1400 Washington AveAlbanyNY
1400 Washington AveAlbanyNY

The Brothers Records

1966-1972

PDF Version

Abstract

The Brothers was a civil rights group that was active in Albany, New York for several years beginning in 1966.

Summary

Creator:
Brothers (Albany, N.Y.)
Date Coverage:
1966-1972
Quantity:
1.4 cubic ft.

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]

1. Grondahl, Paul, Albany Times Union, August 22, 1999, p. A32. Gaikowski, Richard, Knickerbocker News, October 20, 19663. Van Ness, Gordon, Original document circa19684. Ibid5. LeBrun, Fred, Albany Times Union, December 24, 1993, p.B1

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 collection has no series.

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.1992-1995

Processed by: Joan Seidman

Collection record created by: This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on

Published: 2017-04-14 10:10:13 -0400

Converted to EAD, 2016 December

Encoded in EAD by Joan Seidman, 2000 February

Archival materials can be view in-person during business hours in our reading room, located on the top floor of the Science Library on the Uptown Campus.

We can also deliver digital scans for remote research for a fee.

Access to the original newspapers is not available. Researchers may access preservation copies of The Albany Liberator in Box 2.

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Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, The Brothers Records, 1966-1972. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as The Brothers Records).

Contents of Collection

BoxFolderContentsDate

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1 1The Albany Liberator (Originals) Volume I, No. 1 1967 June 16

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1 1The Albany Liberator (Originals) Volume I, No. 5 1967 July 14-20

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1 1The Albany Liberator (Originals) Volume I, No. 6 1967 July 21-27

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1 1The Albany Liberator (Originals) Volume I 1967 August 18-24

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1 1The Albany Liberator (Originals) Volume I, No. 14 1967 October 13-19

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1 1The Albany Liberator (Originals) Volume I, No. 18 1967 December 17

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1 1The Albany Liberator (Originals) Volume I, No. 19 1967 December 22-1968 January 11

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1 2The Albany Liberator (Originals) Volume II, No. 2 & 3 1968 February 29

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1 2The Albany Liberator (Originals) Volume II, No. 5 1968 April 18-May

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1 2The Albany Liberator (Originals) Volume II, No. 6 1968 May 9-21

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1 2The Albany Liberator (Originals) Volume II, No. 8 1968 June 20-July 3

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1 2The Albany Liberator (Originals) Volume II, No. 12 1968 September 12-25

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1 2The Albany Liberator (Originals) Volume II, No. 13(?) 1968 October 28

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1 3The Albany Liberator (Originals) Volume III, No. 4 1970 January 15

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1 3The Albany Liberator (Originals) Volume III, No. (?) 1970 April 3

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1 3The Albany Liberator (Originals) Volume III, No. (?) 1970 October 23

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1 3The Albany Liberator (Originals) Volume III, No. 2 1970 November 23-30

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1 4The Albany Liberator (Originals) Volume IV(?) 1971 January

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1 4The Albany Liberator (Originals) Special Black Arts Issue 1971 April

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1 4The Albany Liberator (Originals) Volume III, No. 7 1971 June

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1 4The Albany Liberator (Originals) Volume III, No. 8-9 1971 July-August

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2 1The Albany Liberator (Photocopies) Volume I, No. 11967 June 16

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2 1The Albany Liberator (Photocopies) Volume I, No. 41967 July 7-13

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2 1The Albany Liberator (Photocopies) Volume I, No. 51967 July 14-20

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2 1The Albany Liberator (Photocopies) Volume I, No. 61967 July 21-27

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2 1The Albany Liberator (Photocopies) Volume I, No. 71967 July 28-August 3

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2 1The Albany Liberator (Photocopies) Volume I1967 August 18-24

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2 1The Albany Liberator (Photocopies) Volume I, No. 111967 September 8-14

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2 1The Albany Liberator (Photocopies) Volume I, No. 131967 September 29-October 5

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2 1The Albany Liberator (Photocopies) Volume I, No. 141967 October 13-19

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2 1The Albany Liberator (Photocopies) Volume I, No. 171967 November 17-23

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2 1The Albany Liberator (Photocopies) Volume I, No. 181967 December 7

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2 1The Albany Liberator (Photocopies) Volume I, No. 191967 December 22-1968 January 11

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2 2The Albany Liberator (Photocopies) Volume II, No. 2 & 31968 February 29

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2 2The Albany Liberator (Photocopies) Volume II, No. 51968 April 18-May

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2 2The Albany Liberator (Photocopies) Volume II, No. 61968 May 9-21

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2 2The Albany Liberator (Photocopies) Volume II, No. 81968 June 20-July 3

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2 2The Albany Liberator (Photocopies) Volume II, No. 91968 July 11-24

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2 2The Albany Liberator (Photocopies) Volume II, No. 121968 September 12-21

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2 2The Albany Liberator (Photocopies) Volume II, No. 13(?)1968 October 28

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2 3The Albany Liberator (Photocopies)1969 October 27-November 3

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2 3The Albany Liberator (Photocopies) Volume III, No. 41970 January 15

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2 3The Albany Liberator (Photocopies)1970 April 3

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2 3The Albany Liberator (Photocopies)1970 October 23

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2 3The Albany Liberator (Photocopies) Volume III, No. 21970 November 23-30

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2 3The Albany Liberator (Photocopies) Special issueUndated

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2 3The Albany Liberator (Photocopies)1971 July-August

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2 4The Albany Liberator (Photocopies) Volume IV(?)1971 January

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2 4The Albany Liberator (Photocopies) Special Black Arts Issue1971 April

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2 4The Albany Liberator (Photocopies) Volume III, No. 71971 June

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2 4The Albany Liberator (Photocopies) Volume III, No. 8-91971 July-August

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3 1"A Lesson for All" Gordon Van NessUndated

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3 2"A Letter to a Friend (Inner Cities of America)" Gordon Van Ness1990

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3 3Bibliography on African-American History1967

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3 4The Brothers' Mission1989

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3 5Clippings1965 April 15, 1967

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3 6Clippings1967 April 16-1968

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3 7Clippings1969-1990

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3 8Clippings (The Liberator)Undated

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3 9Community Newspapers1971

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3 10Community Referral CenterUndated

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3 11Housing1968

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3 12Human Relations Seminars for Corrections Officers1973

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3 13Investigation of Arrest at Polling Place1966 November

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3 14Miscellaneous - Includes fund-raising letter, thank you letter, copies of photos of peopleUndated

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3 15Northside Advisory Council (NAC)1970-1972

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3 16Includes fund-raising letter, thank you letter, copies of photos of people1971-1972

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3 17Posters, Flyers, BrochuresUndated

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3 18Programs (dinners and conferences)1972, 1975, 1990

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3 19Reunion1990 April 27

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3 20Urban League (reports)1968, 1969

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3 21Van Ness, Gordon, Includes undated biographical material and obituary1990

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3 22Writings (original, Gordon Van Ness)Undated

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3 23Curator's News Clippings Includes copies from microfiche, DialogUndated

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4 1News Clippings1966-1968