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: Harriet TubmanThe "American Moses" had deep ties to Boston. Harriet Tubman made more than a dozen missions to rescue the enslaved, bringing them north to freedom on the Underground Railroad. One of the railroad's safe houses still stands on Phillips Street in Boston. The armed scout and Civil War spy also supported the black Union soldiers recruited on Beacon Hill. A memorial to Tubman stands at Harriet Tubman Park in the South End.
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.

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