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Mel King: Highlights from the 1983 Mayoral Campaign Papers

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Mel King for Mayor bumper sticker.


The Roxbury Community College Archives & Special Collections are the proud stewards of the Melvin King 1983 Mayoral Campaign Papers. Running against incumbent Raymond L. Flynn, this collection documents activities before and after King’s bid for Mayor of Boston on November 15, 1983.

This digital display consists of materials from this collection.

Mel King is a figure who defies concise description. He was born in Boston in 1928 and grew up in the South End neighborhood, where he lived throughout his life.

Mel King, center, at an unidentified community event. People, community, and neighborhoods were central pillars of the Mel King campaign.




After spending his early career teaching mathematics in Boston, King turned his attention to other areas of public and community service. He served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1973-1982 for the 4th Suffolk District, redistricted to the 9th Suffolk District in 1978. King first ran for Mayor of Boston in 1979, though his campaign did not make it through the preliminary election for that election cycle.


The campaign schedules in the Mel King Papers show us that almost every moment of King’s time was accounted for. Displayed here is King’s schedule on August 6, 1983.





One of the most interesting aspect of King’s campaign papers include his campaign schedules, detailing the types of activities he would pursue throughout the campaign. From community meetings to campaign events, demands on King’s time increased as the election date approached. Though his 1983 campaign was ultimately unsuccessful in the final election, King made history as the first Black person to be a finalist in a Boston mayoral election.





A flyer for a Mel King campaign benefit event.




This speech, for the Women’s Alliance for Boston Elections, demonstrates King’s commitment to issues a bit more abstract than the average city policy, such as the right to life and who is able to hold political power.


Mel King had a way of connecting with community members through his political stances and policy, profoundly progressive for 1980s. Rights for women, education, affordable housing and Boston’s youth were among his top concerns in his 1983 bid for Mayor of Boston.






The only piece of clothing in the collection, this t-shirt, which reads “My Father’s Runnin’ For Mayor,” was likely worn by someone heavily invested in the King campaign.









Information regarding a Rainbow Celebration at Boston City Hall is among the pamphlets in the Mel King Papers.




King’s other accomplishments include founding the Massachusetts Rainbow Coalition Party, later the Green-Rainbow Party. He additionally served as a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, teaching Urban Studies and Planning. These achievements are non-exhaustive, and King’s commitment to his community and positive change cannot all be listed here.


King’s mayoral campaign papers include a collection of political campaign buttons, including this Rainbow Coalition Founding Convention button from 1984.









A copy of Mel King’s speech for the 1985 Roxbury Community College Commencement is included in King’s special collection at RCC.



One of Roxbury Community College’s 50th Anniversary Pioneers, Mel King is deeply connected to the history of RCC. Among the written speeches contained in the Mel King collection is a speech King performed as part of RCC’s 1985 commencement.









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