Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Nicholas Juravich

Second Advisor

Julie P. Winch

Third Advisor

Vincent J. Cannato


This thesis is a history of the Boston Black United Front’s (BBUF) activities combatting the growing carceral state in Massachusetts in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The BBUF was an “umbrella” organization within Boston’s Black community during the Black Power era and was particularly active on issues of police shootings, court appointments, prison reform, and street crime. This thesis examines these aspects of the carceral state, the network of criminal justice institutions that arose following World War II in Boston, and shows that the BBUF were responding to the early stages of this trend. Committees, rallies, and ideology were early methods utilized by the BBUF to unite their community. These tactics were later built upon as the group mounted an opposition to the carceral state and presented community-centered alternatives to punitive solutions to poverty.

Specific rallying points for the BBUF were four police shootings of unarmed Black men, judicial appointments, prison reform, and BBUF street patrols in the South End, Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan neighborhoods. In the end, the BBUF saw some success, but failed to prevent the carceral state’s growth. Their history, however, dispels many long-held assumptions about Black communities and the carceral state and adds a unique perspective to the history of Boston.