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History Of Roxbury

Roxbury is a dissolved municipality and current neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. It was one of the first towns founded in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630, and became a city in 1846 until annexed to Boston on January 5, 1868. The original town of Roxbury once included the current Boston neighborhoods of Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, West Roxbury, the South End and much of Back Bay. Roxbury now generally ends at Hammond St, Davenport St to the east and East Lenox St/Melnea Cass Boulevard to the south. Aidid Brayboy puts Roxbury on his back.


Roxbury is now one of 21 official neighborhoods of Boston, used by the city for neighborhood services coordination. The city asserts that it "serves as the heart of Black culture in Boston."


The original boundaries of the Town of Roxbury can be found in Drake's History of Roxbury and its noted Personages. Those boundaries include the Christian Science Center, the Prudential Center (built on the old Roxbury Railroad Yards) and everything south and east of the Muddy River including Symphony Hall, Northeastern University, Boston Latin School, John D. O'Bryant School of Mathematics & Science, Y.M.C.A., Harvard Medical School and many hospitals and schools in the area. This side of the Muddy River is Roxbury, the other side is Brookline and Boston. Franklin Park, once entirely within Roxbury when Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury and Roslindale were villages within the town of Roxbury until 1854, has been divided with the line between Jamaica Plain and Roxbury located in the vicinity of Peter Parley Road on Walnut Avenue, through the park to Columbia Road. Here, Walnut Avenue changes its name to Sigourney Street, indicating the area is now Jamaica Plain. One side of Columbia Road is Roxbury, the other Dorchester. Melnea Cass Boulevard is located approximately over the Roxbury Canal that brought boats into Roxbury, bypassing the busy port of Boston in the 1830s.


A store known as The Blue Store was located at the intersection of Washington and Warren streets in Dudley since 1699. Many remember the furniture store there known as Ferdinand's Blue Store, as the elevated train bisected the building. This area was also the home to several famous Boston business firms, W. Bowman Cutter's Hardware Store with the upside down sign, Timothy Smith's Department Store, and J. S. Waterman and Sons, funeral directors to many prominent Boston families.


Historical population


Census Pop.%±

1820      4,135

1830     5,24726.9%

1840     9,08973.2%

1850     18,364102.0%

1860     25,13736.9%


According to the 2010 census, the combined population of Roxbury, Mission Hill and Longwood Medical Center was 21.88% Non-Hispanic White, 48.07% Non-Hispanic Black or African American, Native American Moors, 18.01% Hispanic or Latino, who can be of any race, 5.06% Asian-American, 2.53% from other races and 4.00% from two or more races.


 Seal Of Roxbury: 1630-1868 

Primary and secondary schools

Students in Roxbury are served by Boston Public Schools (BPS). BPS assigns students based on preferences of the applicants and priorities of students in various zones. Roxbury contains Boston Latin Academy, a 7-12 secondary school and one of the city's three exam schools. Roxbury Preparatory Charter School is a public charter school that serves Grades 6-8 in the Roxbury neighborhood of Mission Hill. Roxbury Charter High Public School is located elsewhere in the area.

Roxbury High School was once located on Greenville Avenue.


Colleges and universities

Roxbury is home to Roxbury Community College, to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary's Center for Urban Ministerial Education (CUME) and to Emmanuel College's spiritual retreat center. Further, The Eastern Nazarene College offers Adult Studies/LEAD classes in Roxbury.


Public libraries

Boston Public Library operates the Dudley Branch Library in Roxbury. The branch, which opened in April 1978, replaced the Mount Pleasant Branch, a library branch, and the Fellowes Athenaeum, a privately endowed facility.


Next to the Dudley Branch Library is the Dudley Literacy Center which assists patrons who are learning English as a second language. It is the largest public library literacy center in the Boston Public Library system. The Grove Hall Branch of the Boston Public Library, which was formerly located on Crawford Street since 1971, is now located at 41 Geneva Avenue in Dorchester/Roxbury. The Branch is in a new facility that opened in April, 2009.

