Browse Exhibits (1 total)

From South Boston to D.C.: Congressman John Joseph Moakley's Efforts to Stop "Forced Busing"


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“I am 100% committed to integration: but I am also 100% against forced busing. And, believe it or not, that’s a perfectly consistent position.”[i]

~ Congressman Joe Moakley 


Congressman John Joseph “Joe” Moakley (1927-2001) represented Massachusetts’ Ninth Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives from 1973 until his death in 2001. Born and raised in South Boston, his district included his own neighborhood, as well as many other areas of Boston and several suburban cities and towns. “Joe” was dedicated to his constituents and to doing right by them, and he appreciated his tight-knit community of South Boston, where everyone knew everyone and parents sent their kids down the street to their neighborhood school. This mentality is what fueled his opposition to forced busing as a means of desegregating the Boston Public Schools; he saw the impact of forced busing on these traditional neighborhood dynamics, and this frustrated him. At the same time, though, he abhorred the racial violence that resulted and was vocal in his condemnation of it.  

This exhibit will chronicle forced busing in Boston through the lens of Moakley’s efforts to stop it. It begins with a biographical sketch to summarize Congressman Moakley's life and career. Then, through narrative text and primary source documents, it will reveal the nuanced perspective of an elected official who believed strongly in equal educational opportunities for all of his constituents, but who could not allow forced busing to destroy the city (and neighborhoods) that he loved. It will also showcase the opinions of Moakley's constituents, community groups, and other local elected officials who wrote to Moakley to share these opinions. Finally, it will link to transcripts of oral history interviews with Moakley himself and with family, friends, and colleagues; these transcripts will provide insight into Moakley's character and personality.

The primary source materials in this exhibit have been collected from the John Joseph Moakley Archive and Institute at Suffolk University, the repository that was created upon Moakley's donation of his papers shortly before his death in 2001. The documents are arranged topically in five categories: legislative files, constituent correspondence, community group interactions, political correspondence, and oral history interview transcripts, with selected related documents interfiled within these categories.

[i] Moakley, John Joseph, “Testimony of Joe Moakley at the Jaffe Hearings,” Subtle & Stark Divisions: A Collaborative History of Segregation in Boston, accessed May 5, 2015,



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