Transitions

Although its first efforts to reach Boston’s black community began with an interracial games program in 1946, it took another 20 years for the Huntington Avenue YMCA to hire its first black administrator. The YMCA staff finally began to mirror the city’s ethnically and racially diverse population in the 1970s. Photo courtesy of the Young Men’s Christian Association of Greater Boston (M13), University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections Department, Northeastern University.

Bostonians struggled in the decades after the war. Factories moved south. The fishing industry collapsed. White veterans headed to the suburbs, hoping to find green space and quiet homes for their growing families. African Americans, pinned down by economic and social discrimination, remained. To energize Boston’s economy, politicians leveled entire neighborhoods and rammed a highway through the city’s heart. These efforts backfired. The city grew poorer, smaller, and more divided.

As Boston’s neighborhoods changed, so did the YMCA. The organization took its programs to the streets, organizing outdoor sports and inner-city crisis intervention efforts. When racial tensions flared during the state-mandated integration of Boston’s schools in the 1970s, YMCA employees rode public school buses to keep students safe. They developed language programs to help a new wave of immigrants from Central America, Asia, and Africa. They offered job training to help single mothers find stable jobs. Within 125 years of its founding, the Huntington Avenue YMCA was finally committed to serving all Boston-area communities, regardless of color or creed.

« Although its first efforts to reach Boston’s black community began with an interracial games program in 1946, it took another 20 years for the Huntington Avenue YMCA to hire its first black administrator. The YMCA staff finally began to mirror the city’s ethnically and racially diverse population in the 1970s. Photo courtesy of the Young Men’s Christian Association of Greater Boston (M13), University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections Department, Northeastern University.