Considering a move to Boston? Do you know a lot about its history?

If not, I suggest you make your way to the library. Or, to Amazon.com.

Boston’s “busing crisis” unfolded during the mid-1970’s, following on the heals of tumultuous civil rights fights and race riots (none in Boston) of the mid-to-late 1960’s and misguided urban renewal projects of the 1950’s & 1960’s.

On March 15, 1972 … plaintiffs filed a complaint with the First District Court of Massachusetts, charging the state and Boston officials with maintaining a segregated school system that denied black students equal educational opportunities.

After preliminary hearings the case went to trial before Federal District Court Judge W. Arthur Garrity, Jr., who was selected by a random process to preside over the case. The trial lasted about fifteen days.

On June 21, 1974, Judge Garrity filed a 152-page opinion with the clerk of the court. In his lengthy opinion, the Judge ruled that the School Committee of the city of Boston had “intentionally brought about and maintained racial segregation” in the Boston public schools. The opinion also required the School Committee to use a temporary desegregation plan for the 1974-1975 school year and ordered the Committee to begin formulating a permanent plan.

By January 1975, the School Committee had failed to present an adequate desegregation plan to the court. As a result, the court assumed an active role in the formulation of the desegregation remedy and began to oversee implementation of court-ordered desegregation in the Boston public schools for the next fifteen years.

I found an interesting blog post on the Boston Redfin blog. It starts here … click through for the whole thing.

Anthony Lucas reviewed the South End in less-than-glowing terms in his Pulitzer Prize winning assessment of Boston’s mid-Seventies racial struggle, Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families.

“By 1900, with 37,000 lodgers, the South End was the nation’s largest rooming-house district–a drab, dismal quarter which one social worker called ‘the city wilderness.’ Its once peaceful squares were now hemmed in by sooty factories, noisy machine shops, dusty brickyards, grim warehouses, and the incessant rumble of trucks and steam engines.”

While much of the controversy and media frenzy was focused on the South Boston and Dorchester neighborhoods, there were, of course, plenty of families affected, throughout the city.

One of the three families [profiled in the Lucas’ book], the Diver family, purchased 118 W. Newton in 1970 for only $27,000. As they moved into the decrepit bow front that August, Joan Diver wondered what she got herself into:

“It was a total disaster, she thought, beyond all hope. The old spruce floors were rotting, the window sashes were splintered, the plaster ornaments had fallen from much of the parlor ceiling. The bottom two floors were livable, but the top two looked as if they barely survived a hurricane–wooden lath showing through the walls, wire and cables trailing along the halls, two bathrooms with exposed plumbing and uncovered plasterboard.”

That single-family home at 118 West Newton Street is now for sale for $2,495,000.

People who say “the South End is so different these days” have no idea.

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Updated:  1st Q 2018

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