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SIM-21: A Guide to the Cleve Overton Papers

Identifier: SIM-21

Scope and Contents

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 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 Shadow 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.


  • 1851 - 2006

Biographical / Historical

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.


2.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The collection is arranged by format into five series: Series I. Manuscripts Series II. Subject Files Series III. Personal Papers and Ephemera Series IV. Oral Histories Series V. Photographs

Immediate Source of Acquisition

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

Processing Information

A preliminary inventory was prepared by Antonio Golan; arrangement, description and a final inventory were executed by intern Steven D’Avria. Final processing by Rachel Jirka.

Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the CSI Archives & Special Collections Repository