Posted on August 3, 2023

Boston’s Complex Relationship With Race

Steph Solis, Axios, August 1, 2023

When U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley took the stage at the NAACP convention last weekend, she said first-time visitors may wonder: “Are there any Black folks in Boston? Let this moment be a resounding and decisive yes.”

Why it matters: Decades after a federal judge made Boston desegregate schools through busing, and even as the majority-minority city has gained many political and business leaders of color, the Hub remains known as one of the country’s most racist cities.

Driving the news: NAACP and city leaders tried to counter that narrative during the convention by elevating Black-owned businesses, producing displays of local Black luminaries and hosting a tour of majority-Black Boston neighborhoods — despite the event’s location in the majority-white Seaport.

The big picture: Boston gets a bad rap partly thanks to high-profile and recurring instances of overt racism involving rival sports teams, tourists and residents of color.

  • Just last year, a group of white supremacists marched through Boston and allegedly assaulted a Black artist.

Meanwhile, the city’s tourism hubs in Back Bay, downtown and the Seaport remain majority white — evidence of the lingering effects of redlining.


{snip} Boston has made progress — largely thanks to generations of Black and brown residents pushing for change.

  • The anti-Black violence that plagued Boston during the busing crisis is rare nowadays.
  • And its halls of power are more diverse. Today Boston is home to many high-profile Black political leaders — like Pressley and former Mayor Kim Janey — as well as business leaders like Harvard University President Claudine Gay and Fed President Susan Collins.
  • Mayor Michelle Wu, an Asian American woman and the first elected mayor of color, has ushered in a cohort of racially and ethnically diverse city staff.