First held in South Boston in 1901, the St. Patrick’s Day parade now sees as many as a half-million spectators. What began as an observation of the anniversary of Evacuation Day morphed into a celebration of Boston’s Irish traditions. The parade has on occasion served as a platform for political and social advocacy and protest. The NAACP joined the route in 1964, and viewpoints on the city’s busing crisis in the 1970s were expressed in the parade. In the 1990s gay marchers went to court to gain the right to participate.
March 17, 1964 (above): For the first time in history, the Boston branch of the NAACP had a float in a South Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade. There were several incidents of opposition — in the forms of cans, bottles, and eggs being tossed at the float — believed to be unplanned and spontaneous.