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A Roxbury standard: The Original H-Block

Melvin Miller and Howard Manly | 2/6/2013, 8:54 a.m.

Snowden III’s racial awareness, even as a high school student, had its roots in both the Colonel’s orders and the intellect of his father, Frank Snowden Jr., a Harvard Ph.D. and the author of countless scholarly books and essays.

“His aspiration for me,” Snowden III said, “was to have demonstrated racial equality by achieving educational equality.”

The Colonel’s other son, Otto, married Muriel Sutherland, a graduate of Radcliffe College and the daughter of a prominent New Jersey dentist. Together, they started Freedom House. Their daughter, Gail, also went to Radcliffe and then attended the Simmons College School of Management. She later became executive vice president of the First National Bank of Boston.

Matthew Bullock knew a thing or two about opportunity and slavery.

In 1944, Massachusetts Gov. Leverett Saltonstall appointed Bullock to the chairmanship of the state Parole Board.

Noting the color of Bullock’s skin as “coal black,” Time magazine characterized the appointment as a shrewd political move.

“In Boston, bedeviled by uneasy racial relations,” the magazine wrote, “the appointment seemed a step toward a new atmosphere.”

And it was — at least to Bullock.

“It’s a great thing for my people,” Bullock told Time.

Bullock lived at the corner of Harold and Munroe Streets.

Community matters

In 1944, Bullock was 63 years old, and at the time of his appointment, the neighborhood was filled with children.

Eleven-year-old Reginald Alleyne was one of them. He became one of the first African American professors at UCLA Law School. His sister Delores, however, had just as notable a reputation among the youth that hung around the huge puddingstone boulders jutting from Horatio Harris Park.

He was the fastest runner in the neighborhood and the city’s 50-yard dash champ. She was the second fastest.

H. Carl McCall, another great schoolyard athlete, was 9. He went on to Dartmouth College and later became the first African American to win statewide office in New York when he was elected state comptroller in 1993. In 2002, he ran unsuccessfully for governor of New York, losing to incumbent Republican Gov. George Pataki.

McCall attributed his success to his upbringing in Roxbury.

As a black student at Roxbury Memorial High School, McCall was tracked into shop courses instead of college prep classes.

“The people from my church marched right down to my high school and told them to put me in college courses immediately,” McCall told the Boston Globe during an interview.

The Twelfth Street Baptist church wasn’t the only factor in McCall’s early life. “My mother always stressed education as the way to better myself, not sports, “ he told the Globe.

If education was necessary, hard work was equally important. Malcolm X had a part-time job working behind the soda fountain at the drugstore on the corner of Townsend Street and Humboldt Avenue. Another neighborhood boy, Mel Miller, the founder of the Bay State Banner, delivered groceries on weekends as a teenager from Oscar Sach’s, a store further up on Harold Street.

Ruth Ellen Fitch was a baby back then. She lived on Harrishof Street with her two older brothers, the McKinney boys, Billy and Tommy. Billy went to Fisk University and became an official in the State Department’s USAID program.