Boston Lives Matter: Freedom House and Black Activism, 1949-2004

Material Description

Freedom House was founded by Muriel and Otto Snowden in 1949 to centralize the African-American community's involvement in the fight for neighborhood improvement, good schools, and harmony among racial, ethnic, and religious groups in Boston. Founded as a civic group in the then-integrated neighborhood of Roxbury, Freedom House initially focused on racial uplift efforts and inter-racial understanding. The Great Migration, political divestment and residential segregation laws influenced a shift in Roxbury toward a predominantly working-class African American community, and Freedom House's priorities changed with it to focus more strongly on cultivating sources of political power from within. It became the hub of the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, organizing and supporting direct actions. It played a pivotal role in the community's decades-long Boston Public School desegregation efforts, and then as a gathering place for families after the 1974 NAACP filed Morgan v. Hennigan case resulted in court ordered desegregation. Events and forums addressed topics of the day-- urban renewal, community development, beautification, women's issues, block associations, Pan-Africanism, Black Power. Speakers included Louis Lomax, Senator Edward Brooke, Jacqueline Kennedy, Bayard Rustin, and Ruth Batson. Freedom House's long history of advocacy and coalition building provides a grassroots perspective on how Boston's African American community addressed its own needs and developed strategies to meet them over time. Freedom House stood, and continues to stand, at the center of black Boston's political and social life. Otto Snowden donated the collection to Northeastern University in 1990. The records proposed for digitization consist of 56 cubic feet of textual documents, videos, and poster-size material. The collection contains correspondence, minutes, and reports of the Board of Directors; grant proposals; committee minutes, and reports. Reference files consist mainly of grassroots community organizations' records but also include national organizations like NAACP, The Urban League, and SNCC.

Year Added:



Northeastern University Libraries


Ms. Giordana Mecagni
Northeastern University

Ms. Michelle Romero
Northeastern University

Date Range

1949 - 2004

Geographic Scope

Freedom House provided services and programs in the Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan neighborhoods of Boston, Massachusetts. The organization kept records from geographically dispersed organizations and individuals throughout the United States.


  • 56 Mixed Archival Collections