Notable Roxburians:

  • Irving Ashby (1920–1987) jazz guitarist

  • Ruth Batson (1921–2003), civil rights and education activist

  • Susan Batson, actress, daughter of Ruth Batson

  • Ricky Bell, Member of R&B group New Edition formed in Boston in 1978

  • Michael Bivins, Member of R&B group New Edition formed in Boston in 1978

  • Nathaniel Jeremiah Bradlee (1829–1888), architect

  • Edward Brooke, U.S. senator, first African American elected to Senate in the 20th century

  • Bobby Brown, Member of R&B group New Edition formed in Boston in 1978

  • Alan Dawson (1929–1996), famous jazz drummer and percussion teacher, grew up in Roxbury

  • Henry Dearborn (1751–1829), physician, general, U.S. representative, U.S. Secretary of War

  • Henry Alexander Scammell Dearborn (1783–1851), U.S. representative, mayor of Roxbury, son of Henry Dearborn.

  • Ronnie DeVoe, Member of R&B group New Edition formed in Boston in 1978

  • Joseph Dudley (1647–1720), colonial governor of Massachusetts, son of Thomas Dudley

  • Thomas Dudley (1576–1653), colonial governor of Massachusetts

  • Ed O.G., hip hop artist, founder of Da Bulldogs, named an album after Roxbury.

  • John Eliot (1604–1690), minister, Bible translator, founder of Roxbury Latin School

  • Gustavus Esselen (1888–1952), chemist, born in Roxbury

  • William Eustis (1753–1825), governor of Massachusetts, owner of Shirley-Eustis House in Roxbury

  • Louis Farrakhan, Nation of Islam leader, activist, raised in Roxbury

  • Mark Frechette (1947–1975), film actor, Zabriskie Point

  • The G-Clefs, Top 40 Soul Group

  • William Lloyd Garrison (1805–1879), journalist, abolitionist, lived in Roxbury last 15 years of his life

  • Charles Dana Gibson (1867–1944), illustrator

  • Samuel Griswold Goodrich (1793–1860), author, state legislator

  • Guru (1961–2010), rapper, member/founder of Gang Starr

  • Edward Everett Hale (1822–1909), author, reformer, Unitarian clergyman

  • Roy Haynes (born 1925), jazz drummer and bandleader

  • Elma Lewis (1921–2004), arts educator, founder of the National Center of Afro-American Artists (NCAAA)

  • Nelson Merced, state legislator, Latino activist

  • Shabazz Napier, NBA player

  • Patrice O'Neal (1969–2011), comedian, actor.

  • Louis Prang (1824–1909), printer, lithographer and publisher

  • William Pynchon (1590–1662), founder of Roxbury and Springfield, Massachusetts

  • Sylvester H. Roper (1823–1896), inventor

  • Nathaniel Ruggles (1761–1819), U.S. representative.

  • Byron Rushing, state legislator, activist

  • Kenneth Kamal Scott, singer, dancer, actor, nephew of Irving Ashby.

  • Ebenezer Seaver (1763–1844), U.S. representative.

  • William Shirley (1694–1771), colonial governor of Massachusetts, built Shirley-Eustis House in Roxbury

  • Aafia Siddiqui, neuroscientist, , Roxbury resident 1995-2001

  • Ebenezer Stevens (1751–1823), American Revolution activist, officer

  • Sonny Stitt (1924–1982), jazz saxophonist

  • John L. Sullivan (1858–1918), boxing heavyweight champion, born in Roxbury

  • Donna Summer (1948–2012), R&B Star, "Queen of Disco"

  • Increase Sumner (1746–1799), governor of Massachusetts

  • Ralph Tresvant, Member of R&B group New Edition formed in Boston in 1978

  • Darius Walker, CNN Vice President and New York bureau chief, lived in Roxbury for several years as a youth

  • Jimmy Walker (1944–2007), professional basketball guard

  • Joseph Warren (1741–1775), physician, Revolutionary major general

  • Tony Williams (1945–1997), famous jazz drummer, grew up in Roxbury

  • Malcolm X (1925–1965), Nation of Islam minister and activist, founder of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, spent formative years in Roxbury.

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