M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives

ARCHIVES OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS AND POLICY

Finding Aid for the
THE BROTHERS
RECORDS, 1966-1972

(APAP-081)

For reference queries contact M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives Reference staff

Finding Aid Compiled by
Joan Seidman
February 2000







M. E. Grenander Department of Special Collections & Archives 
University Libraries / University at Albany / State University of New York 
1400 Washington Avenue / Albany, New York 12222 / (518) 437-3935


VOLUME: 1.4 cubic feet

ACQUISITION: The Albany Liberators in this manuscript group were donated to the University Libraries, M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, by Barbara Shields in November 1992 and Dennis Mosley in 1995. Other items in this record group were donated by Gordon Van Ness.

ACCESS: Access to this record group is unrestricted.

COPYRIGHT: The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of copyright. Whenever possible, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will provide information about copyright owners and other restrictions, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Head of Special Collections and Archives.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Administrative History

Scope and content note

Box and folder list


The Brothers
Administrative History

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The Brothers was a civil rights group that was active in Albany, New York for several years beginning in 1966. While picketing a worksite to protest discrimination in hiring practices, Leon Van Dyke was joined by several African-American men from Albany's South End and Arbor Hill neighborhoods. Believing that it was the responsibility of the African-American community to address its own problems, the group took on issues faced by the residents of Arbor Hill, the South End and the North Side: poverty, poor access to health care, slum housing conditions, inadequate public schools and lack of political power. They pressured landlords to clean up their buildings, offered free classes in black history, ran voter registration drives and a breakfast program for poor children. They led rent strikes and protested against discrimination and alleged police brutality. The first action that brought them notoriety was their attempt in November 1966 to expose the alleged vote-buying practice of the Albany Democratic political machine. Considered enemies of the political machine, Mayor Erastus Corning 2nd kept secret police surveillance files on the members. [1] At the height of their prominence the Brothers unsuccessfully fielded African-American candidates for mayor, alderman and county legislator. The Brothers maintained the non-violent philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King, but indicated that they would react with force if necessary. While not as militant as the Black Panthers, they were viewed with suspicion by many in the African-American community. However, they had the support of many activists in Albany, including lawyers, religious leaders, college students and professors.

Some of the founding members of the group included: Gordon Van Ness, Leon Van Dyke, Clarence Williams, James McBride, John Williams, Sam McDowell, Robert Gene Dobbs, William Gibson, Peter Jones and Herman Washington. [2] There were 15-20 core members of the Brothers. There was no permanent president or chairman. Instead, each week a different Brother took the leadership role so that, according to Gordon Van Ness, ".society can not buy out the Brothers." [3] There were two permanent officers, a treasurer and a secretary. There were seven committees with permanent chairmen: Labor, Welfare, Housing, Political Action, Youth and Drugs, Education and Draft Committees. [4] The Brothers published a newspaper, The Albany Liberator, between 1967 and 1971. It covered news from Albany's Arbor Hill and South End, as well as reprinting articles of interest from all over the country.

The group dissolved in the early 1970s as its members turned their attention to other matters. Some continued their community involvement in less visible ways. After a reunion in April 1990, several former members attempted to revitalize the group. Gordon Van Ness and Clarence Newton opened a community referral center in October 1990 on Clinton Avenue to help advocate for local residents. Shortly after, Van Ness died. Lacking community and financial support, the center closed at the end of 1993. [5]
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Notes

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1. Grondahl, Paul, Albany Times Union, August 22, 1999, p. A3
2. Gaikowski, Richard, Knickerbocker News, October 20, 1966
3. Van Ness, Gordon, Original document circa1968
4. Ibid
5. LeBrun, Fred, Albany Times Union, December 24, 1993, p.B1


The Brothers
Scope & Content Note

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The bulk of the collection was compiled or created by Gordon Van Ness and contains copies of newspaper clippings, original writings, memos and correspondence. The collection includes no formal minutes or correspondence to record the activities of the Brothers. There are, however, papers dated 1970-1972 documenting the efforts of the Albany Medical Center and the Northside Advisory Council to develop and operate a community health facility in the Arbor Hill section of Albany. The majority of the clippings covers the years from 1966 to 1968 and primarily document the activities of the Brothers, the vote-buying controversy, the arrests and subsequent legal proceedings against individual Brothers, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, and articles of interest to the African-American community. Miscellaneous clippings from 1969 to 1990 document issues relevant to the African-American community in Albany, activities of Gordon Van Ness and the deaths of Samuel McDowell and Ronald Brooks. There are also original copies, as well as photocopies, of The Albany Liberator published between 1967 and 1971. Folder eight includes a report (unidentified) documenting the disagreement surrounding the arrest of 20 pickets demonstrating outside two polling places in 1966. Of particular note are original writings by Gordon Van Ness, most of them undated. Included is a description of the organizational structure of the Brothers, poetry, speeches and highlights of black history and civilization.

