The North End of Boston has always been dear to me. When I was younger, I remember going to the Saint Anthony’s feast on the last Sunday in August. Taking part in this Italian American celebration was something my family always looked forward to. We could bet on finding some delicious Italian cuisine on roadside stands, or some outstanding ‘creampuffs’ from the famous Mike’s Pastry, or even some musical performances by the local folks. My grandmother Angie was once a local folk herself. She grew up on Prince street and was the daughter of Italian immigrants from Abruzzi and Monte Casino, Italy. The North End was not always an Italian neighborhood, however. Back in the 1760s and 1780s, the predominantly white Anglo protestant neighborhood served as the hotbed for the American rebellion against the occupation of the British Empire. For these reasons, visiting the North End helps me reconnect with my Bostonian roots on many levels.
The streets of the North End were once roamed by the likes of John Adams, Samuel Adams and John Hancock, all of whom were ‘founding fathers’ of the local political resistance movement The Sons of Liberty. These Bostonians fiercely opposed the impositions of the British Empire’s colonial endeavors on the Massachusetts Bay colony. In 1773, they dumped British tea into the Boston Harbor with the banner and calling for ‘no taxation without representation’. This slogan eventually spread to all the colonies and established a psychological bond that was logical to all Americans. As a movement focusing on unity and patriotism, The Sons of Liberty played the most crucial role in fermenting the psyche of the American rebellion.
To commemorate the efforts of The Sons of Liberty, the city of Boston has created The Freedom Trail so Bostonians and tourists can explore the events that shaped the nation. We visited the Old North Church where Paul Revere took his “Midnight Ride’ to Lexington to warn the Sons of Liberty that the ‘Redcoats were coming’. We paid homage at the Bunker Hill memorial in Charlestown where American militiamen resisted the invasion of the British regulars. Members of The Sons of Liberty, whether they were doctors, soldiers, shipbuilders, clergymen or the like, were all present at every decisive moment in Boston’s Revolutionary era. More than any other colonial organization, they believed that the unity of the American people was most critical for a prosperous future.
Today, the American nation is in need of a unity movement reminiscing the efforts of the Sons of Liberty. As we study various communities and enclaves around the country, we find that many Americans are hostile towards ‘the other’ ethnic group. But what Americans often misunderstand is that your neighbors problem is many times your problem too. Oftentimes, Americans of all ethnic and religious backgrounds suffer together (as they did on 9-11). This sense of hardship cannot be truer today with the economy slipping into a recession (possibly even a depression). Yet still, the nation is haunted by the cancer of ethnocentrism and racism, both which slowly chip away at social cohesion. By the time our journey is over, we will have solutions to disunity. We may even have our own slogan. That is our calling as the new Sons of Liberty.