Cambridge Black Trailblazers

Cambridge Black Trailblazers

Project is a work of love by an older generation of Black Cantabrigians wishing to pass on knowledge they hope to preserve.

“My family has been in Cambridge since the Civil War, and, as many of you know, there is a rich history of Blacks in Cambridge and a group of us wanted to make sure that this history wasn’t lost.” said Jim Spencer, introducing the Cambridge Black Trailblazers initiative on an August 5th event hosted by the Cambridge Women’s Commission.

“This is really a labor of love.” commented Paula Paris. “We had just completed our first phase of the work; the seven bookmarks of Black Trailblazers made available through the Cambridge Public Library followed by banners in the Central Square Innovation District during Black History month when the pandemic hit. But we’ve continued our work in spite of this.”

With the support of the Cambridge Historical Commission, Cambridge Black Trailblazers project members have identified 20 Trailblazers, seven of whom were featured on the first group of bookmarks. They include:

  • Entrepreneur Henry Owens, whose Green Moving Trucks were a source of pride to our community.
  • Civil rights activist Gertrude Wright Morgan, who came to Cambridge in 1896 and worked tirelessly to improve opportunities for Black children. Story on 2019 renaming of a street to honor Wright Morgan.
  • Renowned New Orleans Chef Leon West, who has been inducted into the African American Chefs Hall of Fame.
  • Judge Joyce London Alexander, the first Black chief magistrate in the United States.
  • Charles Leroy Gittens, the first Black Secret Service agent in the country.
  • Elizabeth Rawlins, an energetic educator who attained the position of dean at Simmons College.
  • Roy Allen, one of the nation’s first Black television producers and directors and the first Black member of the Directors Guild of America.

In this video, Jim talks about each of these seven Black Trailblazers and Paula shares about the research process and some future plans.

Learn more about and find out how you can support this work at the Cambridge Black Trailblazers web site.

As Jim mentions in the video, this work is a continuation of and expansion upon the Cambridge African American Heritage Trail, which highlights the lifetimes and accomplishments of twenty notable African Americans in Cambridge from 1840 to 1940.