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318 Elmer L. Andersen Library, University of Minnesota, 222 21st Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55455

An Inventory of His Papers

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Creator: Marsh, Leo B.
Title: Leo Marsh papers.
Date: 1920-1979 (bulk 1959-1969).
Collection Number: Y.USA.3
Abstract: Papers of Leo Bergman Marsh, YMCA National Board staff member and leader, documenting his career in the YMCA, which spanned the years from 1928 to 1976. The bulk of the papers concern his extensive work promoting improved race relations within the movement.
Quantity: 3.2 cu. ft. (4 boxes).
Location: See Detailed Description section for box listing.


Leo Bergman Marsh was born in Camden, Alabama in 1903. He graduated from Knoxville College in 1928 and later did graduate work at the University of Chicago, Ohio State College, Columbia University, and George Williams College. While in college at Knoxville, he met and eventually married his wife Bessie. The couple and their two daughters, Frances and Gayle, settled in Montclair, New Jersey.

Marsh began his YMCA career in 1928 in Detroit, where he served as assistant youth work secretary, transferring to the same position in Chicago in 1929. From 1930 to 1945 he was the director of two branch YMCAs, first in Toledo, Ohio and then in Columbus, Ohio. In 1945 he became associate executive secretary of the Atlantic Area, a position which he held until 1948. Marsh joined the National Board as director of Interracial and Counseling Services in 1948. While with the Board, he was U.S. delegate to the 1952 World Conference of Christian Youth in India and a delegate to the 1945 World Council of YMCAs in Japan. In 1954 he had the distinction of becoming the first black president of the Y's National Association of Secretaries (AOS).

In 1967 Marsh became assistant executive of the Board and executive of the Committee for Interracial Advance. He was one of the founders and the first general chairman of the National Conference of Black and Non-White Laymen and Staff (BAN-WYS). In 1969, After retiring from the National Board in 1970, he served for a year as associate development director of the New York City YMCA, where he was instrumental in establishing a successful Black Achievers in Industry program for the Harlem YMCA.

In addition to his work with the YMCA, Marsh was also active with a number of other organizations and agencies. He was chairman of the Task Force on Communications of the Urban Coalition in Montclair, N.J.; a member and former president of the New Jersey State Prison Board of Managers; a member of the National Council of United Negro College Fund, Inc.; a former vice-president of the Montclair Human Relations Council; and a former member of the Montclair Town Planning Board. His church work included membership on the boards of the National Presbyterian Church and the American Bible Society, as well as service as moderator of the Newark Presbytery and as a member of the Organizing Commission of the Northeast Synod of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. At the time of his death, he was a member of the development staff of the Presbyterian Homes of the State of New Jersey. Marsh was a charter member of the Mu Boule of the Sigma Phi Phi Fraternity, and was also a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and the Masons.

Biographical information was taken from the collection.


Papers include correspondence, minutes, speeches, reports, articles, and other material related to Marsh's YMCA work, primarily in the area of race relations. The bulk of the records date from his years on the staff of the National Board and document his participation on several major YMCA board committees concerned with interracial work, including the Commission on Interracial Practices and Program and the Committee on Interracial Advance. The collection includes a great deal of material describing conditions for blacks at various YMCAs around the country.


These documents are organized into the following sections:
Personal Papers
National Board Files


Preferred Citation:
[Indicate the cited item and/or series here]. Leo Marsh Papers. Kautz Family YMCA Archives. University of Minnesota.
See the Chicago Manual of Style for additional examples.
Processing Information:
Processed by: Lara D. Friedman~Shedlov, September 2003.
Catalog Record ID number: 4282490
Includes records previously cataloged separately as part of the Biographical Files.


The following section contains a detailed list of the materials in the collection. To request materials, please note the corresponding box number.

Personal Papers

Speeches, outlines, notes on a variety of topics, including race relations in the YMCA, Christian leadership, and education. Also included is correspondence related to Marsh's retirement from the YMCA in 1970 and award certificates.
1 Miscellaneous papers, undated and 1920-1979. 11 folders.
Retirement letters, 1969-1970. 2 folders.
Award certificates, 1931-1972.

