ATLANTA — Kyle Wells, 49, grew up in Boston’s Mattapan near the intersection of Morton Street and Blue Hill Avenue. By the end of his senior year at Boston Latin School, he was itching to leave town.
“My kind of high school goal was to move out of Boston,” said Wells, who headed southward to attend Florida A&M University in Tallahassee and then seized a training opportunity in Atlanta. “After that, I never looked back,” he said. “This is my out. I’m gone.”
Wells has fond memories of Boston and “the old neighborhood,” but also remembers the city’s rigid racial boundaries. “When you live there, it’s always a part of where you are. You don’t go to certain spots, like Charlestown and Southie,” said Wells — conceding Boston has evolved since then.
A senior creative writer and producer for Turner Sports in Atlanta, Wells leads a life with his wife and two daughters on the city’s southwest side that he said he could not have imagined in Boston. He surveys his expansive front yard. A huge Magnolia tree shades their home from the hot Georgia sun.
In the decades following violent resistance to school desegregation in Boston starting in 1974, thousands of Black residents like Wells have moved to the South, as part of what some observers have termed “a reverse great migration.” Census data from 2011 show that more than a million Black residents in the metropolitan Atlanta area were born in the Northeast.
Boston’s unwelcoming racial climate figured to some extent in the decision of five former residents who repaired to Atlanta, based on their interviews with GBH News in October. With Boston about to elect its first mayor of color, the Black former Bostonians were asked if that historic development has changed their minds about the city they left behind. Not much or at all, they replied.
Their searing experiences with racism in Boston have left a lasting mark.