- Carolyn Wedin
Boston has long described itself as “The Cradle of Liberty.” But in the late nineteenth century and into the twentieth, pressures of national events, immigration, and the migration of African Americans from the rural South forced Boston to make adjustments to no longer being America's most important urban center and to deal with becoming less a cradle than a hotbed of racial and ethnic conflict.
Before 1895, most of Boston's black population lived in the West End, the area now called the North Slope of Beacon Hill. The first arrivals in 1638 were slaves, by the end of the Revolutionary War outnumbered by free blacks. The first federal census in 1790 showed Massachusetts as the only state with no slaves. After 1895, large numbers of African Americans began moving to the South End. By 1900, 30 percent of the black population lived there, and by 1914 ...
A version of this article originally appeared in The Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present.