Press "Enter" to skip to content

Help Rename Bussey Street Renaming: Choose 1 of the 5 Finalists

Last updated on March 17, 2024

Bussey Street is being renamed, and the community leaders behind the initiative want the community’s input on which of the five finalists to rename the street after.

The 5 finalists are:

  • Cuffe
  • Dick Welsh
  • Flora
  • Margaret Fuller
  • Shiu-ying Hu

Profiles of the five finalists are below

Bussey Street is a vehicular street that intersects the Arnold Arboretum. The street is named after Benjamin Bussey, whose legacy is complicated due to some of his wealth deriving from the profits of trade in products produced by enslaved people in the American South and the Caribbean, according to the Presidential Committee on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery, a major initiative by Harvard University “focused on researching and day-lighting connections between Harvard and its community to both the institution and economy of slavery.” A large portion of the Arnold Arboretum, land now owned by the city and leased to Harvard to operate the arboretum, was donated by Bussey, according to the Arnold Arboretum. There are numerous things named after him including Bussey Hill, Bussey Brook and Bussey Brook Meadow on the Arboretum grounds.

The deadline for submitting your input is April 27 at 11:59 pm. Here is the link to the Google Form to submit your recommendations. There will also be a Zoom meeting for the community to learn more about the candidates in-depth on April 11 at 7 pm. You can register for the presentation by emailing

Criteria for the new name included two requirements for renaming by the Public Improvement Commission (PIC), the entity in city government empowered to rename streets:

  1. If the proposed name is for a person, the nominee cannot be living
  2. The proposed name cannot be identical to any other street name in the entire city, regardless of suffix (e.g., St., Ave.) That includes non-persons, as well (e.g., Oak or Walnut Street)

One of the initiative’s working groups developed further criteria for the new name. The first criterion carried the most weight:

  1. The nominee had a direct association with the land on which the Arboretum sits.
  2. The nominee’s story is meaningful and consistent with present day values (e.g., equal rights, inclusion). This is necessarily a subjective determination.
  3. The nominee was from an under-represented community, historically and/or currently, such as Indigenous people, women, formerly enslaved people, people of color, LGBTQ+ people, working class people.
  4. The nominee accomplished or achieved something of value which had a positive impact on society (from local to worldwide, e.g., in the field of science, literature, the arts, politics, advocacy for equal rights)
  5. While not disqualifying, nominees who are currently recognized in other Boston public settings (e.g., on buildings, statues, squares, historical sites) will receive a lower priority.

Working groups members and affiliated organizations for the initiative included:

  • Office of Enrique Pepén, District 5 Boston City Councilor
  • Roslindale Village Main Street
  • Steven Gag, WalkUP Roslindale
  • Jamaica Plain Historical Society
  • Hidden Jamaica Plain
  • Ginger Brown, JP Centre/South Main Streets
  • Office of Ben Weber, District 6 Boston City Councilor
  • Jerry Mogul, Roslindale resident
  • Raphael Sulkovitz, Longfellow Area Neighborhood Association
  • Laurie Jo Wallace, Roslindale resident
  • George Wardle, Roslindale Historical Society
  • Advice and feedback about the finalists included: Megan Marshall, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, Margaret Fuller: A New American Life. Lisa Pearson, Head of the Library and Archives, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, and Wayne William Tucker, author of the Eleven Names Project, digital research project.

The following profile information is from


In 18th century Boston, many Bostonians, including ministers, enslaved Black and Indigenous people to perform a range of household labor, including skilled work, such as carpentry, child care, spinning cloth, milking cows and domestic chores. One such minister was Rev. Nathaniel Walter, who was the reverend for the Second Parish Church of Roxbury, established in 1712, located on present-day Arboretum land on Walter St. near Mendum St. fronting the cemetery behind it that remains a feature of the Arboretum, with about a dozen or more tombstones still standing. (The church was relocated after fire destroyed it to South Street and moved and divided among multiple congregations, including the Roslindale Congregational Church and the Theodore Parker Unitarian Church on Centre Street in West Roxbury.)

