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.