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James Marshall Papers, 1930-1986, Series 354 


The James Marshall Papers, 1930-1986, document the educational work of a prominent member and officer of the Board of Education. They comprise Series 354 of the Board of Education Records and are part of the subgroup of records of members of the Board. They have been assigned accession number 04-075.

The papers were donated by the estate of James Marshall to the Board of Education Archives (then in the custody of Teachers College) in 1986. They were transferred to the New York City Municipal Archives in 2004.

The series consists of 12 cubic feet of records. They were organized and inventoried by the Municipal Archives in 2005 with support from the New York State Archives under its Local Government Records Management Improvement Fund.

Biographical Note

James Marshall was appointed to the Board of Education by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in 1935 and became recognized as an articulate “reform” member of the Board. He was elected vice president of the Board in 1936 and president of the Board in 1938, serving as president through 1942. He remained a member of the Board until 1952.

Born in New York in 1895, Marshall attended the Ethical Culture School, the Columbia University School of Journalism and the Columbia Law School, from which he graduated in 1920. After service in the army in World War I, he entered his father’s law firm, Guggenheimer, Untermyer, and Marshall, before founding his own firm of Marshall, Bratter, Greene, Allison, and Tucker. His father, Louis Marshall, was a noted constitutional lawyer, conservationist, and leader of Jewish organizations whose achievements included drafting the provision in the state constitution guaranteeing the

wild status of the Adirondack Park and the founding of the Jewish Agency for Palestine under the League of Nations mandate.

Marshall followed many of his father’s interests in the realm of public service. He went to Palestine to report on Jewish settlements, served on the board of governors of the American Jewish Committee, helped found the Natural Resources Defense Council, and served on the boards of the Adirondack Council and the Wilderness Society. In the closing years of World War II he was a leading advocate of the creation of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Active in liberal Republican politics in New York, Marshall chaired the New York County Republican Advisory Committee and helped manage LaGuardia’s first mayoral campaign. Although he maintained good relations with Republican politicians after LaGuardia appointed him to the Board of Education, Marshall insisted that his work on the Board, including his role in appointments of school officials, be entirely free of political interference.

During and after his service on the Board, Marshall maintained an active schedule of speaking and writing on educational philosophy and policy. Throughout his career he advocated a “progressive” approach to educational curriculum and method. This included an emphasis on the diversity of pupils’ needs, the individualization of instruction, and the provision of informal extra-curricular activities.

James Marshall died in New York in 1985 at the age of 90.

Related Collection

The American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati, Ohio, also received a collection of James Marshall’s papers from his estate in 1986. That collection, dealing with matters other than public education in New York City, should be consulted for a more complete understanding of his life, work, and thought.

Scope and Content

The collection consists of records of Marshall’s work in the field of education, broadly, including his work as a member of the Board of Education and his activities as an advocate of progressive education, including his writings, speeches, and public statements on matters of educational philosophy and policy. Most of the records are from the period up to 1952, when Marshall served on the Board, but some relate to his continued educational interests in later years. This distinction is reflected in the subseries organization.

The materials are those which Marshall, himself, chose to retain and to contribute to the Board of Education archives. As such, they emphasize the issues and projects that he felt were most important. Some of these emphases are reflected in the subject files, including files relating to the school building program, anti-corruption efforts, racial issues, juvenile delinquency, and staff relations. Other issues, such as Marshall’s insistence on excluding political influence from appointments, are reflected in the correspondence files, including the correspondence with Mayor LaGuardia.

The fullest explication of Marshall’s educational ideas and policy concerns is presented in the speeches, articles, and other writings. The subseries of speeches includes extensive files of the texts and drafts of speeches given throughout his career. Some of his special concerns, often matters of controversy over authority for finance and administration of the schools, are reflected in the subseries of press releases and public statements.

A general review of Marshall’s work in public education, prepared at the time of his retirement from the Board, is included in the biographical subseries. An extensive list of his files, as they were stored in 1952, is also in this subseries; unfortunately those files were not retained by the Board of Education.

The period after Marshall’s retirement from the board is represented by several subseries: subject files, correspondence, speeches, and writings. While the quantity of such records is limited, they demonstrate Marshall’s continued active advocacy of educational modernization.

Series Descriptions

Subseries I through Subseries IX contain materials primarily related to Marshall’s educational work during the years of his service on the Board of Education, up to 1952. Subseries X through XIII contain materials related to Marshall’s activities in education after his retirement from the Board.

Subseries I. Board of Education Minutes and Resolutions. 1934-1952. 0.25 cu. ft.

