Constituent Correspondence

While the materials from Congressman Moakley’s legislative files are helpful in documenting his official actions and opinions related to forced busing, the letters in this section provide insight into how his constituents felt about the issue. As the letters will show, Moakley's constituents were not afraid to express their busing frustrations to their congressman. Even residents of suburban neighborhoods took time to share their opposition to busing. The letters here are just a sampling, but they illustrate that even among those who opposed busing, there was a range of sentiments represented. Several of the items in this section provide additional context for Moakley’s anti-busing efforts and supplement the legislative files, because they include both a constituent letter as well as a copy of Moakley's reply. 

Please note that names and addresses have been redacted from this correspondence to protect the privacy of the constituents.

 

Correspondence between a South Boston resident and Congressman John Joseph Moakley

Telegram from a South Boston resident with Moakley's reply, September 1974

 

 

“The cops are killing our kids.”

The correspondence in this section begins in September of 1974, at the start of the school year, when there was a heavy police presence in South Boston as busing began. At the time, Moakley was in Washington, so at least one resident sent him a telegram there, imploring him to return to South Boston. As this telegram shows, its sender clearly perceives a violent situation. In his response, Moakley assures the resident that he has spoken to the police commissioner, who “apologized for any untoward police activity that occurred in this high stress situation.”

Letter from a group of South Boston residents to Congressman John Joseph Moakley

Letter from a group of South Boston residents, September 1974

 

 

“We will fight for freedom…with or without you.”

At end of September, a group of South Boston residents wrote to Moakley to express their frustration with Congressman Moakley for his, and other politicians', perceived inaction in stopping forced busing. The residents compare the busing orders to a dictatorship and assert that they will "fight for freedom...with or without" their elected officials. Unfortunately, Moakley’s response to this letter, if one exists, it not available.

Letter from a South Boston resident to Congressman John Joseph Moakley

Letter from South Boston resident, October 1974

 

 

“The Crime Jungle of Roxbury”

The writer of this letter, a 73-year-old South Boston resident, addresses Congressman Moakley as “Joe,” indicating some level of personal familiarity with him. Perhaps that explains why he or she did not hold back in using explicit language in describing the impact of busing on the South Boston neighborhood. This resident expresses anger over the forced busing of students into the "Crime Jungle" [writer's emphasis] of Boston's Roxbury neighborhood and asks "Joe," "Can't you do something...?" Again, there is no record of Moakley’s reply to this letter.

Letter to constituents from Congressman John Joseph Moakley

Letter to constituents from Moakley, circa January 1975

 

 "The issue is not one of race but of neighborhood."

In January of 1975, possibly in reaction to all of the letters he received, like those above, Moakley sent this letter to his South Boston constituents to share his thoughts on the impact of forced busing. In his letter, he reflects on Boston as “a collection of small neighborhoods” and describes the various reasons why he opposed forced busing, asserting that his opposition to busing is based on the value of neighborhoods, not on racism. He assures his constituents that he is “personally committed” to supporting the proposed constitutional amendments that would ban forced busing (which at that point had been reintroduced in the House), and outlines the actions he intends to take.

Correspondence between a Roslindale resident and Congressman John Joseph Moakley

Letter from Roslindale resident with Moakley's reply, March 1975

 

 “All other issues are dwarfed by this outrage!”

In early 1975, Moakley sent out an informational flyer to his constituents, which outlined his position on several issues, including fuel prices and jobs (but not busing). In the correspondence here, from March 1975, a resident of Boston’s Roslindale neighborhood writes to Moakley and returns the flyer, telling him, “I am, quite frankly, not interested in receiving mail from you except to learn what you are doing about…forced busing.” In a one-and-a-half page reply, Moakley assures the constituent that he is working hard to end forced busing, outlines the legislation that he has “developed and filed” in Congress and describes the future action that he plans to take.

Correspondence between a Westwood resident and Congressman John Joseph Moakley

Letter from a Westwood resident, with Moakley's reply, October/November 1975

 

 

"Congress must act soon before more chaos is created..."

In this correspondence from the fall of 1975, a constituent from the Boston suburb of Westwood, who is also a teacher in Boston, outlines seven “reasons why I am opposed” to forced busing and asserts the hope that Moakley “will work toward ending forced busing not only in Boston by nationwide.” In his response, Moakley expresses that he shares his constituent’s frustration and asserts that he is working to get a constitutional amendment passed that will ban forced busing. 

Correspondence between a West Roxbury resident and Congressman John Joseph Moakley

Letter from a West Rozbury resident, with Moakley's reply, October/December 1975

 

 

 

"How much Longer does this idiocy have to continue?"

