DER Documentary

Mission Hill and the Miracle of Boston


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by Richard Broadman
b&w, 60 min, 1978




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The story of what happened to Mission Hill is the story of many of America's older ethnic neighborhoods. Seventy years ago, Mission Hill was an Irish neighborhood of homes and small stores in which people lived near their schools, their church, and their shopping area. But between 1940 and 1980 it changed: thousands of units of public housing were built and decayed there. Nearby hospitals expanded, displacing people from their homes. Developers and speculators bought and sold property and built twenty-story apartment houses. A new, poor population and an affluent professional population arrived to compete for parts of the old neighborhood.

Mission Hill and the Miracle of Boston is the story of urban renewal, racial conflict, and the struggle of a neighborhood to survive these changing times. Spokespeople include real estate developers, community activists, workers, and residents.

Today this film, completed in 1978, remains unique in presenting one neighborhood's social history set against the larger forces that reshaped a major American city. A must for courses in urban studies, race relations, and social problems. Widely used.

“...a skillfully wrought and moving film... Seen through the tumultuous story of one Irish Catholic city parish, told by the people who lived it, set in the grit of ethnic and class antagonisms, it opens a wide window for any course on American history, religion and society, or urban studies.” — Harvey Cox, Harvard Divinity School and author of The Secular City
“This quite extraordinary film shows how ordinary neighborhood people, mostly Irish and blacks, were pitted against powerful real estate interests and Harvard University.” — John O'Connor, The New York Times

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