Living history in Mission Hill (Boston)





The procession of Ted Kennedy's body through Boston was a history lesson for millions of Americans watching at home. From the North End to Faneuil Hall to Dorchester, the sites of the Revolutionary era co-mingled with the sites of special importance to the Kennedy family — including Ted’s grandfather, John ‘‘Honey Fitz’’ Fitzgerald, the North End kid who became the first American-born Irish mayor of Boston in 1906. Today, Mission Hill, awash with Colonial, Irish, Jewish, and African-American history, will be in the national spotlight.

The sad, slow journey of Kennedy’s casket through Boston on Thursday afternoon served as a reminder of how successfully the Kennedys connected their family’s immigrant journey to the larger story of Massachusetts and the founding of America. Much as Barack Obama would, in a much later generation, breathe new life into the American Dream by making it meaningful to people of color, the Kennedys showed immigrant families that the heritage of Paul Revere, Sam Adams, John Adams, and John Hancock was not the sole property of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Even at the height of the Yankee-Irish political wars of the early 20th century, the Kennedys refused to concede that American history was not their own. Honey Fitz took his daughter Rose on history tours of Boston, and both Honey Fitz and Rose did so with her own children. Later, Ted Kennedy rented buses to take his dozens of nieces and nephews on historical tours of Massachusetts, to help them bond with each other and learn about America. ...


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