The corner of Massachusetts and Columbus avenues used to be something more than a flattened lot. It used to be more than just another in a long line of mixed-use development sites with condos in Boston.
For the residents of the South End neighborhood, it was the Harriet Tubman House. Founded in the early 20th century as an autonomous space for and by Black women on Holyoke Street, in 1975, it became a community center run by United South End Settlements until it was sold in 2019 to help keep the organization afloat. Ultimately, it was demolished.
The house was a fixture of Boston’s Black community, but its century-spanning history–the kind that doesn’t get told in museums or textbooks–was in danger of getting lost with the demolition too. Fortunately, the building’s history and the community’s memories were saved through the hard work of residents who banded together under the I Am Harriet coalition, USES itself and the resources and ingenuity of the Boston Research Center.