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.


The Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections (UASC) requests funding to digitize, catalog, and make nationally available over a period of two years the records of Boston-based social justice organization Freedom House. Once digitized, Freedom House records (1949-2004) will be individually identified and cataloged by graduate students overseen by a professional archivist. They will then be preserved in the Northeastern's Digital Repository Service, a publicly available Fedora-based repository, and harvested into DPLA and the Umbra African American Digital Collection. A selection of correspondence and newsletters identified as high research value will be transcribed with basic structural markup and metadata using Text Encoding Initiative guidelines. The collection includes bylaws, meeting minutes, flyers, annual reports, correspondence, memoranda, newspaper clippings, and newsletters. This freely available digital collection will provide an invaluable resource for studying how the African American community in Boston fought for civil rights and social justice.


Digitizing Hidden Collections

Amount Awarded


Year Added



Northeastern University Libraries


  • Ms. Giordana Mecagni (Northeastern University)
  • Ms. Michelle Romero

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