The Direct Line Between Slavery And Racism In Boston

tags: slavery, racism, Boston, Mass Incarceration

Janna Malamud Smith is a psychotherapist and writer. Her latest book is "An Absorbing Errand: How Artists and Craftsmen Make Their Way to Mastery."

Wanting to understand more about our nation’s past, my husband and I and two friends recently traveled to Alabama, to visit the heartland of American slavery. We briefly stopped in Selma but spent more of our time in Montgomery, exploring both the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial to Peace and Justice.

The lesson I carried home after two days of painful, hard looking was not so much about Alabama’s history, though it is ugly. The lesson I took was about the work Massachusetts still must do if we are ever to reckon with slavery in our past.

It’s important to visit the Civil Rights memorials in the South, but naïve and distorting to overlook the part played by the North in this history. Yes, Boston has a small Museum of African American History in Beacon Hill, but I departed Montgomery convinced that our city needs its own legacy museum. And, as a friend pointed out, so do a lot of other northern cities.

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