National Board Files

Committee Files:
Includes minutes, memoranda, correspondence, reports, and other material related to various committees and commissions concerned with interracial work in which Marsh was involved.
1 National Study Commission on Interracial Practices, 1950, 1953.
The National Study Commission on Interracial Practices was appointed by the Program Committee of the National Board for two years, initially, to study and review facts and make recommendations for advance in the area of interracial practices within the YMCA. The Commission was reappointed in 1952 and culminated in the organization of the 1954 National Consultation on YMCA Interracial Work, a symposium held in Columbus, Ohio.
Commission on Interracial Policies and Program: Minutes, memoranda, reports, and correspondence. 1959-1967. 7 folders.
In 1955, the National Study Commission on Interracial Practice was reorganized on a more permanent basis as the Commission on Interracial Policies and Program.
Commission on Interracial Policies and Program: Card returns, 1963.
Letters from various YMCAs around the country in response to a mailing informing them of a new policy, adopted by the National Council that year, to integrate YMCAs and eliminate racial discrimination, and asking YMCAs to return a postcard indicating whether they had plans to implement the policy locally.
National Board Chairman's Committee on Interracial Advance, 1965-1966. 2 folders.
This committee was created in 1964 to help resolve legal suits brought against the YMCA by plaintiffs charging violation of the 1964 federal civil rights legislation. It also convened national conference in Washington D.C. to consider the implications of this legislation for the YMCA.
Committee on Interracial Advance, 1966-1969. 2 folders.
The Committee for Interracial Advance was constituted as a successor to the Commission on Interracial Policies and Program. It provided the leadership for the development of a landmark amendment to the YMCA constitution, passed in 1967, which required all local associations to annual certify that "their policies and practices provide that eligibility for membership or participation in program shall be without any discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin" as a condition of membership.
Correspondence Files:
1 Interracial, 1964-1969. 6 folders.
Includes miscellaneous correspondence on interracial matters to and from various committees and programs, including the Committee on Extension, and SPECTRUM, a 1966 community outreach project, cosponsored by the National Student Councils YMCA and the YWCA in Chicago.
Foundations, 1956-1966.
Bunting, James F., 1967-1969. 2 folders.
2 Curtiss, Robert S., 1965-1966.
English, N. Conover, 1965.
Higgenbotham, Judge A. Leon, 1965-1967.
Pedersen, Richard F., 1965-1967.
Rockefeller, Governor Nelson A., 1967.
Scales, Ortho L., 1965-1967.
Thigpen, Richard E., 1965-1966.
Walker, Channing S., 1965.
Wilcox, Hugh B., 1965.
Williams, W. Walter, 1966.
Reports and Articles:
2 Miscellaneous reports in interracial matters, 1949-1969. 8 folders.
Report on major developments in interracial practices within the YMCA in the United States [title page missing], 1966.
"Action in the Urban Crisis: First Priority for the YMCA in 1968," by James F. Bunting, 1968.
"What People Think of the Y," by George Gallup, 1956.
"Why I Give Time and Effort to the YMCA," by Herbert H. Schwamb, 1960.
"A Study of Interracial Practices in Local YMCAs of the Ohio-West Virginia Area," by Leo Marsh and Program Services Staff, 1959.
"Report of the 1965-1966 YMCA Interracial Study," by Barbara R. Foster and Richard L. Batchelder, 1966.
"Racial Integration in the YMCA: A Study of the Closing of Certain Negro YMCAs with Special Reference to the Role of Religious Factors," by Harold C. Harlow, Jr., 1960.
"Interracial Practices of the YMCAs in New York State," by Leo Marsh, 1958.
"The Young Men's Christian Association Program in the Total Community Setting," by Lawrence Wilsey, 1957.
"A Plan for the Achievement of Racial Integration in the YMCA," by the Committee for Racial Advance, 1968.
"Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders" ("Kerner Report"), 1968.
"Hate-Monger with Literary Trimmings: From Avante-Garde Poetry to Rear-Guard Politics," by James Rorty, 1956.
"Health and Welfare Issues in the Life of Black People in the United States: Issues and Opportunities for Development," by Leo Marsh, 1968.
"Winning the Race: News and Photos from our Gallery of Progress," by the National Board of Young Men's Christian Associations, [1965?].
"The Colored Young Men's Christian Association, the Interracial Committee and Related Subjects," by Willis D. Weatherford, 1950.
"Government and the Universities," by John W. Gardner, 1964.
"The YMCA in 1955 -- It's Message and Mission: A Centennial Declaration by the 22nd World Conference of the World Alliance," 1955
"Plans and Progress Report on the Affiliated Association Experiment: Little Rock and Arkansas District YMCA," by the Committee on Extension, 1961.
"Five Year Plan For YMCA Leadership for Interracial Practices and Developments," 1963.
Topical Files:
