The New Bostonians: How Immigrants have Transformed Boston since the 1960s

Boisi event

Marilynn Johnson
Boston College

Date: September 21, 2016

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Drawing on her recent book, The New Bostonians, Johnson will discuss how immigrants have helped transform the Boston metropolitan area since the 1960s as it evolved from an declining manufacturing city to a center of the new knowledge economy. She'll also offer a peak at a related digital history project, Global Boston, a website that explores the region's immigration history, past and present.

Speaker Bio

Marilynn Johnson

Marilynn Johnson is a professor of history at Boston College where she teaches modern US urban and social history. She received her Ph.D. in history at New York University and has taught at Southern Methodist University and the Graduate Consortium in Women’s Studies at MIT. Her research focuses on migration, urban social relations, and violence. Her books include The Second Gold Rush: Oakland and the East Bay in World War II (1993) and Street Justice: A History of Police Violence in New York City (2004). Most recently, she published The New Bostonians: How Immigrants Have Transformed the Metro Area Since the 1960s (University of Massachusetts Press, 2015). She continues to do research on this subject is currently building a website called Global Boston, which explores immigration history in greater Boston from the early 19th century to the present.

Event Photos

Boisi event

Marilynn Johnson, professor of history at Boston College, spoke about her new book--The New Bostonians--at a Boisi Center luncheon on September 21.

Boisi event

Photos by MTS Photography

Event Recap

Marilynn Johnson, Boston College professor of history, spoke at the Boisi Center on September 21 on the historic shifts in immigration to Boston. Johnson’s book, The New Bostonians: How Immigrants Have Transformed the Metro Area since the 1960s (University of Massachusetts Press, 2015), was released on the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Immigration Act. The legislation caused changes in immigration by eliminating quotas and expanding preferences for skilled workers and family members of immigrants in the U.S.

Boston has always been an important portal for immigrants, and established ethnic communities draw new immigrants. Boston has witnessed many different waves of immigration over its history; during the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, families and largely unskilled workers from Ireland, Italy, China, Russia, and Canada dominated immigration into Boston. After the 1965 Immigration Act, the origins of Boston’s immigrants shifted to Central and South America and Asia. Locally, the centers of immigration shifted from Boston itself to its suburbs.

Johnson has continued her research beyond The New Bostonians online. Her new project, Global Boston (, was developed to maintain and expand historical accounts of immigrants in Boston and open scholarship on Boston’s immigration to a wider community of citizen-scholars. Johnson intends the website to be an ongoing collaborative project that includes students’ efforts to understand and analyze historical trends in immigration. 

Read More


ohnson, Marilynn S. The New Bostonians: How Immigrants Have Transformed the Metro Area Since the 1960s. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2015.  

Halter, Marilyn; Johnson, Marilynn S; Wright, Conrad Edick; Viens, Katheryn P; eds. “The Metropolitan Diaspora: New Immigrants in Greater Boston,” What’s New about the New Immigration? Traditions and Transformations in the US Since 1965. Palgrave McMillan, 2014.

What’s New about the New Immigration: Traditions and Transformations in the United States Since 1965, edited by Marilynn Johnson, Marilyn Halter, Conrad Edick Wright, and Katheryn P. Viens (Palgrave McMillan, 2014).

Johnson, Marilynn S. “’The Quiet Revival’: New Immigrants and the Transformation of Christianity in Greater Boston,” Religion and American Culture 24:2 (Summer 2014): 231-58.


Johnson, Marilynn S. “New Boston Sprang from the 1965 Immigration Act,” Boston Globe (Ideas section), September 27, 2015.

Johnson, Marilynn S. “Thirty Years Later, Remembering Boston’s Wave of Anti-Immigrant Violence,” Boston Globe (op-ed), May 22, 2015.

In the News

A recent article published by the Boston Globe highlights the growing fears among many Boston immigrants over a possible Trump presidency.