"Global Boston" Website Celebrates Strength of Diversity


Building on Marilynn Johnson's book, The New Bostonians: How Immigrants Have Transformed the Metro Area since the 1960s, a new website called Global Boston chronicles the history of immigration to the region since the early nineteenth century. Examining different time periods, ethnic groups, and places of settlement, the site features capsule histories, photographs, maps, documents, videos, and oral histories documenting the history of a city and metro area where immigrants have long been a vital force in shaping urban life.

Johnson writes: "At a time of growing racial and ethnic resentments in our country, we at Global Boston believe that diversity has been a defining characteristic of the region and one of its great strengths. The website aims to tell the story of Boston’s major immigrant groups, past and present, to foster better understanding between recent immigrants and the descendants of earlier groups amid a changing urban context. Global Boston celebrates the power of ordinary people to make history. We hope that new Bostonians today can use history as a tool for empowerment to make their voices heard as residents and citizens of the region." 

In The New Bostonians, Johnson examines the historical confluence of recent immigration and urban transformation in greater Boston, a region that underwent dramatic decline after World War II. Since the 1980s, the Boston area has experienced an astounding renaissance—a development, she argues, to which immigrants have contributed in numerous ways. From 1970 to 2010, the percentage of foreign-born residents of the city more than doubled, representing far more diversity than earlier waves of immigration. Like the older Irish, Italian, and other European immigrant groups whose labor once powered the region’s industrial economy, these newer migrants have been crucial in re-building the population, labor force, and metropolitan landscape of the New Boston, although the fruits of the new prosperity have not been equally shared.