Planning with People

As the exodus of white residents from Roxbury became a reality, Freedom House shifted much of its focus to the issue of urban renewal. Landlords stopped maintaining their properties, and the city failed to provide basic services such as trash collection, snow removal, and street repair. Abandoned cars were everywhere, and empty lots became hazardous. Black homeowners, saddled with two mortgages, found it difficult to manage the upkeep on their properties.

To overcome these forces and revitalize the community’s physical and social structure, Freedom House became a center for “citizen participation” to clean up, beautify, and rebuild the neighborhood.

In this 1960 telegram to newly elected Mayor John F. Collins, Otto Snowden expressed his anger at the exclusion of Washington Park from the City’s plans for urban renewal.

Children on hillside outside apartment buildings.
Shwachman, Irene
Let's get M.A.D. and clean up Washington Park
Freedom House (Roxbury, Boston, Mass.)
Clean-up, paint-up.
Freedom House (Roxbury, Boston, Mass.)
Presentation of the completed Washington Park urban renewal plan to Boston's Mayor and members of the board of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, 14 Crawford Street.
Telegram to Mayor John F. Collins
Snowden, Otto Phillip
Children's playgrounds in Boston
Boston (Mass.).
City Planning Board
Your new Washington Park
Collins, John F.
Boston Redevelopment Authority
The new Boston
Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce
Telegram, May 15, 1969.
Snowden, Otto Phillip


This communication led to a series of contracts between Freedom House and the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) to work with Roxbury residents on the implementation of the Washington Park Urban Renewal Plan.

Although over 500 units of moderate-income housing, tow housing projects for the elderly, a new YMCA, the Roxbury Boys Club, the Melnea A. Cass MEDC Swimming Pool and Skating Rink, the Washington Park shopping center, and the William Monroe Trotter School were built between 1961 and 1968, the plan was never completed.