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Black History Boston: James Brown saves Boston

Today, we look back to the day the soulful James Brown saved Boston by himself. 

This story begins before April 5, 1968. It starts the day before - the day that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been the fearless leader of the Civil Rights Movement. He had been at the forefront of the public perception of what the Civil Rights movement meant since the Montgomery Bus Boycotts of Alabama. That day in Memphis marked a horrific turn in United States history, and everyone felt the weight of loss. 

James Brown Flyer

Following his death, communities were in turmoil. They had lost what many would view as their moral pillar in Dr. King. Grief immediately set in and major cities were concerned about maintaining peace. This concern was felt strongly in Boston, where Dr. King’s presence was strong after numerous actions and the friends he had here. Some major cities already saw instances of violence, as well as some instances in Boston. The Mayor of Boston, Kevin White, had to quickly find a solution. 

James Brown was slated to perform at the Garden on April 5, but fearing violence ensuing, decided to cancel the show. City Councilor Tom Atkins told Mayor White that that it was too late to notify attendees of the cancellation, and that the mixture of the two events would anger concert-goers. There were major roadblocks on both sides, but an agreement was reached to have James Brown perform on April 5.

James Brown’s presence gave concert goers a moment of reprieve from the tragedy of April 4. The concert stood in some ways as an ode to Dr. King’s legacy. James Brown being there allowed for the Black community to drown out anger and sadness with singing and dancing. James Brown maintained peace in Boston with his talent and person. For that, thank you, James Brown, for showing why you are a true superhero! 

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