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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Laura Lovett

Second Advisor

David Glassberg

Third Advisor

John Higginson

Fourth Advisor

Manisha Sinha

Subject Categories

African American Studies | Ethnic Studies | History of Gender | Intellectual History | Oral History | Political History | Social History | United States History | Women's History | Women's Studies


Since the 1980s, narratives surrounding the Boston Busing Crisis focus on South Boston white working-class’s reaction to Judge Arthur W. Garrity's forced desegregation order of 1974. Yet, by analyzing the crises from such narrow perspective, the narratives leave out half of the story. This dissertation challenges these narratives by situating the busing crisis as the culmination of more than half a century of grassroots activism led by Black working-class mothers. By taking action at the neighborhood and the city levels, these mothers succeeded where the National Association for the Advancement of the Colored People and the Urban League had failed. This study is the first one to analyze the role of these “ordinary mothers,” who, through their actions and influence, transformed the civil rights leadership in Boston between the 1920s and the mid-1970s.