Letter: Willie-LeBreton story sparks memories of Concord’s racial reckonings 

February 24, 2024

I am writing regarding the wonderful front-page piece on Smith College’s president, Sarah Willie-LeBreton. The article described Sarah’s father, Concord’s much-beloved Charles (Chuck) Willie, describing the 1970’s METCO incident and its aftermath. Three years ago, I interviewed Ruth Salinger, then a member of Concord’s School Committee, ultimately founder with Chuck Willie of the Concord Carlisle Human Rights Council. Following a meeting with METCO, which both Mrs. Salinger and Dr. Willie attended, “Climate for Freedom” was formed to address racial issues in the town. Mrs. Salinger, along with Dr. Willie and Concord Superintendent of Schools Seldon Whitaker, were among the 10-15 committee members at the outset. The formation of the Concord-Carlisle Human Rights Council was a direct result of those meetings on racial issues. 

Ruth related at that time her and other CCHRC and School Committee members’ lives being disrupted with threatening and obscene telephone calls as well as her home being vandalized. Following the student altercation, racial graffiti was spray painted at the high school, with CCHS principal Elaine DiCicco calling custodial workers in the middle of the night to erase the offending words. A community meeting was called immediately the following morning to alert citizens and garner wider support. The outpouring of support for human rights strengthened the resolve of the community, the CCHRC and School Committee members. A CCHRC newsletter article describing the events and work and both Ruth Sallinger’s and Chuck Willie’s contributions to METCO and the Concord Carlisle Human Rights Council was published in 2021. 

Nancy James 

Walden Terrace