Ayanna Pressley is a true trailblazer. Inspired by the likes of Shirley Chisolm, the community advocate broke a barrier that stood for over a century, becoming the first black woman to serve on Boston's City Council. Shocking the system again, she pulled an upset in the 2018 Democratic primary, securing her place as the first black congresswoman from Massachusetts, and a spotlight in black history.
Boston’s Black History: Liz WalkerLiz Walker broke barriers by becoming Boston's first black primary TV news anchor, right here on WBZ. But her achievements reach far beyond that. As a journalist, her 30-plus year career in Boston took her around the globe and garnered numerous awards. As a humanitarian she has worked with the United Nations on behalf of people from Sudan to Dorchester. Now as a reverend, she leads the Roxbury Presbyterian Church, a faith community with a 130-year legacy of making a difference in Boston.
Boston’s Black History: Willie O’ReeWillie O'Ree broke the color barrier - on ice skates. In 1958, the Boston Bruins winger became the first black player in the National Hockey League. O'Ree played alone in that regard until 1974. Today the league has dozens of black players and O'Ree’s legacy has been solidified with his induction into the NHL Hall of Fame in 2018.
Boston’s Black History: Malcolm XYears before he became Malcolm X, Malcom Little was a troubled teenager living in Roxbury. It was while serving time at the old prison in Charlestown that Malcolm's world view changed, reading the likes of Ghandi and W.E.B. Du Bois. It is also where he would first wear his signature glasses. Malcolm’s reading then led him to the nation of Islam and a new path as a thought leader and passionate fighter for black liberation.
Boston’s Black History: Paula JohnsonDr. Paula Johnson is a cardiologist, educator, and respected leader, known for her passion when it comes to improving the lives of women. Her commitment and leadership was recognized by the historic Wellesley College, which named Johnson their first black female president in 2016.
Boston’s Black History: Charlie AustinKnown for his golden voice, WBZ’s own Charlie Austin is a trailblazer, becoming one of the first African Americans on Boston television. Austin worked at WBZ from 1968-2000. He covered it all, including the famine crisis in Sudan and Ethiopia. Austin died in 2018, leaving behind a wife and three daughters, and a lasting legacy.
Boston’s Black History: Crispus AttucksBorn in Framingham in 1723, Crispus Attucks is widely known as the first person killed in the Revolutionary War. Attucks died in the Boston Massacre in 1770, after fights erupted between Bostonians and British soldiers. His final resting place is the Granary Burial Ground in Boston. There is also a monument honoring Attucks on Boston Common.
Boston’s Black History: Bruce BollingA Boston first - Bruce Bolling was the first African American elected as president of the Boston City Council in 1986. Bolling was born and educated in the city. He is known for his advocacy for equal access for women and minorities. Bolling is also the creator and former director of the Mass Alliance, designed to help small contractors.
Boston’s Black History: Ron BurtonHis is a name known across New England. Ron Burton was the first black player ever drafted by the Boston Patriots. Burton leaves a legacy that extends far beyond the football field. He went on to found the Ron Burton Training Village. Over the past 30 plus years, RBTV has served more than 9,000 young men women, instilling four core values - love, peace, patience and humility.
Boston’s Black History: Terry CarterTerry Carter was the first African American news anchor in Boston, and possibly the world. He started right here at WBZ back in 1965. For three years, Carter worked as a weekend anchor and movie and theater critic. Carter also boasts a list of TV and movie credits including a recurring role on "Battlestar Galactica."
Boston’s Black History: Melnea CassKnown as "The First Lady of Roxbury," Melnea Cass is a major community and civil rights activist. Cass served with the Robert Gould Shaw House, the Harriet Tubman's Mothers Club, and as president of the Boston branch of the NAACP. In 1966, May 22 was declared Melnea Cass Day. Today, the street that connects lower Roxbury to the South End is named in her honor.
Boston’s Black History: Gloria FoxGrowing up as foster child in Boston, State Representative Gloria Fox would go on to dedicate her life to public service. Fox was Executive Director of the Roxbury North Dorchester Area Planning Action Council before eyeing public office. She then became a state representative, where she spent more than 30 years in office before retirement.
