"God Is Giving You a Chance": Desegregation Supporters and Boston City Government

[Letter to Mayor White from the Cathedral Church of St. Paul]

This letter was sent to Mayor Kevin White by a reverend at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston on January 15, 1973, the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. The author asks Mayor Kevin White to follow the principles of King and seek to integrate Boston's public schools. The reverend, who was white, also acknowledges that his children attend schools that mostly serve African American students. He argues that this is valuable to his childrens' education and preparation for life.

Such letters were not uncommon. During the early to mid-1970s, people wrote to officals in Boston expressing a moral urgency for the better treatment of racial minorities. Two such officials were White, who served as mayor from 1968 to 1984, and Louise Day Hicks, a former U.S. Congresswoman who served on City Council.

Many constituents considered White, as the city mayor, to hold a great degree of political power -- enough, perhaps, to impact the extent to which the Garrity decision was implemented. Many letters sent to White from 1973 to 1975 thus concerned the issue of desegregation before and after the Garrity decision. Religious sentiments sent to White were largely supportive of his recognition of school desegregation and efforts to comply with mandatory busing. Writers sometimes also recognized political opportunities provided by the Church to promote peace and understanding in an otherwise volatile social climate.

On the other hand, religious supporters of desegregation had little praise for Councilwoman Hicks. As the foremost opponent of busing in local government, Hicks' notoriety surged during the years flanking the Garrity decision. In many ways, Hicks became the face of the anti-busing movement both locally and nationally. She made public appearances on radio and television, often promoting her coalition, Restore Our Alienated Rights (R.O.A.R.). Hicks drew support from all corners of the country, but received several indignant letters from those who saw moral value in the school desegregation movement. Such letters asked Hicks to defer to Christian principals of grace, love, and understanding for the betterment of the community. Authors of these letters interpreted opposition to busing as support for racial discrimination, which Hicks staunchly refuted. As the following page demonstrates, however, religous perspectives were also employed by Hicks' supporters.

 

 

"God Is Giving You a Chance": Desegregation Supporters and Boston City Government