UUSC: 75 Years of Service

April 13, 2015
Baby clinic personnel in Nigeria trained by former UUSC nutritionist Dr. Martha Potgieter, left. Photo: Courtesy Andover-Harvard Theological Library.

To mark the 75th anniversary of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, Andover-Harvard Theological Library has created an exhibit of historic documents and images chronicling the decades of global human rights advocacy and humanitarian work by the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based UUSC.

Spanning three floors of the library, the exhibit will open to the public on April 23 and will run through the end of July.

Titled "75 Years of Service: UUSC, 1940-2015," the display is drawn from the AHTL official archives of some 260 boxes of documents and images, starting with UUSC's heralded work rescuing European refugees during World War II.

"It is a great honor for us to participate in the anniversary celebration of this venerable organization, which has done so much good in the world. The materials on display this spring and summer represent only a sampling of a rich archive of materials documenting the storied history of the UUSC," said Andover-Harvard Library director Douglas Gragg.

The exhibit highlights volatile times of assault to human rights and triumphs of the human spirit, including UUSC's: health and community development work in Nigeria in 1958, as the country moved toward independence from Great Britain's colonial rule; education and social services work with Gallup, New Mexico's Navajo community in the 1950s, and work in Central America and high profile advocacy in Washington decrying human rights violations during El Salvador's decade-long civil war.

"I can't think of a more fitting way for UUSC to begin celebrating its seventy-five years of service than to open this doorway to scholars, students, theologians and the public, through such an extensive and inspiring exhibit," said the Rev. Bill Schulz, president and chief executive officer for UUSC. "It is an honor to be so acknowledged by the Divinity School and Andover-Harvard Theological Library.

"It is ultimately a shared celebration of the peoples and communities whose human rights and social justice gains we've had the privilege to support over the years," Schulz said.

Gragg said documents in the exhibit relating to UUSC's World War II rescue of Jewish refugees were highlighted in a major project the library completed in collaboration with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. and the Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine in Paris. The project resulted in digitizing most of the UUSC archival records for the years 1938 to 1960.

A resulting "Holocaust Rescue and Relief " collection is now accessible online to students, faculty, researchers and the public. The effort was chronicled in a 2010 Harvard Gazette article.