Our Story


RTH seeks to develop, preserve and maintain safe and affordable housing for low and moderate income people of diverse backgrounds in the RTH/Mission Hill neighborhood and to improve the quality of life for its residents. We achieve this through property management, construction and rehabilitation of properties, provision of social and educational services, workforce development, and community activism. As one of the oldest grassroots, tenant organizations, we dedicate ourselves to defending the rights to quality, affordable housing for people of all races and cultures as well as promoting tenant empowerment through active tenant participation in leadership and development.

At Roxbury Tenants of Harvard, we believe in the power of people. Our story is not just about bricks, beams, or construction blueprints, but about the indomitable spirit of a community determined to shape its own destiny. It’s about ordinary individuals, rising to extraordinary challenges, and creating a legacy to last for generations.

Five Decades of Community Spirit and Activism

RTH is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, conceived in the late 1960s and established in the early 1970s. Its original purpose was to act as a bargaining unit to respond to forces that were reshaping urban areas across the US, driven by institutional objectives that took little heed of the needs of the working families that populated these cities in the first half of the 20th century.

Familiarly known today as RTH, this thriving neighborhood, is neither located in Roxbury, nor formally affiliated with Harvard University. The paradox is echoed by neighboring Brigham Circle, which is not, in fact, at all circular.

Wary that misguided urban renewal policies that razed Boston’s West End and South End were coming for them, a courageous group of neighbors joined forces with some visionary Harvard students to make their voices heard and to save their community. Their success is evident in the vibrant multi-cultural neighborhood that today provides dwellings for 1500 individuals, and supports their economic prosperity, health and well-being with a vast array of programs.

It is a story not without controversy, but with an enduring noble outcome. RTH today is a model of best practices in urban planning with a proud history. RTH continues to fulfill the founders’ aims, delivering affordable housing in a healthy and livable environment, with vibrant communal spaces, is “commuter friendly” with access to public transport and goods and services.

In the early 1960’s, Theresa Parks moved back to the neighborhood of her childhood with her husband, Robert, and their children.

One day, in the Fall of 1968, Theresa responded to a knock at her door. There stood two social-justice minded Harvard students, Doug Levinson and Jean Neville. They were there to enlist her, a member of the community, to join them in blocking the planned destruction of homes to accommodate a new medical campus.

They started to meet regularly and called themselves the Roxbury Tenants of Harvard. As they say, the rest is history.

RTH today is a model for urban planning.

Harvard Student Protests 1969


First Board of Directors
Mrs. Beatriz Powers
Mrs. Mary Stanton
Mrs. Theresa Parks

Mr. Robert Parks, Chairman
Mr. Claude C. Miller
Mr. Robert Setlik
Mr. William Franklin

Hayden Duggan
John Sharratt (Architect)

Doug Levinson
Jean Neville