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Black History Boston: Byron Rushing

Today we honor the contributions of Byron Rushing, Boston's moral compass!

Byron Rushing was born in New York City on July 29, 1942. Byron excelled in school, and was praised for his oratory skills. He was very active in the youth programs of the Universalist Unitarian Church, which imbued the importance of peace, cultural understanding, and racial diversity into him at a young age.

In 1960, Byron began his studies at Harvard University. At the end of his junior year, Byron postponed his studies to join the Civil Rights movement. He moved to Syracuse to join the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), focusing his efforts on issues of employment integration and police brutality. He then moved back to Boston in 1964 to support the efforts of the Northern Student Movement. He worked on programs around voter education and registration, and youth tutoring. While volunteering for the Episcopalian church, he was hired by the St. John’s Church to establish a community organizing project called Roxbury Associated.  

Byron Rushing flier
Photo Credit: The Museum of African American History

In 1969, Byron became the Director of the Urban Change Program for the Urban League. Between 1972 and 1985, he worked as the president of the Museum of African-American History. While there, he helped raise money for the purchase and the restoration of the African Meeting House. In 1982, Byron was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. He was the lead sponsor to end discrimination based on sexual orientation in public school, and the gay rights bill in Massachusetts. Byron also led the Massachusetts state pension fund to launch community investment of poor communities. 

Other legislative accomplishments include

  • Leading the Commonwealth's anti-apartheid efforts.
  • Chief sponsor of the health reform law ending pre-existing condition refusals by insurance companies.
  • Advocated for hospitals to establish a set of guidelines to treat victims of violence.
  • Sponsor of establishing a rule to provide "treatment on demand" for substance abuse.
  • Co-chair for the Massachusetts Health Disparities Council.
  • Consistent opponent of primary seat belt laws highlighting racial profiling concerns that such laws would be over-applied to minority drivers.

Thank you, Byron Rushing, for your contributions to the people of Massachusetts!

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