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Lower Roxbury Black History

Being a product of Lower Roxbury at birth I was amazed at those who came before me, many of whom I knew coming up. So I listened to how the Lower Roxbury Black History Project was created as well as those who contributed to its inception. I felt honored to listen to both historians and prominent residents whose families built the Black history of Lower Roxbury. Margaret Burnham distinguished professor of law and founder of Civil Rights Restorative Justice Project on this day gave the welcome to all in attendance. Following the welcome she introduced the speakers beginning with Professor of History William Fowler who gave a profound introduction of the history of those who built Lower Roxbury. Prof. Fowler spoke of the hardworking sacrifice and charity of the African American and immigrant residents who settled in Lower Roxbury starting in the 30s and 40s. Of stories about reception, perception and identity told through the stories of ordinary people who did extraordinary things.

State Representative Byron Rushing expounded on the history speaking about the demolition of the Lower Roxbury. He spoke about how the West End and the New York Streets were destroyed to build the Herald Traveler Building, up to what occurred in the Lower Roxbury community which really was about the geography that still exists today. It’s because of the history that this project is presented here today.

The Lower Roxbury community has birthed such prominent people like Rev. Dr. Michael Haynes statesman and pastor of 12th Baptist Church in the Roxbury Community. Kenneth Guscott whom we recently lost was a real estate mogul and developer. Their family homes were demolished behind greed and racism and not to be considered as priceless history in this community. In the words of Rep. Byron Rushing: Streets that have been removed still exist through this documentary in this space and the memories of the people who lived here. We must keep the project alive through interviewing those who are here and collecting photographs, snapshots “so this community is never forgotten in the great city of Boston. It is our job, our work, our memory.

Rev. Dr. Michael Haynes spoke of being born and raised in Lower Roxbury and the changes he has seen come about. What he has seen happen on this turf of Lower Roxbury could fill books and change lives. He spoke about what radio stations would say on the air about Roxbury as a whole, saying: “You don’t want to come to Roxbury, they don’t hang curtains in their windows and all that sort of jazz.” The gold that was Lower Roxbury were its people, was paraded up and down the streets every other day from Vernon St. to Mass. Ave. At one time a black doctor from Jamaica ministered to this community in a building that once sat at the corner of Shawmut Ave and Madison St. It was torn down, there is no memory of it.

I was intrigued listening to Rev. Dr. Michael Haynes’ memory of the 6 room cottage on Hastens St. where he was raised with his sisters and brothers. He remembers when blacks began migrating to upper Roxbury called Sugar Hill, then a story in itself .

The late Professor Joseph Warren the initiator of his project said: “We need a building to put it all in.” Well my dear friend Professor Warren the building is here and we’ve put it in.


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