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Boston Parks Celebrates Black History Month

We're marking Black History Month by highlighting stories behind some of Boston's neighborhood spaces. Honor their legacies by visiting these public spaces with renewed understanding of their struggles and achievements.

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MLK and Coretta Scott King

'the embrace' on boston common

  • Mayor Michelle Wu, together with the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, the Boston Art Commission (BAC), and Embrace Boston, announced the unveiling of The Embrace and the 1965 Freedom Plaza by artist Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group on the Boston Common. The new memorial aims to honor the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King.
  • The Embrace is a bronze figural abstraction based on a photo of an embrace between Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King after he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. The 20-foot-tall, 25-foot-wide artwork differs from the singular, heroic form of many memorials to Dr. King and others, instead emphasizing the power of collective action, the role of women as leaders, and the forging of new bonds of solidarity out of mutual empathy and vulnerability.
  • The memorial is located on the Boston Common, adjacent to the Parkman Bandstand, where Dr. King spoke in 1965.
  • Read more about the the Embrace, and about Dr. King's march from Roxbury.

Photo of "The Embrace" memorial by Hank Willis Thomas, courtesy of Skanska

Medina Dixon

DIXON BASKEBALL COURT at Walker playground mattapan

  • Dixon, a Boston native, won an Olympic bronze medal in 1992 when she led the U.S. team in scoring at 15.8 points per game. In 1990, she won gold at the FIBA World Cup (then called the World Championship) with the U.S. squad.
  • At 6’ 3”, Medina Dixon was Mattapan and Dorchester’s pride, a powerhouse who grew up nearby in a home with a dozen siblings and learned the game in this very park giving the boys in the neighborhood a run for their money. Medina Dixon’s name now graces these courts in the park back where she started.
  • Throughout her career Medina Dixon took the time to help her teammates improve their game and inspired fans, coaches, and fellow players alike.  Her number 13 was retired by Old Dominion and her number 44 was retired by Cambridge where she is in the school’s Hall of Fame.

Sign unveiling with Mayor and loved ones at Medina Dixon Court.

Susie King Taylor

Susie King Taylor - Stories from Mount hope Cemetery

  • Susie King Taylor was an utterly remarkable woman, the first African American nurse during the Civil War who went on to be the only Black female to publish a memoir of her wartime experience.
  • In 1872 she moved north to Boston. She became active in organizations that worked with Civil War veterans. In 1886, she helped to organize the Woman’s Relief Corps #67 (which was an auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic). Susie participated in ongoing efforts to undertake census activities to make sure all Civil War veterans living in Boston were known and provided the support they needed. 

  • In October 2021, the Sons of Union Veterans erected a memorial at Mount Hope Cemetery and honored the life of this extraordinary woman. The memorial is located in the Elm Grove section on Spruce Avenue.
  • Learn more about Susie King Taylor.

Front of the Susie Baker King Taylor memorial

Harry G. Wilson III and Dennis G. Wilson

Wilson field at harambee park mattapan

  • The City of Boston honored the legacy created by brothers Harry G. Wilson, III, and Dennis G. Wilson, by naming the field, located at 930 Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan, in their honor in the summer of 2022. In the early 1970s, Harry Wilson’s goal was to start a viable football program for his sons, as well as the neighborhood kids. He presented the idea to his brother Dennis and from there a program that began as the Roxbury Raiders and the Silver Stars became the Boston Raiders and the Lady Raider Cheerleaders.
  • This wildly successful program has now expanded to five football and cheerleading programs, mentoring boys and girls for close to five decades. It has been a dominant force in team sports, winning numerous Eastern Mass and Central Mass Championships. 
  • The park features 45 acres of sport and play features for all ages. The football facility was part of phase 3 of a series of Harambee Park improvements, a $3.4 million project that began in 2015 with a community-based action plan. The third and final phase included the construction of the new game field and practice field, extension of the pedestrian pathway network started in phases 1 and 2, a new scoreboard, exercise area, lighting, and park entrance improvements.

The football field at Harambee Park was dedicated in honor of Harry G. Wilson III and Dennis G. Wilson.

Justice Edward O. Gourdin

General Edward O. Gourdin African American Veterans Memorial Park - Roxbury

  • Formerly called Dudley Park, the area was reimagined as a community park. The local 272nd Field Artillery Battalion veterans association suggested dedicating the park to Brigadier General Edward O. Gourdin.
  • Justice Gourdin was the first man in history to break 25 feet in the long jump. He earned a silver medal in the event for the United States at the 1924 Paris Olympics.
  • Justice Gourdin was the first Black judge appointed to the Roxbury District Court and the first Black person in New England appointed to the Massachusetts Supreme Court.
  • In October of 2021 the City of Boston broke ground and kicked off improvements for the park. The park will now be home to a memorial plaza dedicated to the African-American veterans of Massachusetts. The project is the result of the steadfast, multi-year efforts of the Veterans and Friends of Gourdin Memorial Park community group. The renovation is nearing completion - the fencing will come down in late winter and the finishing touches including all of the bronze artwork (10 bas relief plaques and the General Gourdin sculpture) will be installed in the spring.
  • The artwork design and construction is being funded by the Browne Fund, the Mayor's Capital Improvement Program, and a grant from the MA Department of Veterans Services. The overall park construction is being funded by the Mayor’s Capital Improvement program with a total budget of $1,272,200.  

Justice Gourdin and his wife

Gourdin statue

Park fenced off nearing completion of construction.

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