A Guide to the Cleve Overton Papers,


Archives & Special Collections
College of Staten Island Library, CUNY
2800 Victory Blvd., 1L-216
Staten Island, NY 10314

© 2010 The College of Staten Island, CUNY

Finding Aid by Steven D'Avria and Rachel Jirka

Overview of the Collection

Collection No. : SIM-21
Title: Cleve Overton Papers
Creator: Cleve Overton
Dates: 1851-2006
Extent: Approximately 2.5 Linear Feet
Abstract: This collection contains various materials created or collected by Cleve Overton.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Cleve Overton Papers, Archives and Special Collections, Department of the Library, College of Staten Island, CUNY, Staten Island, New York.


These materials were donated to the CSI Archives & Special Collections by Cleve Overton.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Steven D'Avria and Rachel Jirka.

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Access to this record group is unrestricted.

Copyright Notice

The researcher assumes full responsibility for compliance with laws of copyright. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Coordinator of Archives & Special Collections.

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Biographical Sketch

Cleve Overton is the author of In the Shadow of the Statue of Liberty: A Memoir of a Black American, which serves partially as a memoir and partially as a history, and which provides lessons in racial problems in Staten Island, New York, and the country as a whole. Most of his life has been devoted, in one way or another, to increasing racial equality and eliminating discrimination as much as possible, both on Staten Island and elsewhere. However, he has held many jobs and worked on several projects other than this. He served in World War II with the 933rd Battalion, and afterwards, started a job at the Bethlehem Steel Company. Their discrimination against black workers led Overton and others to form a group and fight the company, which permitted blacks to work the same jobs as whites, but which closed shortly thereafter.
Following this, he attended school using the G.I. Bill, married a Jewish woman, and joined the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). He was active in local civil rights organizations, including a local branch of the NAACP. In addition, he was a noted potter, creating pots at Historic Richmondtown for exhibit there and in Manhattan. He taught as an adjunct professor in the Arts Department at Baruch College and at Staten Island Community College. He campaigned for equality on Staten Island and encouraged fellow African Americans towards activism, but because of a lack of support from both blacks and whites, this came to a temporary halt. After traveling the world, Overton once again tried to encourage racial harmony, this time by calling for a controversial mural at Borough Hall, depicting a black slave, to be changed, an effort which was not successful.
Today, Cleve Overton continues to produce books, including Doors of Senegal, which highlights the unique ingenuity and imagination of Senegalese people, and Creative Recycling: Handmade in Africa, a photograph collection of artistic pieces created from discarded material from Africa. He also produces Mixed Media, artwork made from discarded computer equipment. His works have received many awards and have been exhibited in several locations around the country. Although a native New Yorker, he currently lives in Washington D.C., and continues to produce diverse artistic and academic works.

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The Cleve Overton Papers are divided into five series:




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Scope & Content Note

This collection contains materials collected by Cleve Overton over several decades dealing with multiple topics. Included is information about his books and exhibits, as well as material about his pottery, military service, and activism.

Series I, Manuscripts, includes hard copies of several publications Overton produced, including Standing in the Shadow of the Statue of Liberty, Hidden Architecture, and Voices of Staten Island Blacks. The series also includes digital first and second editions of In the Shadow of the Statue of Liberty, as well as lists of images to be used in the editions. A folder of images prepared for use in the book also resides in this series.

The series Subject Files contains material Overton collected over the years. Particularly significant folders include: information on the 933rd Battalion, including a soldier named Johnnie Jones; a clippings file on African Americans in the military, and information on African Americans on Staten Island, New York.

Personal Papers and Ephemera contains primary resources Overton consulted when writing Standing in the Statue of the Statue of Liberty. Also included are a number of awards: a City Council Citation and two plaques—one from the Sandy Ground Historical Society and one from the Staten Island African-American Political Association.

Series IV, Oral Histories, contains audio cassettes and transcripts of oral history interviews with African-Americans on Staten Island conducted by Overton between 2004 and 2005. The interviews cover a wide range of locally and nationally significant topics, including transportation, politics, the arts, immigration, and racism.

The series Photographs contains prints, slides, and digital images. The images are either personal in nature or were used by Overton in his various political and cultural projects.

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Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following terms. Manuscript collections are not included in the College of Staten Island's library catalog at this time.

Subject Names

Overton, Cleve

Subject Topics



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Container Listing

Series 1: Manuscripts
Box# Folder# Title
1 1 In the Shadow of the Statue of Liberty
1 2 In the Shadow of the Statue of Liberty [administrative]
1 3 In the Shadow of the Statue of Liberty - Book Images
1 4 Hidden Infrastructure
1 5 Voices of Staten Island Blacks
Series 2: Subject Files
Box# Folder# Title
1 6 933rd Battalion
1 7 933rd Battalion – Personal Accounts
2 1 African-Americans in the Military – News Clippings
2 2 African-Americans on Staten Island
2 3 Congressional Black Caucus, 1997-1998
2 4 Deaths
2 5 Environmental Protection Agency
2 6 Exporting Harm: the High-Tech Trashing of Asia [article]
2 7 From Swastika to Jim Crow [documentary]
2 8 Jones, Johnnie, 1975-1979
2 9 Maurin, Pierre – Easy Essays, n.d.
2 10 A Memoir of A Black American [CSI Archives poster]
2 11 Newspaper Clippings – Miscellaneous
2 12 Pottery
2 13 Religious Organizations
2 14 Staten Island Sports Hall of Fame
Series 3: Personal Papers and Ephemera
Box# Folder# Title
2 15 Family Research, 1882-1976
2 16 African Correspondence and Writings, 1987-1991, n.d.
2 17 Writings, n.d.
2 18 Awards, 2006
4   Awards, 1982, 2006
Series 4: Oral Histories
Box# Folder# Title
  3 1 Oral Histories – Transcripts, 2003
  5   Oral Histories – Cassette Tapes, A-M
  6   Oral Histories – Cassette Tapes, R-W
Series 5: Photographs
Box# Folder# Title
  3 2 Black History – Staten Island, Slides and Scans, 1963-1970
  3 3 Personal Photographs, 1961-[1990s]
  3 4 Personal Photographs – Borough Hall Mural Protest, 2005
  3 5 Photographs of Images Used for In the Shadow of the Statue of Liberty, n.d.
  3 6 Slides [see descriptions of slides in folder], 1963-1974, n.d.
  3 7 Prints of Slides, n.d.
  7   Digital Images Used for In the Shadow of the Statue of Liberty [TIFF format]
  8   Digital Images Used for In the Shadow of the Statue of Liberty [JPEG format]

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