Known 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: 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: Robert MorrisOften referred to as the first really successful colored lawyer in America, Salem native Robert Morris was one of the first African American attorneys in the United States. Shortly after his admission to the bar in 1847, it is believed Morris may have been the first African American male attorney in the country to file a lawsuit. Morris also fought to end segregation 100 years before Brown vs. The Board of Education.
Boston’s Black History: Lee PeltonSince 2011, Lee Pelton has served as Emerson College's 12th president. Pelton is known around the world for his writings and public speaking. He also established a plan for redevelopment in downtown Boston. Pelton has been recognized as a thought and innovation leader. He began his academic career at Harvard.
Boston’s Black History: Major TaylorDubbed the world's fastest man in 1899, Marshall Walter "Major" Taylor broke records and barriers as an African American cyclist. Born in Indiana and spending most of his life in Worcester, Taylor became the first African American to win the sprint event in the 1899 world track championships. Throughout his career, Taylor challenged racism and became a model for athletes facing discrimination. Major Taylor Boulevard in Worcester bears his name.
Boston’s Black History: Walt SandersThrough some of Boston’s most turbulent years, Walt Sanders was there to make sense of it all. Joining WBZ in 1968, he became one of Boston’s first black televisions reporters. With his deep and distinctive voice Sanders dedicated 27 years to bringing the news to New England, with a determination to stick to the facts. For his work Sanders was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
Boston’s Black History: Marvin GilmoreHumanitarian, entrepreneur, political advisor and World War II vet are some of the honors associated with Marvin Gilmore, Junior. Gilmore championed the civil rights movement in the 1960s. In 1973 he began his tenure as President and CEO of Community Development Corporation. Gilmore also co-founded Unity Bank and Trust, the first black owned and operated commercial bank in Boston.
Boston’s Black History: Andrea CampbellAndrea Campbell is one of the most powerful politicians in Boston. In 2018 she was sworn in as the first black woman president of the Boston city council. The Roxbury native and Princeton grad has been a dedicated advocate for health care, criminal justice reform, and affordable housing, all issues she is looking to tackle as part of Boston’s living black history.
Boston’s Black History: Bill OwensBill Owens was Boston’s own political maverick. He became the first black state senator in Massachusetts history, winning the Second Suffolk district in 1975. During his political career, Bill Owens made the bold move of switching parties in protest of what he called the mistreatment of blacks by the Massachusetts Democratic Party. Owens later sponsored a bill for Massachusetts to provide reparations for slavery and discrimination against people of African descent.
Boston’s Black History: Ayanna PressleyAyanna 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: 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.