Rev. Walter enslaved at least four Black people, including Cuffe and Grace, who married and had five children. “Cuffe” was a fairly common name among Black enslaved people, as it was the Anglicized version of Kofi, a West African male name (best known for Kofi Annan from Ghana, Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1997-2006 and Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2001). In America before the Civil War, however, ‘”Cuffe” became a pejorative in cartoons and in speeches by Jefferson Davis and others, meant to diminish and belittle Black people.

Cuffe and his fellow enslaved people likely lived in the church’s parsonage, at the corner of South and Walter streets, currently occupied by the Green Street T coffee house. Their duties undoubtedly included taking care of the church and the surrounding land. According to vital records of births in Roxbury, the baptism of their children occurred in the church.

Written history has lauded and recorded the good deeds of Rev. Walter and his peers, but we know nothing of the character and suppressed potential of Cuffe and enslaved people like him throughout the region. Renaming Bussey Street for Cuffe would elevate a person from the most marginalized community in our past of enslaved people, who did not even have last names, by creating a street sign and intersection that equalized the names of Walter and Cuffe. It would also reclaim the proud African history of his name, so denigrated by slaveholders and white supremacists in our country, and would redress, in a symbolic and public way, the wrongs of slavery perpetrated and profited from by so many, including Nathaniel Walter and Benjamin Bussey.

Dick Welsh

Dick was born to Binah, the negro slave of John Morey, in 1781 on a farm that today is a portion of the Arboretum. Binah (or Bino) was listed as about 7 years-old with a value of £16.0.0 in the estate inventory of land and property inherited by John Morey from his father. When Dick was born Binah would have been about 16 years old.

When Dick was very young, his master was preparing to move to Middleborough, Massachusetts and began divesting all his Jamaica Plain properties. The farmland was divided and sold to neighbors, Lemuel Child, Lemuel May, and Eleazor Weld. Dick, too, was sold on July 30, 1785, for £5 to David Stoddard Greenough, who lived on the estate at 12 South Street in Jamaica Plain today known as the Loring Greenough House.

The “Bill of Sale” clearly treated young Dick as Morey’s property, transferring him to Greenough “in the Capacity of a Servant until he shall attain to the Age of Twenty one Years.” Though born enslaved in 1780, Dick was referred to as indentured, not enslaved, and thus would be free when he attained adulthood. In the intervening 16 years he would be forced to provide unpaid labor to Greenough. The 1785 bill of sale states that Dick was the son of an enslaved Black woman named Binah; Dick’s father is not known. But because Dick’s mother was of African descent and Dick was referred to as “Molatto,” it meant that his father was not of African descent. Dick was five years old, taken to a new place to work, and separated from all he knew.

The next year, on September 6, 1786, Greenough changed the legal basis to a formal indenture using a standard printed form that would be more legally enforceable in light of changes in Massachusetts case law stemming from the 1783 Quock Walker court case which opened the way to emancipation for enslaved people in Massachusetts. Greenough crossed out the part of the form that stated that Dick “doth voluntarily and of his own free Will and Accord, and with the Consent of his parents, bind himself to Greenough.” No mention was made of Dick’s mother Binah.

Indenturing – a labor system that forced many poor children, children of unwed mothers and orphans to serve as servants or apprentices – was commonly used by local towns to handle vagrancy and homelessness. In return for room and board, these children were forced to provide unpaid labor to their indenturers. Dick’s involuntary indenture until age 21 was to work as a farm apprentice. In return for Dick’s labor, Greenough promised in the indenture document to supply “good and sufficient meat, Drink, Washing, Lodging & Clothing.” Dick presumably worked for Greenough in Jamaica Plain for the next twelve years, but according to a newspaper ad placed on June 25, 1798, Dick ran away seeking his freedom. Dick would have had three years left on his indenture. Greenough’s $1 reward was more than some indenturers offered for their missing apprentices, but that might have reflected Greenough’s wish to be seen as a wealthy landed gentleman. The ad’s focus on Dick’s clothing is typical of runaway ads of the time. Clothes were difficult to discard or replace in a pre-industrial world so the exactness of their description was aimed at recapturing Dick.

