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A Woman Of Action: Elma Lewis, The Arts, And The Politics Of Culture In Boston, 1950-1986

Daniel N McClure, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

This dissertation can be found at the following url:


This project examines the politics of education, culture and black community formation in Roxbury, MA during the postwar era. Elma Lewis was active in Boston's black community for more than half a century and through her work as educator, cultural worker and institution builder helped shape the spatial and ideological contours of Boston's black community throughout the postwar period. Her early commitment to institution building supported the development of cultural networks that facilitated the large-scale organization and mobilization of Boston's black residents during the 1960s and 1970s in the struggle for educational equality. She founded a school, a national arts organization and a museum, each of which fostered the emergent sense of black community culminating in calls for community control, black power and cultural pride during the later period. She was a bridge activist who established and developed cultural institutions that helped transcend social, ideological and generational divisions within Boston's black community.