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George Schermer Papers

Identifier: UP001228

Scope and Content

This collection contains two series: Series 1: Career, 1939-1989 and Series 2: Personal, 1950-1992. The Career series is divided into two subseries: Work and projects and Writings and speeches. The Work and projects subseries contains materials from the different organizations and agencies that Schermer worked with, and for, during his career. This includes his work as Director of the Mayor’s Detroit Interracial Committee. Also, included in Detroit files are documents pertaining to issues of interracial housing, city planning, and training police in human relations. Schermer's work in Philadelphia working with the Philadelphia Commission on Human Rights is also represented in this subseries. Many of the other files in this subseries are from Schermer’s work as a consultant, both as side projects during his years in Detroit and Philadelphia, as well as later with his business George Schermer and Associates. Some of his biggest consulting work was done with the Ford Foundation and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The Writings and Speeches subseries contains Schermer’s many speeches he gave through his career, but also papers and publications he published, and some reports on his consulting projects.

The Personal series contains some biographical information on Schermer, as well as correspondence from all areas of his life, documents relating to his involvement in organizations outside of his work, and an award given in his honor after his death by the National Fair Housing Alliance. Schermer's participation in the neighborhood associations of Boston-Edison in Detroit and West Mt. Airy in Philadelphia are represented in this collection. Additionally, his papers include information on the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, a non-profit in support of social justice and human rights, of which Schermer was also a member.


  • 1939 - 1992


Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.


Collection is open for research.


Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. Restrictions: Researchers may encounter records of a sensitive nature – personnel files, case records and those involving investigations, legal and other private matters. Privacy laws and restrictions imposed by the Library prohibit the use of names and other personal information which might identify an individual, except with written permission from the Director and/or the donor.


George Schermer was born June 26, 1910 in Wright County, Minnesota to Teunis and Alyda (Meintsma) Schermer and grew up on family's farm. He attended college part-time between 1928 and 1934 at three different institutions, beginning at the University of Minnesota, before moving to Illinois where he also attended North Central College and later George William College.

From 1935-1938 Schemer worked as Activities Director at Abraham Lincoln Center in the Southside of Chicago. This was a Unitarian based social settlement conferenced with racial strife. Schermer then returned to college from 1935-1937 where he graduated from the University of Chicago with a B.A., majoring in Government. He continued at the University of Chicago completing coursework towards a masters degree.

In 1938, Schermer began working for the Chicago Housing Authority as a Supervisor of Tenant Selection and Tenant Services. He also married Bernice Augdahl and together they had four children: Judith, Philip, Wendy, and Vernon.

Schermer moved to Detroit and began working for Detroit Housing Commission as Assistant Director for Management in 1941 until 1944, when Schermer began working as the Federal Public Housing Authority Director of Detroit Area Offices. In 1945 Mayor Jeffries appointed Schermer as Director of the Detroit Mayor's Interracial Committee. This committee was formed as a direct response to the 1943 riot with the intention of easing racial tension in the city. Occasionally, during his years as Director of this Committee, Schermer took time to do some consulting projects with other cities including Fair Grounds Park in St. Louis (Missouri), swimming pool issues in Youngstown (Ohio), a housing development in Columbus (Ohio), and Frederick Douglas Community Center in Kalamazoo (Michigan).

He continued as Director of this Committee until 1953 when he accepted a position as Director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations. While living in Philadelphia, Schermer became involved in the West Mt. Airy Neighbors group and served both as an organizer and Board member between 1958-1965. Schermer worked in his position as Director for 10 years, at which point Schermer resigned, blaming the Mayor for weakening the agency. After resigning, Schermer began his own consulting company, George Schermer Associates, and worked consulting on human relations and urban social problems for the rest of his career.

In addition to this work, Schermer also helped initiate a meeting of human rights groups and workers that led to the creation of the National Association of Intergroup Relations Officials. This group later became National Association of Human Rights Workers. He served as the first President of this organization and was on the Board for periods between 1950 and 1963.

Schermer served as the first President of Michigan Committee on Civil Rights from 1950-1951. This group aided in the passage of the Michigan Fair Employment Law and the Creation of the Michigan Commission on Civil Rights. Schermer also served as a Board Member of the Citizens Committee on Public Education in Philadelphia and of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee from 1967-1973, and as Director of the White House Conference “To Fulfill These Rights” Task Force on Housing in 1966.

George Schermer passed away on June 3, 1989 at the age of 78.


23 Linear Feet (46 MB)


George Schermer worked to improve housing, human relations, and urban social problems throughout his career. First with the Chicago Housing Authority as a Supervisor of Tenant Selection and Tenanent Services, before moving to Detroit where he worked with the Detroit Housing Commission as Assistant Director for Management. In 1945, Mayor Jeffries appointed Schermer as Director of the Detroit Mayor's Interracial Committee, which he created to help ease tension within the city, especially in the wake of the 1943 riot. Schermer left Detroit in 1953 to begin working as the Director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, where he worked for 10 years before resigning. Schermer opened a consulting firm, George Schermer and Associates, and worked with organizations like the Ford Foundation and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, around the country on urban social issues.

In his spare time, Schermer helped initiate the creation of the National Association of Human Rights Workers. He also served as the first President of the Michigan Committee on Civil Rights, as well as being heavily involved in neighborhood communities where he lived, namely Boston-Edison in Detroit and West Mt. Airy in Philadelphia.

The Schermer papers contain materials primarily from his career in Detroit, Philadelphia, and as a consultant. It also contains some personal material from his life outside of work including correspondence as well as his involvement in neighborhood associations and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.


Arranged in two series: Series 1 (Boxes 1-43), and Series 2 (Boxes 44-46).

Series 1 is further divided into two subseries: Subseries A: Work and projects, Subseries B: Writings and speeches.

Schermer’s papers are arranged in rough alphabetical order. In Subseries 1A: Work and projects, files corresponding to work done in a particular city are generally organized alphabetically by State to more easily find and locate projects geographically.


This collection was donated the Walter P. Reuther Library by George Schermer and family in 1985 and 1989.

Related Materials

Detroit Commission on Community Relations/Human Rights Department Records (UR000267)

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Shae Rafferty on December 20, 2018.
Guide to the George Schermer Papers
Processed by Shae Rafferty.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA