Mattapan began as a part of Dorchester in 1630, which Boston annexed in 1870. By 1960, Mattapan was an economically diverse area of 44,000 residents, ninety-nine percent of them white and mostly Jewish. By the 1970s, many white residents left for the suburbs, leaving Mattapan primarily black. The phenomenon of whites leaving urban areas for suburban ones is known as “white flight” and this action could have influenced Judge Garrity’s decision to desegregate the public schools since Boston neighborhoods risked becoming less racially diverse. Tallulah Morgan, one of the plaintiffs in Morgan v. Hennigan, resided in Mattapan. In this case, the Boston school committee was charged with violating the 13th and 14th Amendments. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants maintained racial segregation in Boston public schools. District Judge W. Arthur Garrity Jr. ruled in favor of the plaintiff. This case led to Judge Garrity’s decision to implement desegregation. Starting in the 1980s, many Haitians immigrated to Mattapan. Today, the neighborhood is seventy-seven percent black and Caribbean American. The items exhibited below present a sample of the different opinions and experiences Mattapan residents held towards "forced busing" or the integration of public schools in the mid-1970s.
What were the experiences and reactions to busing of Mattapan residents?
In Mattapan, opinions on busing strongly varied, and depended on each resident's experience. One resident’s letter wrote congratulated Judge Garrity for his decision based on the perspective of a "black Boston parent." This contrasted with another resident who, expressing fear that busing would decrease the quality of her son's education, wrote that her “son has the right to a good education.” She suggested that Judge Garrity “improve the schools instead of disrupting the lives of thousands of American families” by busing children beyond their neighborhoods. These two contrasting perspectives were shaped by different individual experiences. One's neighborhood in did not impact his or her opinion on busing. One could also not generalize the neighborhoods as single voting blocs, with the same feelings on busing.
"I understand what they were trying to do... But they failed at doing it. It failed kinda bad."
In an informal interview, former Mattapan resident David Bloom recounted that “from third grade to fourth grade, that’s when busing started.” He mentioned that older white kids “were throwing bottles at us… so I grabbed my sister, and that was that.” He now understands why the city decided to implement desegregation; however, he does not think they were successful in doing so. Bloom's traumatic experiences, such as rocks being thrown at him, shaped how he views busing.
"Your concern over your children...is understandable"
These following items describe concerns over the impact busing children away from their neighborhoods would have long-term. Each of these items expressed concern for their children's wellbeing when going to school. The first item made note of a resident's concern that no "transportation has been provided for the children by the school dept." The second item pertained to a Dorchester couple whose "twins, only in the 3rd grade, had been separate." In the third item, a Dorchester mother made note that her "son has the right to a good education... If the question is quality [sic] why not improve the schools instead of disrupting the lives of thousands of American families?" These residents expressed fears that busing would lead to hardships in their lives, whether it was lack of transportation or decreased education quality.
"Congratulations on your extremely thorough busing decision."
This Mattapan resident's letter to Judge Garrity congratulated him on, as she described, his "extremely thorough busing decision." He or she felt "sure that the implication of Plan II will be as well researched." The letter also mentioned that she is unemployed, and was seeking to secure a position as "an educational liason [sic]... or an administrative post." At the end of the letter, she wrote, "Enclosed is my resume for your parusal." [sic] This resident's experience as a "black Boston parent" shaped her opinion on busing.
Vrabel, Jim. A People’s History of the New Boston. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2014.
W. Arthur Garrity Jr. Papers on the Boston Schools Desegregation Case, 1972-1997. Series LXVII. Correspondence, 1973-1994. University Archives & Special Collections, University of Massachusetts Boston.
Mayor Kevin H. White records 1929-1999. Boston City Archives.