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Murray Thames


Murray Thames, born in March 1896, came to Boston from South Carolina in 1917, taking on a variety of jobs — including opening his own barber shop, and then working as a tailor for 23 years — before ultimately landing on shoe repairs. After having businesses in Everett, he went on to establish Western Ave Shoe Repair. In doing so, he may well have been the first Black shoe cobbler to own his own shop in Cambridge. Thames was well-known throughout the community, and by the time of his passing in September 1980, he had become highly respected as a pillar of the Cambridge community.


Black History Stroll 2023: Virtual Exhibit
Additional Information

Everton C Johnson

Printer, Co-Founder of Cambridge Community Center

Everton Clairmont Johnson was born in Barbados on October 5, 1899 and arrived in the United States on February 14, 1921. He Joined St. Paul A.M.E. Church one week after his arrival, and became a steward another week after that. Over time he gradually assumed more duties with the church, serving as a Sunday School Superintendent, and, in 1974, becoming a Trustee.

Trained at the Barbados Advocate, Johnson sought work in the printing industry upon his arrival to Cambridge. This led to positions at George H. Ellis Printing Co., Simplex Wire and Cable, and Court Square Press.

Johnson also took an interest in giving back to the Cambridge community, whether by teaching printing to special needs children at the Jewish Center, helping students with their reading skills at Martin Luther King Elementary School, or serving as the Secretary/Treasurer of the West Indian Aid Association.


Johnson's desire to uplift people of all ages, races, and ethnicities led to his becoming one of the founding fathers of the Cambridge Community Center in 1929. Almost a century later, this institution continues to serve the People of Cambridge.

  1. Obituary from A.J. Spears Funeral Home

  2. McKibben, William E. “Never-Ending Struggle.” The Harvard Crimson. October 4, 1980. 


Gustave M Solomons

Electrical Engineer, School Committee Member

Gustave M. Solomons was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1905. He was raised in Quincy, MA, and would go on to graduate from MIT in 1928.


Solomons worked for 30 years as an electrical engineer for Bethlehem Ship Building Plant in Quincy before becoming Chief Electrical Engineer for the Metropolitan District Commission. He then served in that role until his retirement in 1975.

In 1960, Solomons became the second Black individual to win a seat on the Cambridge School Committee (after James Lew in 1903). He served on that body for ten years, and his decade of service opened the doors of opportunity for many other people of color to likewise run for, and win, seats upon the city’s governing bodies.


Solomons was active in the Cambridge community not only as an engineer and a School Committee member, but also as a part of numerous committees, boards, and organizations across the city. He was involved with the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority for 14 years as a vice chairman and assistant chairman, acted as co-chairman of the 1954 United Negro College Fund Drive, and served on the Board of Trustees for the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Foundation. Solomons was additionally an active member of the Masons, the Republican City Committee of Cambridge, and the Cambridge Somerville Elder Services.

  1. Obituary in The Boston Globe

  2. A.J. Spears Funeral Home. “Funeral Services for Gustave M. Solomons.” May 18, 1987.


Henry F Owens

Moving Company Owner

Born in North Cambridge in 1909, Henry F. Owens spent his early years as a football player and heavyweight boxer. After being denied an appointment to the Cambridge Police Force — regardless of having received the highest score on the exam two years in a row — Owens started a moving company in 1927.


What began as a venture to deliver ice and coal by horse and wagon turned into Henry F. Owens Movers. Now known as Owens Movers, Henry Owens spent decades growing it into a renowned business known for being able to handle all manner of complicated moves — especially those involving pianos. Currently the oldest minority-owned business in New England, Owens Movers is a testament to Henry Owens’ ability to always turn “obstacles into opportunities.”


Beyond his moving business, Owens was also active in community affairs as a member of a number of local organizations, and he lived a life that saw him rightfully labeled a “Cambridge Legend.”

  1. Flood, Eugene. “A Cambridge Legend.” Obituary in “A Going Home Celebration of a Cambridge Legend: Henry F. Owens.” May 11, 1999.

  2. “MGC Spotlight: Owens Movers, the oldest minority-owned business in New England.” Massachusetts Gaming Commission. February 18, 2020.

Floyd Freeman

Antiques Repair Shop Owner, Musician

Floyd Freeman was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on November 7, 1915. He was educated in St. Louis, at Vashon High School and Lincoln University Extension School. After graduating, he apprenticed with an antiques dealer, where he developed the skills and expertise to repair antique porcelain and pottery.

In 1939, Floyd Freeman moved to Boston and established Freeman Studio, where he repaired antiques for a variety of customers. Freeman moved to Cambridge in 1947, first living on River Street. He later bought a home and studio at 360 Broadway, where he lived and operated his business until 2008, when he moved to Milford, Michigan.

Freeman met his wife, Alice Marie Wilson, at the Women’s Service Club in Boston. They married on March 21, 1945, in Philadelphia, and had two children, Floyd Carter Freeman and Lois [Freeman] Bennett. 


Floyd Freeman was also known as a good musician. He played the violin, the viola, and the piano, and was a part of the Arlington Symphony Orchestra throughout the 1960s and the Cambridge Orchestra in the 1970s. 

According to the City Proclamation on his 100th birthday, “Floyd Freeman has lived a life filled with music, artistry, love, and rich, deep connections to friends and family, and the Cambridge community is all the richer for his having spent so much of his life here.”

