History

The Summer Boston Roiled with Racial Tension and Mob Violence

In the summer of 1974, South Boston began its ride toward becoming a war zone.

In 1974, Federal District Court Judge W. Arthur Garrity ruled that the Boston School Committee had deliberately segregated the city’s schools, creating one system for Blacks and another for Whites — separate, unequal and unconstitutional.

And there was hardly a soul in South Boston who accepted the idea that the remedy to achieve racial balance and desegregate schools was busing. Unrest grew in the streets of Southie as some 18,000 Black and White students were ordered to take buses to schools outside of their neighborhoods.

Anti-busing demonstrations grew larger and louder as White parents in South Boston refused to send their children to nearby Black schools in Dorchester. The buses carrying the Black students from Dorchester were pelted by rocks as South Boston High School became a battlefield, while Boston Tactical Police Force regiments worked brutally and unsuccessfully to keep the peace inside the beleaguered school’s walls. The iconic photo of a White teen, Joe Rakes, attacking a Black man with the American flag said it all. Nothing was sacred. Racial violence was the rule of the land.

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