Black Boston: Politics
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Politics for blacks in Boston has been a frustrating search for power and participation, but also a story of achievement, dignity and self-development.

Black Bostonians demonstrated political sophistication and flexibility throughout the twentieth century, many working first with the Republican party-- remembered by African Americans as the party of Abraham Lincoln, while others made common cause with the Democratic party.
According to Hubert E. Jones,

“[t]he history of black politics in Boston is [also] the story of determination and resiliency in the face of overwhelming odds created by an electoral system fraught with racism. ”

William Henry Lewis (1868-1949), a friend of William Monroe Trotter and like him, a Harvard graduate, was the first African American to win election to the State House in the twentieth century. Lawrence Banks won a seat in 1902.

In the first fifty years of the twentieth century there were numerous attempts by blacks to gain electoral representation.
Many sought political patronage controlled by the city government.
According to James Jennings, in 1901, Boston’s Ward 18, a bastion of black Republican voters, supported the Democratic nominee for mayor because of dissatisfaction with the Republicans. They also supported John F. Fitzgerald as Democratic nominee for mayor in 1905 and 1907 because of his pro-black platform.
Leaders such as William Monroe Trotter urged blacks (then called “Negroes”) to vote in an independent bloc in order to decide the outcome of congressional elections. They also won an increasing number of appointments to public positions.

In 1925 Julian D. Rainey became the first person of color to be appointed to the faculty of a leading law school, Suffolk Law. In the same year he ran for City Council and finished a close second.

In the 1940s many blacks supported the wildly popular (and populist) mayor James Michael Curley.
In a 1942 interview Curley stated that

“The Negro vote is important in Boston in city elections. . . Invariably elections are settled by less than 10,000 votes. So, in a sense, they have the balance of power. . . ”

In the 1940 gubernatorial election of Leverett Saltonstall the Blacks provided the governor with his margin of victory.
In 1946 for the first time in the twentieth century, a black man was elected to the state legislature: Lawrence Banks became the state representative for Ward 9 in Roxbury.

Between the 1900s and 1940s, black Bostonians held protests around such issues as the showing of racist films, most famously “Birth of a Nation” and Walt Disney’s “Song of the South.”

William Worthy, Jr., the black Bostonian journalist, has identified the League of Women for Community Service in the South End as another place of political activism.
He states that the tradition-bound elegance of these early twentieth century ladies and the ceremoniousness of their meetings did not mean they weren’t activists:

“When I grew up, the format for [League] meetings was usually the same: the singing with gusto of “The Negro National Anthem” after an opening prayer by a minister; fiery speeches and the adoption of resolutions; and a closing with tea in the adjacent salon where a sideboard with imposing carvings would be covered with home-baked cakes and sandwiches. For [a long time] this was Boston’s protest style par excellence. . .Genteel? Yes. Sell-out and phony dilettantism? Most definitely not.”

From their clubhouse at 558 Massachusetts Avenue the women repaired directly to the site of the political the day’s political demonstration-- on behalf of school quality, unemployment, playground facilities, better housing, and equal rights