The subseries contains typescript and mimeographed versions of minutes and resolutions from selected Board meetings. Arranged by type of record and then chronologically. These minutes were issued prior to the published version, for immediate use by board members. The resolutions were ones introduced by Marshall on topics of special concern, such as the “Use of Schools for Controversial Purposes.”

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Subseries II. Subject Files. 1935-1952. 1.5 cu. ft.

The subject files include correspondence, memoranda, reports, and clippings, arranged alphabetically. The topical subjects included are generally policy and administrative issues with which Marshall was especially concerned, such as the building program, and efforts to eliminate corruption in procurement. Files on staff relations document Marshall’s effort in developing a program for consultation and communication with staff organizations in the era before collective bargaining.

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Subseries III. Correspondence. 1935-1952. 1.25 cu. ft.

The correspondence files are arranged in categories reflecting the way Marshall maintained them. The subseries begins with files of fairly lively corresondence with Mayor LaGuardia and Commissioner of Parks Robert Moses. Other notable correspondence relates to Marshall’s books, articles, speeches, and radio appearances. Several files contain letters of congratulation and commendation regarding Marshall’s election as vice president and president of the Board. Finally, the subseries includes an alphabetical sequence of general correspondence, including correspondence with officials, colleagues, and members of the public.

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Subseries IV. Speeches, Addresses, Broadcasts. 1930-1952. 1 cu. ft.

Drafts and texts of speeches, radio addresses, and a lantern slide presentation. Arranged by format, then chronologically. The first set of files consists of a “quasi-album” compilation, by Marshall, of many of his speeches for the years 1936 to 1940. Duplicates or variants of some of these speeches are included in the following sequence of speech files arranged chronologically from 1930 to 1952. Texts of a number of radio addresses, primarily in the 1940s, and a lantern side script on immigration, complete the subseries.

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Subseries V. Press Releases and Public Statements. 1935-1952. 0.25 cu. ft.

Texts of Marshall’s statements to the Board of education and press releases and other statements designed for public distribution. Arranged by format and then chronologically. These are generally mimeographed statements on matters of policy or political controversy with which Marshall was especially concerned.

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Subseries VI. Writings. 1935-1952. 1.75 cu. ft.

Published reports and articles; drafts of books and articles; and source notes for writings. Arranged by format, then chronologically. Included is a set of reports of the Board’s Committee for the Study of the Care and Education of Physically Handicapped Children, 1941, which Marshall chaired. Several files contain drafts of books, “Administration and Human Behavior,” and “The Business of Schools is Children”.

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Subseries VII. Biographical and Memorabilia. 1952, 1986. 0.5 cu. ft.

A small group of records created in 1952 at the time of Marshall’s retirement from the Board, consisting of an essay on his role in education, a list of his files, a biographical summary, and the record of a dinner in his honor.

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Subseries VIII. Photographs, 1938-1982. 0.5 cu. ft.

Photographs of Marshall, with related correspondence, arranged chronologically; and an album of photographs of children in the schools prepared by the Film Production Unit of the World’s Fair Exhibit Committee of the Board of Education, 1939.

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Subseries IX. Scrapbooks, 1936-1958. 4 cu. ft.

Scrapbooks of newspaper clippings. Arranged chronologically. The clippings relate to activities, events, and policy controversies in the New York City schools, and especially Marshall’s role in these matters. One scrapbooks consists specially of clippings on the activities of the Coudert-Rapp Committee of the New York State Legislature, which carried out controversial anti-communist investigations.

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Subseries X. Subject Files (post-Board of Education). 1952-1968. 0.5 cu. ft.

Correspondence, memoranda, reports, and clippings. Arranged alphabetically by topic.
Included are files on general educational topics of special interest to Marshall, such as academic freedom and juvenile deliquency, and also a group of files on the work of the Staff Relations Committee within the Board of Education, which continued a project Marshall had developed.

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Subseries XI. Correspondence (post-Board of Education). 1952-1965. 0.25 cu. ft.

General correspondence, arranged chronologically. Includes correspondence with associates and members of the public.

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Subseries XII. Speeches and Addresses (Post-Board of Education). 1952-1972. 0.25 cu. ft

Texts and drafts of speeches, lectures and radio and television broadcasts. Arranged by format, then chronologically. Includes speeches and broadcasts on educational topics, and a series of lectures at Hebrew University, 1954.

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Subseries XIII. Writings (post-Board of Education). 1952-1985. 0.5 cu. ft.

Published books and articles and typed drafts. Includes copies of his published works and also a draft of the book “Hostility and Education.”

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