Black Citizens Task Force Records
An Inventory to the Collection
A group of concerned Austin citizens that included, Dr. John Warfield, former City Council member Charles Urdy, Velma Roberts, Larry Jackson, Charles Miles and others started the Black Citizens Task Force (BCTF) in 1972. According to the BCTF brochure, they organized with the intent "to bring about fundamental political, economic and social change to people of African descent, through liberation from racism and capitalism." In the beginning, BCTF's mission dealt with equality in employment. It later expanded to encompass education, health, housing and other areas that afflicted the community, such as police brutality. Additionally, the group was a strong supporter of the anti-apartheid movement.
Two of the most visible members of the Black Citizens Task Force were Dorothy Turner and Velma Roberts. Roberts helped to found the Black Citizens Task Force. Turner joined the organization in 1974, and became the president in 1979. She was the last person to hold the title of president as well as the longest holder of this position. Both women were outspoken proponents of civil rights for underprivileged, minorities and women. Locally, they were known as "Batman and Robin" and received a multitude of awards for their dedication to advancing civil rights and highlighting community issues through grassroots activism. Examples of such activism under Turner's leadership include leading efforts to get city officials to hire more women and minorities, partnering with groups such as the Brown Berets to protest the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) activities, partnering with University of Texas students to fight racism on UT campus, building and supporting organizations that engaged the youth of Austin in positive activities, supporting East Austin building initiatives that provided community centers for neighborhood activities, initiating a city-wide Kwanzaa celebration, and producing the local TV show Liberation and the radical newspaper, Grassroots Struggle, both of which addressed issues of equality, racism, and discrimination.
Dorothy Turner, (1935-2005) was born and raised in Austin, TX. She worked for the City of Austin in a variety positions for 26 years where she noted the inequality to minorities and women. It was her experience at the city that galvanized her to take action by organizing employees, writing complaints, and confronting supervisors. As an employee at Brackenridge hospital, she filed two complaints with the EEO regarding low wages and immobility of minority employees that directly led to the rising of wages and promotions. In 1977, she filed a class action law suit against the City of Austin citing discriminatory hiring practices. Soon afterwards, the first African American personnel director and female assistant city manager were hired. That same year, she became the president of the BCTF. She served as its longest as well as its last president. During her tenure, Turner fought against racism and discrimination on local, national, and global scales.
Velma Roberts, (1930-2000) was born and raised in Austin, TX. She trained as a paralegal, and worked in legal aid for 10 years. She was one of the founding members of the BCTF. Some of her numerous accomplishments include serving on the first committee to launch KAZI radio station, "a local non-commercial community radio that serves the African American community"; helping launch Johnson's War on Poverty programs, which included helping to organize the first Head Start program and a breakfast program for children; in 1969, she founded, and later became the first president of the local chapter of the National Welfare Rights Organization, she was later elected state representative to the National Welfare Organization; she founded activist group, Sisters in the Hood; she also fought against busing East Austin children to other schools during desegregation and later helped to found a short-lived alternative school for children.
The Black Citizens Task Force collection (1979-2004) consists primarily of documents related to the organization's operations during Dorothy Turner's presidency. It includes correspondence, programs, printed materials, clippings, research materials, photographs, as well as audio and video material. The collection is divided into twelve series. The Clippings, Correspondence and Research Material series provide the greatest insight into the organization's activites and views.
Series One, Biographical Information (1979-2006) contains background information on BCTF members, awards presented to Turner and Roberts, clippings about Turner and Turner's personal correspondence.
Series Two, Organizational Records (1979-2001) contains organizational materials such as governing documents, financial materials, agendas, meeting notes, membership rosters, contact lists, organizational templates, petitions, printed materials, flyers, brochures, legal materials, and advertisements. The printed materials folder displays examples of marketing materials that show the causes the BCTF supported.
Series Three, Correspondence (1975-2000) contains correspondence to and from various individuals and organizations. Notable within this series are letters to and from government officials, including mayors and city councilmen.
Series Four, Grievances (1977-2000) contains documents that highlight BCTF participation in helping individuals fight racism, and discrimination through the grievance process. This material is organized by company/organization name.
Series Five, Programs (1989-2001) contains information about programs that the BCTF initiated or supported such as outreach programs, youth programs, employment programs and celebrations.
Series Six, Other Organizations (1987-1997) contains documents from other organizations in which Dorothy Turner took an active role.
Series Seven, Research Material (1974-2001) contains research materials relating to events, organizations, people, and issues that were important to the BCTF. This series contains information files that were kept by the BCTF. They include information on important issues of the time,such as the death of Ekiye Evans at the hands of the Austin Police dept in 1984 and a small amount of information on the events that followed.
Series Eight, Clippings (1975-2000) contains information relating to events, organizations, people, and issues that were important to the BCTF. This series contains information files that were kept by the BCTF. They include information on important issues of that time, including police brutality, KKK activity in the area, general information on Eric Mitchell, and the incarceration of twelve-year old Lacresha Murray for the death of two-year old Jayla Belton in 1996.
Series Nine, Photographs (undated) contains black and white and color images of BCTF events and members. Most of the material is unspecified.
Series Ten, Scrapbooks (1978-2001) contains scrapbooks, event logs, calendars, and address books that highlight organizational activities. This series contains information, mostly clippings, on the death of Gill Couch at the hands of Austin police force in 1979, KKK activities, and letters of congratulation to Turner on awards she received.
Series Eleven, Artifacts (undated) contains three dimensional items such as political buttons, T-Shirts, BCTF sashes, and a silk screen.
Series Twelve, Audiovisual Material (1979-1999) contains audio cassette tapes and both VHS and ¾" Umatic video recordings of BCTF events and programs. Also, broadcasts of the BCTF television program Liberation and a program produced by Trella Laughlin entitled Let the People Speak!
The John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin houses a collection of documents pertaining to the BCTF and founding member, Dr. John Warfield. This collection may hold information that covers the earlier years of the BCTF, 1972-1979.
Restrictions on Access
Open to all users.
Restrictions on Use
The collection is composed of donations from Eli Moten, Dorothy Turner, and Susan Richardson. Eli Moten, son of Dorothy Turner, made a donation in 1987, Turner made donations in 2004 and 2005, and Richardson, upon instruction from Turner, donated material in 2006 and 2013, after Turner's death.
Black Citizens Task Force Records (AR.2004.037) Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas
Donor #: DO/1987/057
Donation Date: 1987, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2013
Finding Aid created and encoded by Cynthia Evans in 2013. Revisions by Susan Rittereiser, 2014.
Detailed Description of the Collection