Archives and Special Collections
92 Snell Library
360 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115
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Collection Overview

Biographical Note

Scope and Content Note


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Collection Overview
Name of Creator:Pola, Carmen A., 1939–.
Title:Carmen A. Pola papers
Date:1970–2006 (bulk 1975–2000)
Reference Code:M159
Location Code:56/3–4
Extent:16 cubic ft. (20 boxes)
Scope and Content Abstract:The Carmen A. Pola papers document Pola’s community activism in the Boston area from the early 1970s into the first decade of the 21st century. The bulk of the papers are related to her community organizing on issues involving the Boston Public Schools, including bilingual education, and services for minority children and families, including mental health services, through such organizations as the Bilingual Masters Parents Advisory Council, City Wide Parents Advisory Council, Roxbury Unites for Families and Children, and the Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health. The documentation of these organizations includes correspondence, memoranda, grant proposals and reports, organizational records, legal materials, political campaign literature, and publications. A smaller portion of the collections relates to Pola’s term of service in Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn’s administration and includes records of the 1983 election campaign, and Pola’s dealings with staff and constituents. The collection also documents the Puerto Rican Festival and contains a substantial number of photographs documenting public and private events, including Boston’s Puerto Rican Festival and family gatherings. The collection has been arranged in eight series: 1. Personal, 2. Activism, 3. Puerto Rican Festival, 4. Boston Public Schools, 5. Massachusetts Advocacy Center, Project to Monitor the Code of Discipline, 6. Raymond Flynn Administration, 7. Roxbury Unites for Families and Children, and 8. Audio / Visual Material.
Biographical Abstract: Community activist Carmen A. Pola was born Carmen Aurora Villanueva Garcia in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, in 1939. In 1955 she moved to the continental United States with her family, settling briefly in the Bronx, New York, before moving to Oakland, California, where the family worked in agriculture. In 1960 she married Juan Pola, and they have five children. While in California, Pola became involved in community activism, participating in a number of grassroots organizations concerned with education and youth activism, including La Raza Educators and young Catholic Workers. In 1972, the Pola family relocated to Boston, Massachusetts, settling in the neighborhood of Mission Hill. Pola quickly became involved in community activism, helping to organize tenants in Mission Hill and coordinating a class action lawsuit, Perez v. Boston Housing Authority, to force the City to comply with existing sanitary codes. She was also one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit brought by the Parent's Committee for Defense of Bilingual Education (Comité de Padres pro Defensa del la Educación Bilingüe), Morgan v. Kerrigan, in response to desegregation policies that threatened the viability of bilingual education programs in the Boston Public Schools. In 1975 she was coordinator of the Festival Puertorriqueño (Puerto Rican Festival), held annually in Boston since 1967. From 1977 to 1980, Pola was the coordinator of the Community District I Advisory Council (CDAC), part of the Citywide Parents Advisory Council (CPAC), Inc., which operated from 1974–2004 under the court–mandated desegregation of Boston Public Schools (Morgan v. Hennigan). These councils operated at the city–wide (CPAC), district (CDAC), and school (Racial Ethnic Parent Councils (REPC)) levels. Pola was also involved in the Bilingual Masters Parents Advisory Council which oversaw the implementation of the Voluntary Lau Compliance Plan, a 1979 agreement that outlined the responsibilities of the Boston Public Schools in providing education to bilingual students.
Language and Scripts:Collection is primarily in English with some material in Spanish.
System of Arrangement:Organized into 8 series: 1. Personal, 2. Early Activism, 3. Puerto Rican Festival, 4. Boston Public Schools, 5. Massachusetts Advocacy Center: Project to Monitor the Code of Discipline, 6. Raymond Flynn Administration, 7. Roxbury Unites for Families and Children, and 8. Audio / Visual Material.
Subjects and Contributors:
  • Flynn, Raymond L., 1939–
  • Pola, Carmen A., 1939–

  • Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • Boston Public Schools
  • Massachusetts Advocacy Center
  • Roxbury Unites for Families and Children, Inc.

  • Education, Bilingual
  • Ethnic festivals –– Massachusetts –– Boston
  • Minorities -- Education
  • Hispanic American youth –– Mental health services
  • Hispanic Americans
  • Massachusetts (State) –– Politics and government
  • Women political activists –– Massachusetts –– Boston

Conditions Governing Access:The collection is mainly unrestricted; records identifying specific students are restricted.
Immediate Source of Acquisition:This collection was the gift of Carmen A. Pola in two installments: 20 November 2006 and 12 June 2008.
Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use:Copyright restrictions may apply.
Appraisal, Destruction, and Scheduling Information:The material was boxed at Pola's home on Hillside Avenue. Some of the material was stored on the porch where it had been irretrievably contaminated by birds, so it could not be accessioned.
Processor: Finding aid prepared by Anna Cook, Cynthia Rufo, and Dominique Medal, January 2010.