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Melvin H. King (born 1928) is an American educator, activist, and writer.

King has been active across the landscape of neighborhoods and politics of Boston, Massachusetts for over fifty-five years, while also being an educator, youth worker, social activist, community organizer and developer, elected politician, author, and an Adjunct Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is responsible for creating community programs and institutions for low-income people in Boston. He is the founder and current director of the South End Technology Center.

King and his wife, Joyce, married in 1951, are parents of six children, ranging in ages from 38 to 53.


Early years

King's mother, Ursula, was born in Guyana, and his father, Watts King, in Barbados. They met and married in Nova Scotia and immigrated to Boston in the early 1920s. King, born in 1928, in Boston's South End neighborhood, was one of eight children born to the Kings between 1918 and 1938. He graduated from Boston Technical High School in 1946 and from Claflin College in Orangeburg, South Carolina in 1950 with a B.S. degree in mathematics. In 1951, he received his M.A. degree in education from Boston State College and then taught math, first at Boston Trade High School and at his alma mater, Boston Technical High School.

In 1953, King left the classroom to work with at risk youth, becoming Director of Boy's Work at Lincoln House, a settlement house in Boston's South End community. He continued his community work focusing on street corner gangs as Youth Director at United South End Settlements (USES). He also worked as a community activist and urban renewal and anti-poverty organizer. He was let go by USES when he promoted and supported neighborhood control versus USES and government control over the urban renewal and federal funds to assist poor people. King was then rehired after huge protests from the community over his firing and was given the job as a community organizer. King, then founded the Community Assembly for a United South End (C.A.U.S.E.), to give tenants and community residents a voice in their communities.

Political activism

In 1967, King became the director of the New Urban League of Greater Boston. He brought job training for the unemployed and organized the community around public school, employment, and human services delivery issues.

In 1968 Mel King, already a veteran in the struggle to stop the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) policy of demolition without relocation, helped organize a sit-in at the BRA office on Thursday, April 25. When Mel King and other community activists learned that a parking garage was going to be built at the corner of Dartmouth and Columbus Streets in the South End, a site where housing had only recently been leveled to create a parking lot, they decided it was time for an attention-grabbing protest. The next morning, a rainy Friday, Mel King and a group of activists arrived early at the parking lot. By 7 am, King told them, "This is a place for people."

Despite police retaliation, for the next 3 days between 100 and 400 people lived on the lot. They built tents and wooden shanties and put up a large sign welcoming the media and visitors to "Tent City." Thousands of people came. The music of guitars, bongo drums, and saxophones filled the South End. Some of the "residents" set up hibachis and grilled burgers. Others put up strings of lights. Celtic's legend Bill Russell, who owned a South End restaurant, provided food for the protestors. The event was peaceful and festive; the story received extensive coverage in the local media.

In honor of the demonstration, when the housing complex was dedicated on April 30, 1988, it was named "Tent City." Mel King told reporters that the key to the project was convincing ordinary Bostonians that they had to play a role in the development of their neighborhood.

King ran three times for a seat on the Boston School Committee in 1961, 1963 and 1965 – being unsuccessful each time. However, his citywide political organizing for these campaigns paid off. In 1973, he was elected as a State Representative for the 9th Suffolk District and served in the Massachusetts Legislature until 1982.

During the 2000 presidential election King endorsed the presidential campaign of Ralph Nader[1]

In 2003, King created The New Majority – an organization and program uniting Boston's communities of color – Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans – uniting them around candidates for elective office.

King endorsed at-large city-councilor Sam Yoon for Mayor on August 10th, 2009. King praised Yoon's vision, his collaborative approach and his focus on improving the educational system in Boston.[2]

1983 Candidacy for Mayor of Boston

In 1983, when incumbent Kevin White's withdrawal from contention after 16 years in office made the race wide open, Mel King went from obscure radical to serious contender for Mayor of Boston. Despite Boston's historical scars of racism, Mel King's grassroots activism culminated in political momentum that nearly defeated the favorite, Raymond Flynn. Aside from securing the African American vote, King would have needed 30% of the white vote, which was almost accomplished. Flynn, an Irish-Catholic with roots in the gritty "Southie"(South Boston) area, would take the election despite a landmark showing by King. Even with the defeat, the election and national attention was a historical turning point in the participation of African Americans in politics and urban policy.

Academic Work

In 1970, King created the Community Fellows Program (CFP) in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT. He served as an Adjunct Professor of Urban Studies and Planning and director of the Community Fellows Program for twenty-five years until 1996. CFP, a nine-month long program brought community organizers and leaders from across America to reflect, research and study urban community politics, economics, social life, education, housing and media.

In 1981, King's book, Chain of Change: Struggles for Black Community Development[2] was published by South End Press. It focused on development in housing, education, employment and politics in Boston from the 1950s through the 1970s.

Upon his retirement from MIT, King established the South End Technology Center to provide computer training for low-income people.

In addition to writing Chain of Change and journal articles, King has used poetry to share his messages.

Books authored by King

  • King, Melvin , Chain of Change: Struggles for Black Community Development, South End Press, 1981. ISBN 0-89608-105-2


External links



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