The records of the League of Women Voters of Albany County (APAP-128) include issues of The Albany Liberator and correspondence regarding a series for The Albany Liberator on Albany's inner city and voter registration (1967).

A cover of an issue of The Liberator can be viewed at the exhibit Documenting Labor Inside and Out: Labor History in New York State's Capital District.


The Brothers
Box and Folder List

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Box 1 (Oversize)
Note: Access to the original newspapers is not available. Researchers may access preservation copies of The Albany Liberator in Box 2.

Folder 1

The Albany Liberator - Original copies

Volume I, No. 1. June 16, 1967
Volume I, No. 5. July14-20, 1967
Volume I, No. 6. July 21-27, 1967
Volume I, August 18-24, 1967
Volume I, No. 14. October 13-19, 1967
Volume I, No. 18. December 17, 1967
Volume I, No. 19. December 22 - January 11, 1967

Folder 2

The Albany Liberator - Original copies

Volume II, No. 2 & 3. February 29, 1968
Volume II, No. 5. April 18 - May, 1968
Volume II, No. 6. May9 - 21, 1968
Volume II, No. 8. June 20 - July 3, 1968
Volume II, No. 12. September 12-25, 1968
Volume II, No. 13(?) October 28, 1968

Folder 3

The Albany Liberator - Original copies

Volume III, No. 4, January 15, 1970
Volume III, No. (?), April 3, 1970
Volume III, No. (?), October 23, 1970
Volume III, No. 2, November 23-30, 1970

Folder 4

The Albany Liberator - Original copies

Volume IV(?), January 1971,
Special Black Arts Issue, April 1971
Volume III, No. 7, June 1971
Volume III, No. 8-9, July - August 1971

Box 2 (Oversize)
Folder 1

The Albany Liberator - Preservation photocopies

Volume I, No. 1. June 16, 1967
Volume I, No. 4. July 7-13, 1967
Volume I, No. 5 July 14-20, 1967
Volume I, No. 6 July 21-27, 1967
Volume I, No. 7. July 28 - August 3, 1967
Volume I, August 18-24, 1967
Volume I, No. 11 September 8 - 14, 1967
Volume I, No. 13. September 29 - October 5, 1967
Volume I, No. 14 October 13-19, 1967
Volume I, No. 17. November 17 - 23, 1967
Volume I, No. 18. December 7, 1967
Volume I, No. 19. December 22 - January 11, 1967

Folder 2

The Albany Liberator - Preservation photocopies

Volume II, No. 2 & 3. February 29, 1968
Volume II, No. 5 April 18-May, 1968
Volume II, No. 6 May 9-21, 1968
Volume II, No. 8. June 20 - July 3, 1968
Volume II, No. 9. July 11-24, 1968
Volume II, No. 12 September 12-21, 1968
Volume II, No. 13(?) October 28, 1968

Folder 3

The Albany Liberator - Preservation photocopies

October 27 - November 3, 1969
Volume III, No. 4 January 15, 1970
April 3, 1970
October 23, 1970
Volume III, No. 2 November 23-30, 1970
Special issue, undated
July - August, 1971

Folder 4

The Albany Liberator - Preservation photocopies

Volume IV(?), January 1971
Special Black Arts Issue, April 1971
Volume III, No. 7. June 1971
Volume III, No. 8-9 July-August 1971

Box 3
Folder

1. "A Lesson for All" Gordon Van Ness, [ ]
2. "A Letter to a Friend (Inner Cities of America)" Gordon Van Ness, 1990
3. Bibliography on African-American History, 1967
4. The Brothers' Mission, 1989
5. Clippings, 1965-April 15, 1967
6. Clippings, April 16, 1967-1968
7. Clippings, 1969-1990
8. Clippings (The Liberator), [ ]
9. Community Newspapers, 1971
10. Community Referral Center, [ ]
11. Housing, 1968
12. Human Relations Seminars for Corrections Officers, 1973
13. Investigation of Arrest at Polling Place, November 1966
14. Miscellandous
Includes fund-raising letter, thank you letter, copies of photos of people
15. Northside Advisory Council (NAC), 1970-72
16. Northside Community Health Center (memos, correspondence), 1971-72
17. Posters, Flyers, Brochures, [ ]
18. Programs (dinners and conferences), 1972, 1975, 1990
19. Reunion, April 27, 1990
20. Urban League (reports), 1968, 1969
21. Van Ness, Gordon,
Includes undated biographical material and obituary (1990)
22. Writings (original, Gordon Van Ness), [ ]
23. Curator's News Clippings Includes copies from microfiche, Dialog

Box 4 (Oversize)
Folder

1. News Clippings, 1966-1968


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Last updated July 23, 2004