Did Dick succeed in his 1798 escape? It appears not. Federal census records for 1790 and 1800 show one person (possibly Dick?) in the Greenough household listed in the category “All Other Persons Except Indians Not Taxed.” Dick’s indenture presumably ended in 1801 when he reached 21 years of age. He most likely left the Greenough household to pursue his own life. By the 1810 census, all members of the Greenough household are listed as “White.”

In the runaway ad, Dick is referred to by the name, Dick Welsh. The description as an indented “Molatto” about 18 years old is consistent the same indentured person but who has acquired or adopted a new last name other than that of his original enslaver.

Dick was born in to slavery, was sold into indentured servitude, and sought freedom.


In 18th century Boston, many whites of all classes enslaved Black and Indigenous people, mostly for household labor and chores. While the greater Boston area and New England as a whole did not have large agricultural plantations, as in the south, that required many enslaved people to work the fields, there were quite a few small commercial farms that raised crops for market and extracted profit from the labor of enslaved people to enrich their enslavers.

One such farm in the rural reaches of Roxbury, which at the time included current-day Jamaica Plain and Roslindale, was owned by William Dudley, son of Governor Joseph Dudley and grandson of Governor Thomas Dudley, a founding father of the Mass Bay Colony. Lacking a will, upon his death in 1845, his various properties, including four enslaved people, were listed in the probate court inventory of his estate. Three of the enslaved people were males – two adults and one boy – and one was a female, Flora, described as an “old woman” and valued at 40 pounds, considerably less than the male field hands, along with a listing for her shoes, apron and other accoutrements needed for her household chores.

Renaming Bussey Street for Flora would elevate a person from the most marginalized community in our past of enslaved people, who did not even have last names, and would redress, in a symbolic and public way, the wrongs of slavery perpetrated and profited from by so many, including not just the Dudleys but Benjamin Bussey, as well. Written history has lauded and recorded the good deeds of Bussey and his peers, but we know nothing of the character and suppressed potential of Flora and enslaved people like her throughout the region.

The Dudley property where Flora worked was near the land that the Arboretum became, across Walter Street in the direction of South and Centre streets. We can never know whether Flora ever visited the Arboretum land, but there is a direct association with the land by the second meaning of her name, Flora, that describes the bountiful trees, shrubs, flowers, greenery and landscapes that grace and enrich the lives of those of us fortunate to enjoy that magnificent treasure in our midst of our neighborhoods, our city and the greater Boston region.

Margaret Fuller

Margaret Fuller was a pre-eminent mid-19th century feminist, Transcendentalist, writer, and reformer who lived for a few years in Jamaica Plain on the other side of Forest Hills Station from the land that became the Arboretum. She frequented what became Hemlock Hill for nature walks and meet-ups with colleagues, memorialized on the Hemlock Hill timeline page of the Arboretum website.

Fuller was born in Cambridgeport in 1810 and early on faced the pernicious effects of discrimination due to her gender. Steeped in the classics by her father from a young age, she was a brilliant scholar as a teen and was a star in a small group of male friends that included Oliver Wendell Holmes. The boys, of course, went on to Harvard, a path that was closed to her. Later in her teen years, her family moved to rural Groton where she was expected to help manage the household, while also caring for and educating her younger siblings, isolated from any intellectual stimulation she so desperately needed.

In her early 20s, she was able to leave home and found her way to Concord and Ralph Waldo Emerson. What started as a disciple relationship turned into an intense intellectual partnership of equals over 10 years where she was instrumental in the development of Transcendentalism, especially from a feminist perspective. By the time she moved to Jamaica Plain in 1839, she had been named as the first editor of the first Transcendentalist journal, The Dial.

The other way in which she came out as a public intellectual during this formative period was to design and run annual Conversations for women for five years in downtown Boston. She facilitated and led discussions to challenge and empower women, to help them find their voice and moral center, so they can take action and make change in the world. Over a 16-week period, each annual set of Conversations focused on a particular theme, such as fine arts, ethics, education. Many of the graduates of the Conversations either had been or went on to become abolitionists, feminists or other social reformers.

