Roxbury is a gem of Black arts and culture in the heart of Boston.
— Kelley Chunn
Throughout history, Roxbury has always sat at the crossroads of culture and exchange in the greater Boston region. During early history, the neighborhood has been home to waves of immigrants—including Irish, Jewish, Scandinavian, Italian and Latvian populations. Starting in the 1940s, Roxbury has grown into a hub of Black arts and culture in the heart of the city. Particularly in the 1960’s and 70’s the neighborhood was almost entirely Black, and sat at the center of activism and community organizing efforts to fight for justice and civil rights within the city of Boston and our greater society.
Over the years, Roxbury has served as a testament to the diversity of people and cultures across the Black diaspora—including African-American, Indigenous, Caribbean, and African immigrant communities.
Today, Roxbury remains a majority Black neighborhood, yet not as racially concentrated as it has been in prior decades. Still, the culture and history of the neighborhood remains strong.
Overwhelmingly, respondents described Roxbury’s greatest strength as its people, history, and lasting legacy of activism and cultural expression from the past into the present.
In Roxbury, historical narratives through lived experience hold strong. The power of Roxbury’s culture has been cultivated through generational connections and knowledge sharing. Spaces for communal gathering—whether for family, religion, artistic expression, political action, or otherwise—have helped to ensure that Roxbury’s history is one that is carried forward into the present.
Like many Black communities across the country, Roxbury holds many landmarks that are still named from the colonial era. Despite this context, the valued spaces within the neighborhood highlight how the community has claimed and co-opted space over time in an environment that was never designed or built for them. Whether through physical or social intervention, formal or informal means, the narratives of Roxbury’s residents have reflected themselves in the landscape.
Throughout the years, Roxbury has been the grounds to a breadth of leaders for civil rights and the betterment of the livelihoods of Black people. These leaders include household names like Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King, Malcolm X and Melnea Cass, residents who carry generational lineage in the neighborhood, and newcomers who have found home belonging within the community where they have not elsewhere in the region.
Here, we recognize that past and present collaborative efforts amongst Black womxn to claim space, honor history, and build pathways for health and healing for future generations. Core to these efforts is the underlying message that space for Black womxn is not always going to be given, often it must be taken and reclaimed through guerrilla tactics to fully acknowledge their needs.
We asked respondents...
View all mentioned spaces on the interactive map below. Response are inclusive of both survey and interview feedback.