Boston’s Black History: Frederick DouglassA frontline fighter against slavery, Frederick Douglass has deep roots in Massachusetts. Douglass escaped slavery in Maryland, got on a boat, and ended up in New Bedford. He recruited black soldiers to join the Union Army at the African Meeting House, which still stands in Boston. Douglass was known for using his own image to advance the abolitionist movement.
Boston’s Black History: Myechia Minter JordanDr. Myechia Minter Jordan is a champion for community health care. She is the President and CEO of the Dimock Center, the largest employer in Roxbury and the second largest health center in Boston. Considered a model of comprehensive heath, Dimock offers services to residents in Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan and Jamaica Plain, ensuring a path to wellness for residents in underserved communities.
Boston’s Black History: Carol FulpCarol Fulp is CEO of The Partnership, a New England organization created to promote diversity in the professional world. Fulp also served in a senior role at John Hancock, directing the company's philanthropic efforts. Former President Barack Obama appointed Fulp as a representative to the 65th session of the UN General Assembly. She is also the author of "Success Through Diversity: Why the Most Inclusive Companies Will Win."
Boston’s Black History: Martin Luther King, Jr.Boston was a second home for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The civil rights champion became Doctor King, thanks to earning a PhD in Theology at Boston University. It's also where he would meet his wife Coretta Scott. In 1965, he would return to lead a march from Roxbury to Boston Common, in a call to end segregation. Work is now underway in Boston to erect a memorial as a permanent tribute to his life and legacy.
Boston’s Black History: Bill RussellBill Russell is a true champion. The 6’10” Louisiana native helped lead the Boston Celtics to 11 championships in 13 season. In 1966 he became the first black coach in any American major league sport. A fierce civil rights advocate, Russell marched on Washington in 1963. His legacy of sport and service was celebrated when President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Boston’s Black History: William GrossWilliam Gross is the embodiment of community policing. With his upbeat personality and passion for outreach, the 33-year veteran of the Boston Police force steadily rose through to become the city's first black commissioner of police. Not long after his promotion, Gross created the Bureau of Community Engagement, aimed at improving the relationship between officers and the people of Boston.
Boston’s Black History: Sarah Ann ShawSarah Ann Shaw is a celebrated community activist. The Roxbury native joined WBZ in 1969, becoming the city's first black female reporter. Over her 31-year career, Sarah gave voice to the often unheard, with special reports focusing on contributions made by minority communities. Today that same focus continues, as Shaw works with organizations fighting to end poverty in Greater Boston.
Boston’s Black History: Byron RushingByron Rushing has been a lifelong champion for the people. The civil rights foot soldier became president of Boston's Museum of African American History, leading the effort to establish the Boston African American National Historic Site. Moving to politics, he kept fighting, becoming the original sponsor of the gay rights bill in the state senate, just one benchmark in a 36-year career of service.
Boston’s Black History: Deval PatrickOn a January day in 2007, Deval Patrick made history in Massachusetts, sworn in as the state's first African American governor and only the second ever in the nation. The Harvard law grad worked in President Bill Clinton's Justice Department, tackling the issues of racial profiling and police misconduct. With a focus on infrastructure, education, and health care reform, he would serve two terms on Beacon Hill.
Boston’s Black History: Chuck CooperIn 1950 the Celtics helped break a color barrier when the team drafted Chuck Cooper as one of the first black players in the NBA. Before coming to Boston, Cooper was a navy veteran who served in World War II. Celtics coach Red Auerbach said that over four seasons, Cooper helped revitalize the team and shape its legacy.
Boston’s Black History: Phillis WheatleyShe may have been enslaved, but Phillis Wheatley was one of the most well-known poets in America of her time. Purchased by the Wheatley family in Boston, she was encouraged to read and write, which was illegal for slaves in many states. Her work touched on slavery and the American Revolution, and drew praise from the likes of George Washington. Wheatley was finally set free shortly after a book of her poetry was published.
Boston’s Black History: Darnell WilliamsEmpowering the people is at the heart of the work of Darnell Williams. At the helm since 2001, Williams is the longest serving president of The Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, an organization dedicated to helping people overcome racial, social, and economic barriers through employment opportunities. Williams has sat on a number of high profile boards, including The Cooperative Central Bank, Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the MBTA.