The Roxbury section of Boston, Massachusetts, a predominantly Black section of the city, was one of the few northern areas that in the early 60’s, hadn’t experienced race riots. That all changed on this day in 1967 when mothers on welfare staged a sit-in that later turned into a violent three-day riot fueled by the city’s festering racial divide.
The Mothers for Adequate Welfare, also known as MAW, was formed in 1965 and was comprised of Black and white mothers who felt that Boston’s welfare services were inadequate. The group organized with local college students and other activists to call attention to their plight.
On the afternoon of June 2, 1967 at the welfare office at Blue Hill Avenue, more than two dozen MAW members and college students gathered at the center and chained the building shut, which prevented the 58 workers inside from leaving and going home for the weekend. Police arrived and began clubbing demonstrators and arresting people. On the first night, 44 people were arrested and 45 injured, according to some accounts.
The protests became increasingly violent as the days went on, only ending that Monday when 1900 police troops converged on the area and ended the melee. A total number of arrests and injuries was difficult to obtain, but the MAW group and supporters claimed victory, as they felt they were able to get their point across to the welfare administrators.
Among the Black people beaten by police was late Boston city councilman and NAACP general counsel, Thomas Atkins. Also among the arrested was then-activist Byron Rushing, currently a Massachusetts state congressman representing the Ninth Suffolk District.