This correspondence, also from the fall of 1975, includes a letter written by a white female resident of the West Roxbury neighborhood of Boston to Congressman Moakley, as well as Congressman Moakley's reply. The resident describes the "idioacy" of busing and asks Moakley to "use whatever means necessary" to pass a constitutional amendment to ban forced busing. In his reply, Moakley thanks his constituent for her letter and assures her that he is working "to bring Forced Busing to an end."

Correspondence between a South Boston resident and Congressman John Joseph Moakley

Letter from a South Boston resident, with Moakley's reply, November 1975

 

 

"Are we the people, the law abiding people suposed [sic] to just stand by and watch our nation destroyed by this wave of black militants?"

This correspondence includes a letter written by a resident of South Boston to Congressman Moakley, as well as Moakley's reply. The resident, who addresses Congressman Moakley as "Joe," thanks him for his "great fight" against busing, but over the course of two pages, outlines many frustrations with other local elected officials, as well as with Judge Garrity, and also describes his complicated feelings towards black people. In his reply, Congressman Moakley, writing in the aftermath of the failed efforts of the Democratic Caucus to force Judiciary Committee action on the anti-busing amendment, provides assurance that he will continue his "efforts against forced busing."

Correspondence between a Braintree resident and Congressman John Joseph Moakley

Letter from a Braintree resident, with Moakley's reply, December 1975

 

 "The man is sick with power."

December of 1975 brought the receivership orders for South Boston High School, and Moakley's constituents were vocal in their opposition to Judge Garrity and his actions. This correspondence includes a note sent to Congressman Moakley from a resident of the Boston suburb of Braintree, as well as Moakley’s response. The resident calls for Moakley to “censure Judge Garrity immediately,” calling Garrity “sick with power.” In his response, Moakley asserts his own concerns about Garrity’s imposition of the receivership of South Boston High School and the proposed transferring of its principal, Dr. William J. “Doc” Reid, and his staff. He informs his constituent that he is working to determine what can be done to remedy the situation.

Letter from a South Boston resident to Congressman John Joseph Moakley

Letter from a South Boston resident, December 1975

 

 

"Joe, this man has taken the stand of a god."

In this letter, a South Boston resident asks Congressman Moakley to "start an action" to have Judge Garrity removed from his judgeship. The resident complains that Garrity "has and will continue to abide by the request's [sic] of black people," which this resident perceives as problematic, and also denounces the receivership of South Boston High School and the treatment of Doc Reid.

Correspondence between a Norwood resident and Congressman John Joseph Moakley

Telegram from Norwood resident, with Moakley's reply, December 1975

 

 

"I protest the indignities that have been heaped upon Doctor William J. Reid."

This correspondence includes a telegram sent to Congressman Moakley from a resident of the Boston suburb of Norwood, as well as Moakley’s response. The resident sent the telegram to Moakley in Washington, D.C., to express, as others have, frustration over the treatment of Doc Reid. In his response, Moakley asserts his own concern about the receivership of South Boston High School and the proposed transferring of Mr. Reid and his staff. He informs his constituent that he working to determine what can be done to remedy the situation.

Correspondence between a married Jamaica Plain couple and Congressman John Joseph Moakley

Letter from a Jamaica Plain couple, with Moakley's reply, March 1976

 

 

"I have never failed to testify in support of an anti-busing bill before the Congress in the past, and shall continue to do so in the future."

In this correspondence, from March of 1976, a married couple from Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood express their dismay that a congressional bill intended to end forced busing is “tied up in committee” and ask Moakley what he has done to try to get the bill to pass. The bill to which they refer was not an actual anti-busing bill, but (according to records available from Congress.gov) would have eliminated "the jurisdiction of United States courts, pursuant to article III of the U.S. Constitution, over decisions affecting assignment of pupils to particular schools." In his response, Moakley assures the couple that he has frequently testified in Congress against forced busing and will continue to do so. 

 

The constituent correspondence in this section of the exhibit spans the timeframe from September 1974 through March 1976: a very significant year-and-a-half period in the Boston busing chronology, and in Moakley’s efforts to stop it.  The letters shown here are only a sampling of the total number that Congressman Moakley received, but they provide a more human context for the chronology of Moakley’s legislative efforts that is presented in the previous exhibit section. While they share the common theme of opposition to forced busing, they also reveal some variety in the reasons for such opposition. The exploration of this opposition continues in the next section, which showcases correspondence and other materials related to anti-busing community organizations and their interactions with Congressman Moakley.

Constituent Correspondence