  1. Cambridge City Council Proclamation. November 2, 2015.

  2. Lovejoy, Paula. From the Heart of Cambridge: A Neighborhood Portrait. Cambridge: Longfellow Neighborhood Council and Community School, 2011.


Alice Freeman

Community Center Director, Community Service Advocate

Alice Marie Freeman was born in Philadelphia in 1918. She attended Girls High School and graduated from the Berean Business School, where she was the commencement speaker. Freeman moved to Boston in 1935, first finding housing at the 464 Women’s Service Club (WSC)—which was an essential philanthropic center providing needed services throughout the twentieth century to Greater Boston’s African American community. She later married Floyd Freeman in 1945, and together they had two children. 

The WSC left a lasting impression on Alice Freeman. After some time, she returned to work as a secretary at the WSC in the 1960’s, and became actively involved in the annual follies fundraising show at John Hancock’s Theatre. Freeman eventually became Director of the WSC and implemented programs in domestic workers' training and senior citizen services. She wrote and directed 2 follies shows and was able to use her talents as a writer for the skits and comedy routines throughout the years. 

Freeman had a life-long commitment to community service. She was a devoted member of the First Baptist Church in Cambridge for 45 years and was actively

involved with the NAACP, Travelers Aid Society of Boston, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs, and the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind. In 1979, she received the ABCD (Action for Boston Community Development) Community Service Award for her outstanding volunteer work. Freeman's other achievements include being appointed to the Governor’s Commission for the Status of Women, receiving the Priscilla Hunt award from the Cambridge Public Library, and being named one of the “350 Outstanding Boston Citizens” by the Museum of African American History. In 1998 she received the prestigious Sojourner Truth Award from the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs which included a citation from President Clinton. 

Besides her service work, Alice Freeman was also a dynamic speaker and an invited guest speaker at many community and political events. She joined Boston’s Toastmasters Club and later won the New England regional championship with her skills. 

Alice Freeman passed away in 1998, leaving behind her husband and two children. She is remembered for her wit, community service, and commitment to advancing the status of women.

  1. Information courtesy of Lois Freeman Bennett

  2. A.J. Spears Funeral Home. “Funeral Service for Alice M. Freeman.” 1998.


Emory J Clark

Pharmacist, Vending Truck Owner, Veteran

Born in Parker District, Georgia in 1925, Emory J. “Doc” Clark honorably served his country during World War II. Following his service, he continued his education, obtaining a Bachelor’s degree from Xavier University and a Master’s degree from the Massachusetts School of Optometry. He married  Xonnabel Green in Cambridge in 1953, and together they had five children.


Clark worked tirelessly to became a pharmacist, constantly overcoming obstacles caused by racial discrimination. He supported his family by working  various pharmacy clerk positions by day, and operating an ice cream truck throughout the Cambridge community on nights and weekends. He was a beloved fixture on the baseball fields and parks due to his friendly smiles and his cold summer treats.


Emory Clark realized his long-held dream of opening his own pharmacy in 1970, becoming the first and (to date) only African-American to own and operate a local pharmacy in Cambridge. Emory’s Pharmacy served the community for 20 years from 407-409 Concord Ave. Clark passed away in 2021, but his warmth, friendliness, and great love of the Cambridge community will continue to resonate for generations to come. 

  1. “Emory James Clark.” A.J. Spears Funeral Home. September 5, 2021. 

  2. “How one pharmacist conquered discrimination.” Drug Topics. July 21, 2016.


The Dunbar Association

Social and Charitable Club

The Dunbar Association grew out of a local gospel singing group, the Dunbar Quartet, established in the 1930s by Ernie Collins DiNatale (who named it in honor of African American poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar). DiNatale would go on to establish the Dunbar Club at 185 Franklin St.

The Dunbar Club was a social and charitable club, organizing food donations and providing turkeys to families during the holidays, providing meeting space to the International Protective Order of the Elks (the African American Elks), and having its members work to keep Cambridge youths of color out of trouble and on the right track.  

The Dunbar Association was open to all African Americans in Cambridge, Boston, and surrounding cities. Prominent Cantabrigians like City Councilor Hyman Pill were honorary members, and Congressman John F. Kennedy even visited the club when he ran for Senate.

  1. Boyer, Sarah. Crossroads: Stories of Central Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts 1793 – 2000. Cambridge Historical, 2003.


Deborah Laverne Anderson

Salon Co-Owner, Beautician

Deborah Laverne Anderson was born in Texas in 1930. She eventually moved to Cambridge, where she became a licensed beautician and opened Debbie’s Beauty Salon alongside her sister, Frances J. Smith Pierce. 

A beloved neighborhood business, “Debbie’s” faithfully served Cambridge customers for 50 years. Anderson left Cambridge in 1974 and relocated her family to New Jersey, but returned to the city—and the salon—in 2001. For the next nine years until her retirement in 2010, she continued to enjoy close connections with her customers and with the West Cambridge community. 

Besides being an award-winning hairdresser and gifted entrepreneur, Anderson was also a talented seamstress, gardener, and cook. Until her passing in 2022, she was affectionately known throughout the community as the “hat lady” due to her varied and distinctive collection that suited all occasions.

  1. “Deborah Laverne Anderson.” A.J. Spears Funeral Home. August 29, 2022. 

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