21st Century

In 2006, when Chicago-native Deval L. Patrick was elected the first African-American governor of Massachusetts, Boston was in the midst of an economic, political, and cultural transformation. After decades of declining population, the city and its environs experienced a population boom. As a center of education, technology, and health industries, today greater Boston’s colleges and universities continue to attract talented students and professionals from across the African diaspora. Yet, the city still contains a paradox that has characterized the region since its beginning. It is a site of tremendous wealth, as well as persistent racial and economic inequality; it has served as a symbol of abolitionism, but also has a history as a bastion of slavery, racism, and violent opposition to desegregation. While members of Massachusetts’ Black and Latino Caucus have led the charge for criminal justice reform and tighter gun control, numerous Boston neighborhoods, segregated by race and income, have disproportionately high levels of exposure to unjust policing and violent crime. A recent national survey by the Boston Globe found that among eight major cities, black respondents ranked Boston as the "least welcoming to people of color." "For all the gains that Greater Boston has made," the Globe concluded, “unfinished business on race is everywhere." As a city that has become, for the first time in its history, a majority “minority” metropolis, greater Boston’s African descended residents continue to resist social and economic marginalization, while placing present-day struggles in the context of historical movements for social change.