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Crusade for Opportunity Records

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Processing of this collection was made possible by a gift from Alexander N. Charters. The adult education holdings are collectively known as the
Alexander N. Charters Library of Resources for Educators of Adults.

Finding aid created by: MRC
Date: 1 Nov 2010

Biographical History

The Crusade for Opportunity was an anti-poverty agency in Syracuse, NY that was founded in 1964. Its goal was to reduce the rates of poverty, especially among poor minority communities.

In the early 1960s, Syracuse, like the majority of other cities in America, had a struggling African American community. Still recovering from centuries of slavery and then racial prejudice and discrimination, black citizens suffered from housing, education, and employment disparities.

In terms of housing, urban renewal programs and the placement of the I-81 highway in the heart of the city displaced 80 percent of Syracuse's black citizens. These two initiatives demolished the 15th ward, once a proud black community. After displacement, public housing decisions segregated blacks from whites. Black families who could afford to move out of public housing often faced racist landlords and home sellers who refused to sell or rent to black home-seekers. This not only created segregated neighborhoods, but also segregated schools. De facto segregation, where segregation is not established by law but how communities are formed and subtly enforced, was often difficult to combat. Attempts to bus black students to white, more affluent schools faced protests from both blacks and whites: black parents felt it was unfair that their children had to be bused to a new school district far from their homes; white parents were concerned about their children being forced to learn with black children. Schools with a high percentage of black students were underfunded, and black students had limited access to the same supplies (books, for example) that white students enjoyed. Consequently, high school dropout rates amongst the black communities were disproportionally high compared to white communities. The lack of education had far reaching effects: unemployment for African Americans, particularly youth, was enormously high. Yet, even educational success did not always guarantee a good job: qualified black job applicants frequently faced discrimination when they applied for professional positions.

On the federal level, the Johnson Administration began its War on Poverty as a solution to this national crisis. This so-called "war" found its ammunition with The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, which funded Community Action Programs (CAP) that helped poor communities rise out of poverty. These CAPs received federal funds from the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) but were operated by local government officials and the poor black communities they represented. Calling for "maximum feasible participation of the poor," at least 1/3 of a CAP's operating board were supposed to be the black citizens that the programs were representing.

One of the first to receive federal money was the Community Action Training Center (CATC) in Syracuse, NY. The CATC was founded and operated by faculty and students from University College of Syracuse University. Under the direction of Dr. Warren Haggstrom, SU students from the CATC, sometimes labeled as "soldiers" in the War on Poverty, worked directly with the local black community. The CATC, however, clashed with city government, and when the mayor placed pressure on the OEO and the University, CATC lost their funding after only a year.

When the CATC lost its funding, the Crusade for Opportunity (CFO) became Syracuse's premier anti-poverty agency operating under the model of maximum participation of the poor. Crusade for Opportunity was originally founded as the Mayor's Commission for Youth (CFY). The CFY was formed in 1962 under President Kennedy's President's Committee on Juvenile Delinquency. The CFY was one of a handful of city organizations chosen for this pilot program, and was created to study the underlying reasons for juvenile delinquency. Project planning operations were delegated to the United Community Chest and Council of Onondaga County, and research operations were performed by Syracuse University-based Youth Development. The research culminated with a report and proposal, "Syracuse Action for Youth," which was one of six proposals that were approved by the President's Committee on Juvenile Delinquency. Syracuse's proposal emphasized that the main cause of juvenile delinquency was the lack of economic opportunity. The report also suggested that in order for the poor to become agents of change they needed to have direct involvement in decision making. In June of 1964, Robert Kennedy visited Syracuse to announce that the Mayor's Commission for Youth had been awarded a grant to place the proposal in action, resulting in national attention to Syracuse and the CFO. Shortly after the publication of the report and proposal, it was rolled out on national scale and formed the basis for the Community Action Programs instituted in cities and rural areas across the nation. The organization changed their name to Crusade for Opportunity in the summer of 1964.

Following the guidelines developed from their research, the CFO had a three-pronged approach to creating opportunity: better education, employment training, and community service. Education programs assisted poor students at all grade levels, from Head Start for preschoolers to learning assistance for struggling high school students. Employment programs ranged from youth job programs to on-the-job skill training. Finally, CFO created neighborhood centers around the city of Syracuse that offered a range of services to neighborhood teens and adults.

Adhering to the "maximum feasible participation of the poor" mandate, the CFO established neighborhood boards that were manned and elected by the communities they served. The CFO's Board of Directors was drawn from these neighborhood board members. The more involvement CFO elicited from the poor, mostly black, community, however, the more the local power structure felt like they were losing control of decision making. The traditional power structure, where city officials design and pass policies and legislation, was being thwarted by these community board members. One scholar wrote that the CFO "began as a mainly all white establishment representing city hall and ended as a mainly black organization representing neighborhood residents." This shift of power raised racial tensions, as well as concerns that the organization was mismanaging funds, and the OEO cut CFO's funding at the end of 1967 causing the organization to cease operations.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Crusade for Opportunity Records include reports, financial materials, subject-correspondence files, newsletters, newspaper clippings, corporate office files, ephemera, brochures, pamphlets, minutes, and photographs. The records provides insight into a myriad of issues relating to poverty, education, employment, and housing in Syracuse, NY and the surrounding area. Files from the Mayor's Commission for Youth, the predecessor organization, are arranged first, followed by administrative records, and then the different divisions within the organization, namely community centers (called Neighborhood Centers), employment, education, and research. Following that are financial and legal materials in their own respective series. A small amount of miscellaneous material completes the collection.

