Dorothy Batson.

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 chairwomen 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."[2]

Batson attended Boston University (Master of Education degree) and Northeastern University. She retired as a tenured professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine Division of Psychiatry, after more than ten years.[citation needed]

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 published the manuscript of nearly 900 pages in October, 2001.[citation needed]

She 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.[citation needed]

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 youngsters to sever suburbs to 1,125 children to 28 communities. She stepped down in 1969.[citation needed]

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. In its 34 years of giving, the Batson Foundation has awarded over US$1,200,000 in grants.[citation needed]

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

She leaves three grandsons and three daughters, Cassandra Way of Boston, Dorothy Owusu of Alexandria, Virginia, and acting coach Susan Batson of New York City.

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. ^ David Abel and Edgar J. Driscoll Jr., "Ruth Batson, leading figure in education, civil rights," Boston Globe, 10/29/2003.
  2. ^ David Abel and Edgar J. Driscoll Jr., "Ruth Batson, leading figure in education, civil rights," Boston Globe, 10/29/2003.