About Freedom House

Freedom House was founded in 1949 by African American social workers Muriel S. and Otto P. Snowden to centralize community activism in the fight for neighborhood improvement, good schools, and harmony among racial, ethnic, and religious groups in Roxbury. The Snowdens wanted to ensure Roxbury’s stability as a middle-class, racially mixed neighborhood and hoped to achieve this goal by linking the community to existing services and creating services where they were lacking.

Integrated Roxbury

Early programming focused primarily on activities for children, youth, and adults that would strengthen relations between the African American and Jewish residents of Upper Roxbury. Among the earliest projects Freedom House undertook was an application preparation workshop in collaboration with the American Friends Service Committee to help minority students and recent graduates to apply for jobs. One of the few interracial pre-schools in the city at the time operated out of Freedom House, and throughout the 1950s, social programs for African American and Jewish teenagers focused on fostering brotherhood and good citizenship. Lectures at the popular Coffee Hours and Teas, and Sunday-at-8 forums covered a variety of current political, cultural, and social topics, including the civil rights movement. Speakers included Bayard Rustin (architect of the 1963 March on Washington), Louis Lomax (social critic and author), and representatives from the Freedom Riders and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

Urban Renewal

Neighborhood improvement programs designed to protect Upper Roxbury from urban blight began in 1949 when Freedom House helped to organize neighborhood clean-up projects and playground construction. Freedom House and neighborhood block associations targeted empty lots and abandoned houses and cars for clean-up. Ten years later, Boston was beginning a formal urban renewal campaign that did not include Roxbury. A telegram from the Snowdens to Mayor Collins resulted in the inclusion of the Washington Park Urban Renewal Project in Boston’s campaign. By 1963 Freedom House had entered into formal contracts with the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) and Action for Boston Community Development to serve as a liaison between the residents of Washington Park and the urban renewal planners and technicians.

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