Browse Exhibits (2 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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Collisions of Church & State: Religious Perspectives on Boston's School Desegregation Crisis


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Mandatory school desegregation in Boston precipitated a wave of activism, advocacy, and debate by religious institutions and their constituents. Whether outraged or delighted by the implications of busing in public schools, individuals often understood and expressed their positions through the lens of their faith. Some believed desegregation to be an issue of justice, and thus in keeping with Biblical teachings. Others considered the "forced busing" of white children to be evil and abusive, invoking faith-based opposition to what they considered an anti-Christian social movement. Regardless of their support or disapproval of busing, people employed a multiplicity of religious interpretations to support their stance.

People from within and beyond Boston addressed these various religious perspectives in their writings to local officials. Often, they wrote to express their views on the morality of busing. In other cases, church officials wrote to invite city or state leaders to events or political rallies relevant to their cause. Collectively, religious sentiments in public records speak to the existence of an active and passionate response to school desegregation by Christians throughout the Boston area and the greater United States.

This exhibit examines the ways in which Catholics and Protestants approached the issue of mandatory busing vis-à-vis the role of government. The three pages collectively showcase documents sent to and from Judge W. Arthur Garrity, Mayor Kevin White, and Councilwoman Louise Day Hicks that in some way address the role of church or religion during the crisis. Prayers for Justice and Peace contains letters, invitations, and cards sent to Judge Garrity in response to his decision to desegregate Boston's schools in Morgan v. Hennigan. "God Is Giving You a Chance" catalogs letters of religious support for desegregation sent to Louise Day Hicks and Mayor White. Finally, "Joan of Arc of Bostonshares correspondence of Louise Day Hicks regard-ing faith, church, and her anti-busing coalition, R.O.A.R. 

Selected materials represent a large geographic range of correspondence; some were sent from Boston, while others originated as far away as San Francisco (see the Geographic Distribution Map for a spatial visualization). The collection is limited to the years 1973-1975, which saw the height of responses to busing. Names and other identifying information have been redacted from all documents to protect the privacy of their authors or recipients.

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