Community Involvement

The Snowdens supported the work of dedicated community members by informing them of their rights and providing them with skills to pressure the city into furnishing better services. Mary Jones, a homeowner who started the Monroe St. Block Association in 1954, is credited with taking the first step toward a more organized neighborhood improvement effort that resulted in the formation of 27 block groups by 1959. Mary took on the ‘small things’ like putting up window boxes and holding backyard parties to raise money for improvements. She joined forces with Freedom House when the city failed to fill a pothole in Monroe St. The Snowdens taught her how to get a petition signed and encouraged her to present it to Mayor Collins in person:

“I didn’t think I’d ever have the courage to go to the Mayor’s office. Why would the Mayor want to bother with someone like me. Otto told me, ‘ There’s no one better than you- you’re a citizen!’ [When I got to City Hall] I went in his office and he called up the contractor that had promised to fix the street. By George, the next morning we were shaken out of bed by the pneumatic guns down the street.”

Mary Jones, Freedom House A Way of Life, 1974

Concerned over the escalating number of bars in the neighborhood, Freedom House led the community in an effort to reduce the number of new and renewed application for liquor licenses. Residents signed petitions and appeared at hearings before the Boston Licensing Board.

Right: Citizen’s Urban Renewal Action Committee (CURAC) members present Washington Park plan to Mayor Collins in 1962. CURAC was founded in 1961 by Washington Park residents and community leaders to work cooperatively with private and governmental agencies to monitor the social as well as the physical impact of urban renewal.

Below: Overflow crowds of more than 500 residents attend a mass meeting after the murder of 16 year-old Daniela Saunders in 1963 during a string of murders by the Boston Strangler. Residents organized to protest the need for better police protection in Roxbury. The involvement of Freedom House in better police/community relations increased after this incident. The photo was taken by Life magazine for a feature on the community’s response to the murders.