Mel King

ISBN (identifier) Massachusetts Institute of Technology Green Party of the United States
Melvin H. King
Mel King 2.jpg
King in 2010
Born (1928-10-20) 20 October 1928 (age 91)
Spouse(s)Joyce King (1951–present)

Melvin H. King (born 20 October 1928) is an American politician, community organizer, writer, and past Adjunct Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

King has been active in creating community programs and institutions for low-income people in Boston and is the founder and current director of the South End Technology Center. He and his wife, Joyce, married in 1951, are parents of six children.[1]

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.[2][3] King, born in 1928, in Boston's South End neighborhood, was one of eleven children, nine of whom survived past infancy.[1] 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.[3]

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 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.[4]

Political activism

In 1967, King became the director of the New Urban League of Greater Boston.[5] He brought job training for the unemployed and organized the community around public school, employment, and human services delivery issues. 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.[6]

Boston Redevelopment Authority protests and Tent City

In 1968 Mel King helped organize a sit-in at the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) office on Thursday, April 25, 1968 in protest of a planned parking garage that was going to be built at the corner of Dartmouth and Columbus Streets in the South End, a site where housing had been leveled. The next morning, Mel King organized an occupation of the lot.[7]

While facing police retaliation, for the next three days between 100 and 400 people occupied the lot. They built tents and wooden shanties and put up a large sign welcoming the media and visitors to "Tent City." Celtics legend Bill Russell, who owned a South End restaurant, provided food for the protestors. The story received extensive coverage in the local media.[7][8] In honor of the demonstration, when a housing complex at that site 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.[9]

Political campaigns, endorsements, and parties

King ran three times for a seat on the Boston School Committee in 1961, 1963, and 1965 – being unsuccessful each time. In 1973, he was elected as a State Representative for the 9th Suffolk District and served in the Massachusetts Legislature until 1982.[10]

In 1983, when the incumbent Mayor of Boston, Kevin White, withdrew from contention after 16 years in office, Mel King ran for mayor, the first African-American to run in a final election bid for mayor of Boston,[11] and ultimately against Raymond Flynn. Though King secured the African American vote by wide margins and significant support among other ethnic groups, King ultimately lost to Flynn, an Irish-Catholic with roots in South Boston.[12]

During the 2000 presidential election King endorsed the presidential campaign of Ralph Nader[13]

In 2002, King endorsed [Green-Rainbow Party] candidate Jill Stein for governor of Massachusetts, saying "Jill Stein is the only candidate who will speak truth to power...She's the only one that makes issues of racism and social justice integral parts of her campaign.[14]

King endorsed at-large city-councilor Sam Yoon for Mayor on August 10, 2009. King praised Yoon's vision, his collaborative approach and his focus on improving the educational system in Boston.[15]

King founded the Rainbow Coalition Party in Massachusetts. In 2002, the Rainbow Coalition Party merged with the Massachusetts Green Party to become the Green-Rainbow Party, the Massachusetts affiliate of the Green Party of the United States. King remains active as a member of the Green-Rainbow Party. In 2014 he was the Campaign Manager for the Green-Rainbow Party candidate for State Auditor, M.K. Merelice and also supported the candidacies of Green-Rainbow Party candidate for Secretary of State Danny Factor and Green-Rainbow Party candidate for Treasurer Ian Jackson.[16]

The Mel King Institute

The Mel King Institute for Community Building was formed in 2009 by the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations (MACDC) and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Boston, a nonprofit that supports affordable housing and community development. It is a training center and information clearinghouse for community development practitioners.[17]

Academic work

In 1970, King created the Community Fellows Program (CFP) in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT.[18] 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 was published by South End Press.[19] 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 (in the Tent City context of Boston's Back Bay) the South End Technology Center to provide computer training for low-income people.[20]

In addition to writing Chain of Change and journal articles, King has used poetry to share his messages.[21]

Books authored by King

See also


  1. ^ a b "For Mel King, former state legislator and mayoral candidate, most enduring title remains activist - The Boston Globe". BostonGlobe.com. Retrieved 2018-01-29.
  2. ^ Johnson, Violet M. (2006). The Other Black Bostonians: West Indians in Boston, 1900-1950. p. 99. ISBN 9780253112385.
  3. ^ a b Finkelman, Paul; Wintz, Cary D., eds. (2009). Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present. Oxford University Press. p. 112. ISBN 9780195167795.
  4. ^ Community Assembly for a United South End
  5. ^ New Urban League of Greater Boston
  6. ^ The New Majority Archived 2013-10-04 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ a b "Activists Erect Tent City in Boston". Mass Moments.
  8. ^ "Tent City Protest, 1968". Boston TV News Digital Library.
  9. ^ Martins, Gus (May 1, 1988). "New Tent City is monument to 20-year South End dream". The Boston Globe – via Newspapers.com.
  10. ^ "PD43+ » Candidate Profile..." PD43+. Retrieved 2017-01-18.
  11. ^ "Racial violence in black-white mayor race".
  12. ^ "Crowded 1983 Contest A Preamble To Today's Boston Mayoral Race". wbur. Retrieved 2018-01-29.
  13. ^ Citizens’ Committee for Nader/LaDuke 2000
  14. ^ "MA Greens Merge with Rainbow Coalition". Green Party of the United States. May 3, 2002. Archived from the original on 18 September 2011. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  15. ^ "Mel King endorses Yoon for mayor", The Boston Globe, August 10, 2009
  16. ^ "Elect Merelice". www.facebook.com. Retrieved 2018-01-29.
  17. ^ Larson, Sandra. "Mel King Institute Fills Gap in Community." The Boston Banner: 1. Dec 15 2011. ProQuest. Web. 6 Apr. 2017.
  18. ^ Community Fellows Program
  19. ^ King, Mel (1981). Chain of change: struggles for black community development. Boston: South End Press. ISBN 0896081052.
  20. ^ "SETC". www.tech-center-enlightentcity.tv. Retrieved 2018-01-29.
  21. ^ Holder, Doug (Spring 2009). "Review of Streets by Mel King". Wilderness House Review. 4 (1). ISSN 2156-0153 – via Publisher Website.