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Alvah Ritchie Low Papers

Identifier: mss-723

Scope and Content Note

The Alvah Ritchie Low collection contains photographs, records, paper documents, and slides. It is broken up into three different sections: the first being the paper documents and slides, the second being a photo binder filled with photographs, and the final section having two records and two oversize pictures within it.

The first section is comprised of biographical information, correspondence, his original manuscript, a few newsletters and articles, and some slides. The correspondence includes letters received from friends, family, and his church. There is also a small set of correspondence that focuses on his business/public service projects. There is also an original copy and a Xerox copy of his manuscript called "The Vermont Plan for Racial Tolerance." There is also a few newsletters and articles both written by or about Low and also a slide presentation about his work with the Vermont-Harlem Project.

The second section is held in a photo binder and contains photographs of the Vermont-Harlem Project. The first grouping are photos of Harlem children visiting Vermont and the second is the Vermont children visiting Harlem. These show the project in actuality and the effects on the children. The final group is the Vermont Plan for Racial Tolerance starting in Indiana, Minnesota, and California.

The final section is the oversize section and contains two oversize photos of children playing in Vermont for the Vermont-Harlem Project. There are also two parts of a five part record series called "A New World A’ Comin’."


  • 1944-1952



Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Manuscripts.

Biographical Note

Alvah "Ritchie" Low was born in Aberdeen, Scotland on April 18, 1899. He moved to Canada with his family at the age of 8. He attended the Missionary Institute at Nyack, New York and then moved to Vermont to take up his first pastorate at Montgomery Center in 1920. He then moved to Colchester and later Johnson where he started very successful social involvement programs. Here he started the Vermont-Harlem Project and wrote the book "The Vermont Plan for Racial Tolerance."

Low was extremely active in the public and he belonged to many programs including the Brother Forum, the Intra-Vermont Special, the Vermont-Harlem Project, the Vermont Plan for Action, the Boy Scouts, 4-H, and the United Church. This is where Low became famous in the public eye. The Intra-Vermont Special was a program with the goal of keeping young adults in Vermont by showing them the opportunities that Vermont has to offer in industry and in the community. The Vermont-Harlem Project was Low’s most publicized and famous project. He started this in 1944 and it aimed to improve race relations. In 1943, Low visited the parish of Dr. Adam Clayton Powell show as the pastor of 10,000 people in Harlem. During that visit he proposed to invite 75 African-Americans to Vermont. Low saw the children as the future of race relations and this project was aimed at changing the mindset of race relations from the bottom up.

After the Vermont-Harlem Project started he created a plan called the Vermont Plan for Racial Tolerance which he publicized all around the country. Minnesota, Maine, California and Indiana were a few examples of states that took up his plan.

In 1946, he was awarded the Distinguished Service in the Field of Race award by the Council for Social Action of the Congregational Christian Churches of the United States. He also received a Sliver Cup for distinguished community service by Vermont Governor George D. Aiken.

Low died of cancer not long after the beginning of his project, on Christmas Eve of 1949. Just before his death, he established the Vermont Plan for Action that was headed by Reverends Lillian Gregory and Dortha Weaver to continue his work in racial and public relations.


1.2 Linear Feet (1 box, 1 box album, 1 oversize box)

Language of Materials



Collection contains record albums, photographs, published articles, unpublished writings, and correspondence documenting Low's Vermont-Harlem Project, in which he brought African American children from Harlem to live for two weeks in rural Vermont homes, and sent white children from Vermont homes to visit Harlem, in an attempt to increase awareness and combat racism.


Library Research Annex; contact for access.

Guide to the Alvah Ritchie Low Papers
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Vermont Libraries, Special Collections Repository

Silver Special Collections Library
48 University Place, Room B201
Burlington Vermont 05405 U.S.A. US
(802) 656-2138
(802) 656-4038 (Fax)