Mayor's Commission for Youth series contains records created under the CFO's predecessor organization. This series contains reports, surveys, financial material, research data, and proposals.

Administrative files contains all records created within the administrative office. Materials include agendas, correspondence, grants, memos, minutes, forms, personnel records, proposals, reports, and financial materials.

Subseries include Board of Directors files, Committees, Executive Director files, Financial, Grants and proposals, Job descriptions, Office files, Personnel records, Reports, and Senior staff files.

Neighborhood Centers comprises records created in the community service division which operated neighborhood centers around the city of Syracuse. These neighborhood centers worked with the poor community and served as the local hub for most of their community service, educational, and employment programs. There were five neighborhood center locations: East Side, Far East Side, North Side, Tallman Center, and West Side.

Subseries include East Side, Far East Side, Field operations, North Side, Programs, Staff files, Tallman Center, and West Side. Materials include reports, minutes, memos, correspondence, election results, flyers, photos, and maps.

This series gives insight into the inner workings of the division's staff, known as field operations, as well as the work done by the various neighborhood center locations.

Employment Division records pertain to the different employment training and youth employment programs that the CFO managed. Programs included Job Corps, Neighborhood Youth Corps, and the Youth Job Center. Included here are financial material, contracts, brochures, flyers, data sheets, personnel records, photos, attendance records, and training reports.

Subseries include Financial, Job Corps, Neighborhood Youth Corps, Staff files, Training programs, and Youth Job Center.

Education Division records consist of records created by the Education division.The Education division ran what they called a Curriculum Materials Development Center, which offered guides to educational materials to educators. Additionally, the CFO operated a library of anti-poverty research and literature, and those materials are located within this series as well. Types of material include brochures, essays, reports, manuscript galleys, maps, financial material, personnel records, and correspondence.

Subseries include Curriculum Materials Development Center, Division files, Financial, Head Start, High School Reentry program, Language Arts program, Library, Rehabilitation, Staff files, Study Center, and Training material.

Research files comprises records from the Research division. This series includes research on issues affecting the poor in Syracuse during the 1960s. Materials include surveys, interviews, questionnaires, and reports. Of note is a report on the attempts to desegregate the city school district through busing. Also included in this series are files from the Program Development Unit, which contains reports on towns surrounding Syracuse.

Subseries include Code sheets, Division files, Interviews, Program Development, Reports, Staff files, and Surveys.

General correspondence-subject files includes correspondence not directed to any CFO staff member or division, but to the organization itself. Also included here are newspaper clippings about the organization, newsletters, and records created by the Public Affairs office.

Financial files materials include ledgers, invoices, purchase orders, payroll stubs, cancelled checks, staff files, wage journals, and weekly time records.

Legal files materials include by-laws, contracts, lawsuits, insurance policies, and leases.

Miscellaneous contains loose records that had no discernable order or place within the collection. Types of materials include correspondence, financial material, memos, minutes, and surveys.

Arrangement of the Collection

Files in the collection are arranged alphabetically. Staff correspondence files is arranged chronologically within each folder. Newspaper clippings are arranged by publication, in alphabetical order, and then further arranged chronologically. Organizations and government agencies are initially filed under their full name, and then subsequently by their acronyms, as follows:

CFO: Crusade for Opportunity

HEW: United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare

HUD: United States Department of Housing and Urban Development

NYC: Neighborhood Youth Corps

OEO: Office of Economic Opportunity

OMAT: Office of Manpower, Automation, and Training


Access Restrictions:

Personnel records, individual data files, and juvenile police records are restricted until 2067, 100 years after their creation.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

See also the Syracuse Community Development Association Records.

The adult education collections at Special Collections Research Center are collectively known as the Alexander N. Charters Library of Resources for Educators of Adults. Please see the Charters Library home page for more information.

Subject Headings


Alinsky, Saul D., 1909-1972.
Javits, Jacob K. (Jacob Koppel), 1904-1986.
Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973.
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963.
Kennedy, Robert F., 1925-1968.
King, Coretta Scott, 1927-2006.
King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968.
Shriver, Sargent, 1915-2011.
Walsh, William F., 1912-2011.

Corporate Bodies

Community Action Program (U.S.) -- Project Head Start.
Crusade for Opportunity (Syracuse, N.Y.)
Neighborhood Youth Corps.
New York (State). -- Office of Economic Opportunity, State.


African Americans -- Civil rights -- 20th century.
African Americans -- Education.
African Americans -- New York (State) -- Syracuse.
Children -- Education (Preschool)
Children -- Education.
Civil rights movements -- New York (State) -- Syracuse.
Community centers.
Continuing education.
Economic assistance, Domestic -- United States.
Education -- Integration.
Education -- Segregation.
Employment, Summer.
Equality -- United States.
Juvenile delinquency -- Prevention.
Poor -- United States.
Poverty -- New York (State)
Public welfare -- United States.
Youth -- employment.


Syracuse (N.Y.) -- History -- 20th century.
Syracuse (N.Y.) -- Race relations -- 20th century.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Corporation records.
Financial records.
Galley proofs.
Instructional materials.
Legal documents.
Maps (documents)
Personnel records.
Sound recordings.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Crusade for Opportunity Records,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Unspecified, 1966-1969.

Table of Contents

Mayor's Commission for Youth

Administrative files

Neighborhood Centers

Employment Division

Education Division

Research files

General correspondence-subject files

Financial files

Legal files