Where are the Black People in Boston?


Prosperity in 2023 and beyond is on the mind of ambitious Black people in Boston. It is a feeling shared by many, but not the majority. There is always going to be Black people who are living day-to-day, just like yesterday, and there are Blacks who are advancing. The up and comers caught on to the rebuild Black Wall Street fever moving across the country and they are doing it. Some examples are the Parcel 3 acoss the street from Police Headquarters in the South End, where a first-time Black development teams took on building a $2 Billion project with residential housing, commercial office rental space and a performance center dedicated to African American Art and Cultural shows and teaching. The Omni Seaport Hotel tower was a recently completed $600 million dollar project lead by Blacks. If you ask where can I take my friend to a really fancy, over-the-top luxury, Black-owned dining and entertainment establishment, go to The HUE in the Back Bay or Grace by Nia on the Seaport.

Boston Black people get together in over 100 groups organizing urban professionals, millennials, the over 50 crowd, HBCU grads, Finance and Tech professionals, photographers, community leaders and more. The Africans, Caribbeans, Jamaicans, Haitians and others have mirror groups like those organized by American Blacks. This writer attended a meeting held by the Boston Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers at Microsoft NERD. I learned at the meeting a majority of its members are Caribbean. It used to be all African American. But not all Blacks in Boston belong to any of these groups.

A neighborhood is considered a Black Middle Class cluster when at least 15% on the people earn a minimum $75,000 household income, have a college degree and are Black. Greater Boston has four such neighborhoods. Compared to other cities, Boston has the least number of Black middle class neighborhoods. There are over 500 middle class White neighborhood clusters in Greater Boston. Here’s a possible reason why. Only 4% of all managerial positions in Boston are held by a black person.

Blacks live everywhere in Boston. The cost of housing dictates where a person is likely to live. “Black Boston” is an area where a majority of Blacks live. MLK preached in Black Boston. Malcom X lived in Black Boston. Dudley Square is Black Boston’s core, now the community wants to rename it Nubian Square because the Dudley person it was named after was a slaver.  Seventy percent of all subsidized housing is in Black Boston, which is a zip code boundary of 02119,02120,02125 and 02126.

Black Boston walking and riding tours

Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan are the neighborhood names for Black Boston. In January, 2018, the average single-family home price in Mattapan was $326,000. Dorchester and Roxbury have higher priced houses on average.

Black Boston residents have an average income below $30,000. Of course,  there are plenty of Blacks making big bucks who live there and everywhere else.  Teachers will tell you that their retired members average over $70,000 income a year, and they are likely to live anywhere.

Africans recently led all immigrants in number and volume of  coming to live in Massachusetts and Boston. Somalians, Nigerians and Kenyans were coming.

After all, the first blacks arrived in Boston in the early 1600s and have been here ever since.  The Boston African-American population played important roles in freeing the slaves and have long held a Boston presence, although they have always been a minority of the population.

Over the years, political and social forces grouped ethnic groups into living cluster.  So neighborhoods are mostly segregated. Whites live among whites, latinos among latinos, Asians in Chinatown, Blacks among Blacks and so on, so forth.

The foreign Chinese investor buys more hi-rise luxury condos than any other ethnic group. Whites buy boats. There is a lot of water around town. Blacks have public cultural parades attended by 500,000 people.

A recent Federal Reserve report found that the average net worth of a black Bostonian household  compared to a white household is $8.00 to their $200,000. The difference is a result of legacy racist policies in hiring, mortgages and government policies that discriminated against Blacks beginning in 1925. For Blacks, generational wealth has been an uphill climb.

Future Outlook

Two billion dollar built casino resorts will open in the Greater Boston Metro area in 2019. Minorities received over 15% of the construction business. A few black real estate development companies are building big things within the next few years. There is $1B in development projects under their pen. Cannabis businesses selling at the retail level will spring up. The Massachusetts economy is fine.

The cost of rents and houses are ripping people off.

For a majority of Blacks, life is good in Boston if we have the marketable skills industry will pay for or consumers will buy from.

Blacks with trade union certification and college education are employed and likely to be far along on their career tracks.  Baby-boomers and older blacks worked for the government and other stable institutions that had a tradition of guaranteeing employment for many years.

Blacks who are financially hurting the worse are like any other racial category of people that hasn’t found their path to self-sustainability without reliance on government subsidies.  This author has an opinion that the racist Boston has largely ceased to depress most of the culture because education is free to cheap.

But there is employment, housing and access to capital discrimination going on. No doubt.

If you ask a smart Boston Globe newspaper black Spotlight team reporter and a smart WGBH TV anchor and panel host expert “is Boston today a racist city?” they will say “Yes it is!”

I refer you to that conversation on an episode Basic Black, a WGBH 2 Network TV show that has been the longest public affairs series about issues that affect Blacks and African Americans on television.


BASIC BLACKthe Boston’s Globe’s Spotlight Series on Race Episode

You will notice more blacks walking around town than ever before. Mixed couples are everywhere. Blacks in powerful civic, social and political positions are visible, yet I would argue that blacks in Boston don’t own very much and that’s a big problem, especially in Black Boston. By ownership, I’m talking about companies that employ hundreds in the workforce or properties worth hundreds of millions of dollars that is owned by black people. There is simply too little if any of that here.  If you compare what Asians and other ethnic groups own in the city to what Blacks own, you’ll see the distant divide.

The city’s white power structure still exists, no doubt. It is not unusual to attend events and meetings where you may be the only black in the room.

But you will have no problem finding a cohort of black people to live, work and party with in Boston that are just like you. If you want to hang out with just HBCU college grads, they’re here. When you want to ski with Black skiers, they are here.  If you are an accountant, an engineer, a black social worker, a government employee, an educator and you want to be with these black people, they are here ready to network with you

Charlestown, South Boston, the North End, the Downtown area and the Charles Street Beacon Hill district are the whitest populated residential regions of the city.  Black Boston is an area where a dominant number of blacks live and have lived for years.

If a person has recently moved to Boston they will most likely not seek to live in Roxbury, due to its misaligned reputation for crime and poverty. Roxbury, like any other geography closest urban city downtown areas, is gentrifying.  This cycle begin 3 years ago and it has intensified of late. It means that blacks whose families have lived here for hears are being forced out due to home costs or are cashing out their real estate, pocketing a win fall, and heading outside the city.

This has Whites are moving to Black Boston streets they would have never considered living on before. The real estate values are putting them there. Someone counted that an average 6,000 new people move to Boston every month. A majority of these move-ins are white professionals making middle to upper middle class incomes.

And there is a firewall that even gentrification can’t burn down.  Areas of black Roxbury and Dorchester have tracts of income-restricted housing and land deeded to land trusts to keep properties affordable. Large numbers of subsidized rental housing also exist in Roxbury and Dorchester, perhaps more units like them are here than in any other part of the city.

There is a reliable African American owned print newspaper named the Boston Banner and the weekly newspaper the  Dorchester Reporter and Haitian Reporter cover black issues, as do media outlets like the PBS network TV show named Basic Black and a number of Black owned web sites and radio station programs.