While living in Boston, she began to develop her theory of feminism, first through an article in The Dial and then as a full-length book, that was far ahead of its time. Her call for equality was not merely to overcome the many ways that women’s lives were circumscribed by laws and custom that excluded them from owning property, voting, attending college and so many other indignities, but to develop an equality between men and women at a deeper level that enabled each to aspire to the “fullness of being,” that encompassed both male and female energies and attributes. Her book, Woman in the 19th Century, was a foundational feminist work that helped inspire the Seneca Falls conference in 1848. Fuller was held in such high esteem among her peers that she was invited to preside over the first national Women’s Rights Convention in Worcester in 1850. It is not known whether she even received the invitation, as she was returning from Europe months earlier and tragically drowned off Long Island in a shipwreck. In the four years prior to her untimely death, she had cemented her reputation as the first female public intellectual in her role as front page columnist for the New York Tribune, writing anti-slavery editorials, literary reviews, investigative journalism exposes, such as on women’s prisons, and dispatches from Europe during the 1848-49 period of popular revolutions.

Fuller was recognized in Boston by having an elementary school on Glen Road in JP named for her from 1912-2004, when it was renamed the Community Academy. Since then, there has been no public recognition in Boston of Margaret Fuller. Formerly an early 20th century settlement house named for her, a community center still operates in Cambridgeport, from the house in which she was born.

Shiu-Ying Hu

Shiu-ying Hu was an internationally acclaimed botanist-researcher, scholar, teacher, mentor and writer — whose life long goal was to improve the health and well-being of the rural poor in China. The Arnold Arboretum served as her laboratory and place of employment for nearly 30 years, beginning in 1948 as a research assistant and ending as an Emeritus Senior Research Fellow. She lived to 102, and was active making botanical contributions almost to the end of her life.

Dr. Hu was born to a poor family in rural China in 1910 and never forgot that her life was saved as an infant by an herbal remedy, inspiring her to collect and study medicinal plants. She took an academic path, eventually teaching and researching for 8 years at a Chinese university from 1938-1946, fearlessly going alone into remote mountainous regions to collect specimens. In 1946 she was accepted at Radcliffe to study botany with then-Arboretum director and Harvard professor Elmer Merrill, and got her doctorate from Harvard in 1949, only the second Chinese woman to reach that pinnacle in academia at Harvard. Dr. Hu was a pioneer in her field who blazed as a trail both in China and in Boston, at Harvard and at the Arboretum, fighting sexism and racism.

Her dissertation was on the holly plant in China, a major ingredient in a health-promoting Chinese herbal tea. Researching and cataloguing hollies was one of her life-long pursuits; she named almost 300, or three-quarters of all known species of holly. In recognition of her achievements, the American Holly Society named an award in her name, and she herself was nicknamed “Holly Hu” for groundbreaking research.

In her early years at the Arboretum, she was a key contributor to the Flora of China project, writing the first volume of the research in a project that today engages over 600 researchers. In her lifelong devotion to studying the flora of China, Dr. Hu catalogued 185,000 plants from the collections of various institutions, including the Arnold Arboretum. The Hu Card Index she created to document her work has now been digitized. While working for 30+ years at the Arboretum, she also maintained ties with Chinese universities and key botanical institutions. She facilitated cross-cultural exchange from the 1950s to the 1970s, when China was closed to the West, by acting as a bridge between Chinese and western researchers. After her retirement from the Arboretum in the late 1970s, she continued her teaching in China where she received numerous honors and was revered as “Grandmother Plants,” always accessible to people of all classes and ethnicities.

One of the plants she distributed was the Metasequoia (Dawn Redwood), whose seeds she sent to 200 botanical institutions worldwide in 1948, thus saving a species that was near extinction. Years later, she was walking on the Arboretum grounds with famed composer John Williams when they passed the majestic tree. Williams was so captivated by both the tree and his companion that he was inspired in 2000 to write “Tree Song for Violin and Orchestra,” with a section of the musical composition named for her. Williams also wrote about his encounter with both the tree and Dr. Hu: “If you look at [the tree] long enough, it seems to be speaking to you with the wisdom of the age and with great intelligence…Dr. Hu is a brilliant scientist…she knows the plants and they are like children to her. This woman has a spiritual aura about her which is very still and penetrates very deep into her subject almost like a religious person…”