Columbia University Archives

Marie Runyon Papers, 1955-2008

Summary Information


Marie Runyon was an activist and former New York State legislator. Born in North Carolina in 1915, she moved to Morningside Heights and in 1963 began a decades long fight against Columbia University over its real estate practices and expansion in the neighborhood. Runyon founded the Morningside Tenants Committee as well as other tenants' organizations, and she brought a number of cases to court to prevent her eviction from her apartment at 130 Morningside Drive. She also worked for many political and service organizations throughout her career.

At a Glance

Call No.: UA#0035
Bib ID 6606156 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Runyon, Marie M
Title Marie Runyon Papers, 1955-2008
Physical Description 14 linear feet (10 record cartons and two map case drawers of oversize materials)
Language(s) English .

This collection has no restrictions.

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.



This collection is arranged in 5 series.


Scope and Content

The collection contains the papers of Marie Runyon, relating to her tenant organizing and fight against Columbia's expansion in Morningside Heights as well as to her other political work and personal life. About half of the materials document her work in housing activism with flyers, minutes, and notes from the various tenants' associations that Runyon helped to create. The collection also includes records of national and local non-profit organizations for which Runyon worked between 1960 and 2000, including legislative documents and campaign materials from her two years in the New York State Assembly in 1975-1976. There are also handwritten notes and correspondence documenting her management of these organizations. Her papers include correspondence with various Columbia University presidents, clippings from newspaper articles about the university, and flyers from student organizing during the 1968 student protests.

  • Series I: Tenant Activism and Columbia University, 1960-2001

    Series I contains files documenting Runyon's court cases against Columbia, her other interactions with the university, and her tenant organizing in Morningside Heights. It includes correspondence with Columbia administrators, legal documents, records of her properties and minutes, handwritten notes, and flyers from a number of tenant organizations. Many of the files relate to Morningside Tenants Committee, which Runyon started with other residents of 130 Morningside Drive to protest the takeover of the building by the Columbia College of Pharmacy, and which continued its activism against University expansion in the neighborhood after the building was bought by Columbia. Other tenant associations and organizations documented in the series include: Columbia Tenants Union, Morningside "Open-Stairs" Tenants Association, the Institutional Tenants Union, and Morningside Renewal Council, among others. Other documents relate to individual tenants whom she helped bring cases to housing court or deal with other issues. There are two drawers of posters from protests of tenant associations against Columbia. This series also contains Runyon's files on the 1968 Columbia student protests, in which she participated and followed carefully.

  • Series II: Other Political Activism, 1955-2002

    Series II documents Runyon's professional work with various national organizations for which she was on staff in the 1960s-1980s. These include the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, the National Conference for New Politics, and the Committee to Defend the Panthers. Later files cover consultant work Runyon did for local groups in the 1990s and 2000s, mostly doing fundraising and other writing and editing. Her papers include correspondence, flyers, financial documentation, publications, and event materials from these organizations. There are also some publications, documents, newspaper clippings, and photographs from causes and events Runyon participated in, such as the March on Washington in 1963 and resistance to the Vietnam War.

  • Series III: New York State Legislature, 1973-1976

    Series III consists of papers from Runyon's two campaigns for assemblywoman and the two years she served in the legislature. Campaign materials include correspondence with supporters and donors and flyers or other publications. During her second run for office, which she lost in the primary, some of Runyon's former proponents campaigned against her, writing a list of accusations which is documented, along with Runyon's responses, in box 5. Her legislative files include memos and copies of bills on housing and prison control.

  • Series IV: Harlem Organizations, 1978-2006

    Series IV contains Runyon's records of work with three housing and education organizations in Harlem between the late 1980s and early 2000s: Emmaus House, Harlem Restoration Project, and the Harlem Council of Elders. While she helped to found the Harlem Restoration Project (HRP) and did a significant amount of work there, her records on HRP currently only comprise two files. There are more documents related to Emmaus House and the Harlem Council of Elders, including correspondence with other staff members and with supporters, event records, publications, and some financial documents.

  • Series V: Personal Material and Correspondence, 1960-2008

    Series V includes Runyon's personal correspondence as well as files she maintained on subjects not related to her work or tenant activism. In many of the letters, Runyon described her work and activism in the community in addition to more personal topics. Correspondence with Runyon's daughter Louise is filed under her nickname, Weezie. Besides correspondence with family and friends, the miscellaneous correspondence folders also contain Runyon's letters to local and national politicians in which she expressed her opinions about policies and current events. Series V further documents Runyon's attention to current events through newspaper and magazine clippings. Letters and event records cover Runyon's association with Berea College, churches, and the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies. Also included are maps, travel records from a trip to Berlin, and a book of recipe clippings.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection has no restrictions.

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Marie Runyon Papers; Box and Folder; University Archives, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Related Material

Morningside Area Alliance Records: This collection documents the work of Morningside Heights, Inc., an organization founded by fourteen Morningside Heights institutions, including Columbia University The alliance was connected to Columbia's expansion efforts and intervention in neighborhood organizations and schools.

University Protest and Activism Collection: This collection documents the Columbia University student strikes of 1968, in which Marie Runyon participated.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Marie Runyon Papers were the gift of Marie Runyon to the University Archives. 8 record cartons were acquired in 2004 and 2 additional record cartons were acquired in 2008.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Rachel Klepper and Kate Caiazza. Finding aid written by Rachel Klepper in June 2018.

The 8 boxes from the 2004 accession were partially processed by Kate Caiazza in 2004. The processing work was not extensively documented but it may have involved some rearrangement of folders by subject. A container list with folder dates was created, which was used in writing the finding aid.

Most folders in the collection had titles upon their arrival, which were retained. Some material in boxes 6 and 10 were loose in boxes upon arrival. Those materials were placed in folders by subject and supplied with titles.

Revision Description

2018-08-08 File created.

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Administrative records Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Clippings (Information Artifacts) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Correspondence Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Notes (documents) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
minutes (administrative records) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Columbia University Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University -- History Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Harlem (New York, N.Y.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Housing -- New York (State) -- New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Morningside Heights (New York, N.Y.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Political activists Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Runyon, Marie M Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Student movements Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Tenants' associations -- New York (State) -- New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical Note

Marie Runyon was an activist and former New York State legislator, 1975-1976. Born in North Carolina in 1915, she moved to New York City after college and soon rented an apartment with her daughter in Morningside Heights. The apartment, at 130 Morningside Drive, was owned by the Columbia College of Pharmacy and later Columbia University. In 1963 the College of Pharmacy sought to evict tenants to renovate and develop a new home for the college, and Runyon began a decades long fight against the university. She frequently withheld rent when her apartment needed repairs and brought a number of court cases against Columbia on behalf of herself and the other tenants.

She created the Morningside Tenants Committee to represent tenants in her building as well as the Columbia Tenants Union to organize those living in other university owned housing in the neighborhood. Runyon was also active on numerous national political issues, having worked at the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, and the National Conference for New Politics. She also participated in the 1968 student protests against Columbia University, focusing on its role in the Vietnam War, its real estate practices, and the building of a new gym in Morningside Park, among other issues. In the 1970s Runyon began working as a fundraising consultant for local organizations. She also helped to start two Harlem based organizations focused on housing and education, the Harlem Restoration Project and the Harlem Council of Elders and also worked with Harlem's Emmaus House.

In 1974 she successfully ran for the New York State Assembly where she served as a Democrat for two years representing Harlem. She lost reelection in the Democratic primary in 1976, at which point she returned to her activism and fundraising work. Runyon died October 7, 2018.