2 Agenda for Advance, 1961.
American Foundation for Negro Affairs, 1968.
BAN-WYS [Black and Non-White YMCA Staff], 1968-1970.
Black and White America, 1966.
Clifford M. Carey (meeting), 1964-1965.
Civil Rights Act of 1964, 1964-1967.
Civil rights law legislation, 1964-1965.
Court of Appeals: Nesmith vs. YMCA of Raleigh, N.C. and C. Lynn Brown, 1968.
Economic Opportunity Act, 1964-1965.
Farmer, James/ C.O.R.E. [Congress of Racial Equality], undated.
Federation of Concerned Associations, 1967-1969.
Informational directors newsletter, 1967.
Interracial and intercultural services, 1944-1968. 4 folders.
Johnson & Johnson, 1967.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Assassination, 1968.
National Industrial Conference Board "Road Maps of Industry," 1963.
North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, 1962-1963.
Organization for Black Unity, 1968.
Organizational Study Commission, 1968-1969.
Poor People's Campaign, 1968.
Project evaluation, 1967.
Proposed consultation on YMCA serving the disadvantaged, 1966.
Racial integration, 1961-1967. 3 folders.
Riverside Church, 1952-1959.
Self-developed program for residents of disadvantaged areas, 1956-1967.
Training Institute on Interracial Advance, 1969.
United Negro College Fund, 1963-1966.
3 Urban Action Commission, 1967.
Urban crisis conference, 1967.
Urban Youth Renewal, 1965.
World Alliance Interracial Committee, 1962.
Xerox Corporation, 1966. 2 folders.
Conferences and Workshops:
3 Interracial & intercultural program conference, 1951.
Workshop on Professional Opportunities in the YMCA for Negroes, 1963, 1965. 2 folders.
Planning Consultation on Racial Integration in the YMCA, 1966.
Thirteenth North American Assembly on YMCA Work with Youth, 1964.
Human relationship workshop, Philadelphia, 1961-1962.
Executives workshop, General Secretaries Section, 1952.
Conference of Laymen & Secretaries, 1952.
Area/State Files:
Includes reports, minutes, and correspondence.
3 Miscellaneous, 1962.
Policies and programs, 1966-1967.
Illinois Area - Region I, 1964-1965.
Central Atlantic Area, 1956-1966.
Southern Area, undated, 1965-1967. 4 folders.
Pacific Southwest Area, 1964-1966.
Southwest Area, 1964.
Pacific Northwest Area, 1964-1965.
Ohio-West Virginia Area, 1965-1966.
North Central Area, 1964-1965.
New England Area, 1962-1966.
West Central Area, 1965, 1968. 2 folders.
North Central Area, 1964-1968. 2 folders.
Pennsylvania, 1964-1966.
New York, 1965-1966.
Massachusetts, 1964-1967.
Michigan, 1965.
North and South Carolina, 1961.
West Virginia, undated.
Reports on Local Associations:
Correspondence and reports on conditions for African Americans in various local YMCAs across the country.
3 Reports of field visits, 1949-1959, 1962-1963. 2 folders.
Alabama: Aniston, 1967-1968. 2 folders.
Alabama: Montgomery, 1965-1968.
Alabama: Selma, 1965.
Alabama: Tuscaloosa, 1966.
Florida: Jacksonville, 1963-1966.
Louisiana: New Orleans, 1965.
Michigan: Benton Harbor, 1968.
Missouri: St. Louis, 1965.
Mississippi: Vicksburg, 1963-1965.
New Jersey: Atlantic City, 1962.
New Jersey: Plainfield, 1949-1956.
North Carolina: Raleigh, 1965-1967.
Ohio: Cincinnati, 1966.
Pennsylvania: Wilkes-Barre, 1966.
South Carolina: Columbia, 1965.
South Carolina: Charleston, 1965, 1968. 2 folders.
Virginia: Norfolk, 1961.
3 Current data on desegregation of YMCAs, 1966.
Segregated YMCAs, 1966.
Responsibility of the National Council with respect to local YMCAs practicing segregation, undated.
Declarations, statements, and resolutions concerning racial integration, 1964-1968. 3 folders.
4 Resources for national YMCA standards and evaluations, undated.
List of organizational relationships for "291" staff, 1967.
Racial composition of YMCA boards and committees, undated and 1957-1964. 2 folders.
Executive Cabinet meeting, 1967.
National Council, 1963-1966.
National Board, 1939-1967. 3 folders.
General, 1965.


The following related materials are separately cataloged in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives:
Interracial Programs records, 1947-1980: Records describing the YMCA's work with the African American community and its work in interracial issues after 1946.
Biographical files: The YMCA Archives' series of biographical files include biographical sketches, newspaper clippings, and small collections of the personal papers of numerous leaders and individuals involved in the black YMCA movement, including Leo Marsh.


This collection is indexed under the following headings in the catalog of the University of Minnesota Libraries. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons or places should search the catalog using these headings.
African Americans -- Civil rights.
African Americans -- Segregation.
African Americans -- Social conditions.
Civil rights workers.
Race relations -- Religious aspects.
Segregation -- Law and legislation -- United States.
Young Men's Christian Associations -- Administration.
United States -- Race relations.
National Board of the Young Men's Christian Associations.
National Council of the Young Men's Christian Associations of the United States of America.
United States. Civil Rights Act of 1964.