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A Roxbury standard: The Original H-Block

Black History on Roxbury, MA

Melvin B. Miller | 2/7/2013, 12:26 p.m.

“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.

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Ruth Ellen took a different tack. After attending Barnard College and Harvard Law School, she became the first black woman to become a partner in one of Boston’s prestigious law firms. She is now CEO of Dimock Community Health Center in Roxbury, the place where many of the neighborhood kids were born.

It was a different time in the 1940s, and blacks in Boston were affected by international events. The fight for freedom against Nazism in Europe dominated life back in the states. Gas rationing was a part of life, as were recycling and civil defense drills.

More important for African Americans, as the Black Press dutifully reported, World War II was also a battle back home, particularly in the segregated military.