HUB History - Our Favorite Stories from Boston History

Where two history buffs go far beyond the Freedom Trail to share our favorite stories from the history of Boston, the hub of the universe.


The Red Scare in Park Square (episode 172)

Draft riots are nothing new in Boston. A 1970 protest at Northeastern University over the draft and the Vietnam War devolved into a riot. In 1863, the North End was torn by a draft riot that ended with the militia firing a cannon at a crowd of mostly Irish-American men, women, and children. We even covered a violent 1747 riot in which Bostonians resisted forced impressment into the Royal Navy. What all those incidents have in common, though, is that the rioters were opposed to the draft. The riot on July 1, 1917 was different. In that case, rioters supported the draft and focused their violence on antiwar protesters.

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The Red Scare in Park Square 14 Park Square in better days As the building is being sacked The uniformed mob telling concert-goers when to take off their hats Enter the Bluejackets The scene in Park Square
  • “The Modern Gray Champion,” written by a pacifist and former child prodigy, this short story resurrects Hawthorne’s mythical hero and has him inspire the Park Square socialists.
  • The Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen denounces the “rowdyism” in Boston.
  • Jay Feldmen, Manufacturing Hysteria
  • The director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is arrested and deported in 1917, after refusing to open every performance with the national anthem.
  • News/Wire Service Stories
    • July 2 San Diego Union and Daily Bee, details on banner slogans, demands of the marchers. “lt was a bad day for Socialism and Socialists in Boston today. Their parade and anti-conscription demonstration was broken up as a result of a number of riots centering on Boston Common.”
    • July 6 Essex County (VT) Herald, rioters disgraced their uniforms and brought shame to the service
    • July 11 Orleans County (VT) Monitor, Boston and East St Louis rioters committed a crime against the liberty of a free people
    • July 6 Tägliche Omaha Tribüne, German language reaction to the riot
    • July 3 Washington (DC) Evening Star, Governor McCall deplores the rioting
    • July 2 Bridgeport (CT) Evening Farmer, if the socialists in Boston were GOOD socialists, they’d support the war
    • Aug 10 New Ulm Post (quoting the Boston Journal) questions why the soldiers aren’t being disciplined
    • July 7 Norwich (CT) Bulletin, George Roewers is trying to get the uniformed mob charged
    • July 2 Wheeling (WV) Intelligencer, “Unpatriotic Parade Banners Stirred up Ire of Bostonese.”
    • July 19 Pensacola (FL) Journal, praises the military rioters for breaking up an anti-American demonstration
    • July 2 Alexandria (VA) Gazette, “a bad day for socialists and socialism”
    • July 7 Iditarod (AK) Pioneer, “Uncle Sam’s Fighters Wreak Their Vengeance on Disloyal Socialists”
  • Boston Globe articles (subscription required; all photos above are via the Globe)
    • Morning July 2, 20,000 rioters, led by soldiers and sailors, photos, captured offensive banners
    • Evening July 2, initial investigation, what started the riot, why didn’t cops offer protection. Shares front page with draft exemptions
    • Morning July 3, James Michael Curley throws James J Storrow under the bus, socialists allege police barely responded.
    • July 21, Mayor Curley approves permits for another socialist rally on the Common
    • July 23, the second rally was uneventful
Boston Book Club

French sociologist Sylvie Tissot’s book Good Neighbors: Gentrifying Diversity in Boston’s South End ruffled a lot of feathers when it was published in 2015. She was accused of using her position at Harvard and French accent to ingratiate herself with the wealthy residents of the South End. They opened up to Tissot about their experiences in the neighborhood, then felt betrayed by her portrayal of their relationships with marginalized communities. Here’s how the publisher describes the book:

Does gentrification destroy diversity? Or does it thrive on it? Boston’s South End, a legendary working-class neighborhood with the largest Victorian brick row house district in the United States and a celebrated reputation for diversity, has become in recent years a flashpoint for the problems of gentrification. It has born witness to the kind of rapid transformation leading to pitched battles over the class and race politics throughout the country and indeed the contemporary world.

This subtle study of a storied urban neighborhood reveals the way that upper-middle-class newcomers have positioned themselves as champions of diversity, and how their mobilization around this key concept has reordered class divisions rather than abolished them.

Upcoming Event

As part of Black History Month at Boston Public Library, Dr. Kelley Carter Jackson of Wellesley College will be presenting on her recent book Force and Freedom: Black Abolitionists and the Politics of Violence. Published in 2019, Jackson’s book explores the tension within the abolitionist movement between (often white) activists who were committed to nonviolence, and a rising tide of Black radicals who believed that it was time to take freedom rather than waiting for it to be given. Here’s how the BPL website describes the event:

In honor of Black history month, join us for a meaningful experience with Dr. Kellie Carter Jackson. Her new book, Force & Freedom: Black Abolitionists and the Politics of Violence (University of Pennsylvania Press), examines the conditions that led some black abolitionists to believe slavery might only be abolished by violent force. In Force and Freedom, Carter Jackson provides the first historical analysis exclusively focused on the tactical use of violence among antebellum black activists. Go beyond the honorable politics of moral suasion and the romanticism of the Underground Railroad and into an exploration of the agonizing decisions, strategies, and actions of the black abolitionists who, though lacking an official political voice, were nevertheless responsible for instigating monumental social and political change.

The talk begins at 6pm on February 25 at the Copley branch, admission is free, and registration is not required. Copies of the book will be offered for sale by Trident booksellers at the event, and Dr. Jackson will be on hand to sign them.

Dr. Rebecca Crumpler’s Headstone

Long-time listeners may recall episode 18, in which we discussed the incredible life of Dr Rebecca Lee Crumpler, the first black female medical doctor trained in the United States, who graduated in 1864 from the New England Female Medical College in Boston. Dr. Crumpler and her husband Arthur Crumpler are buried in an unmarked grave at Fairview Cemetery in Hyde Park. The Friends of the Hyde Park Library and the Hyde Park Historical Society are currently raising $5,000 for a simple gravestone to honor these two remarkable individuals. Please consider donating to this worthy cause.


 2020-02-17  50m