Annual Conference & INFO-EXPO Boston Convention & Exhibition Center June 14 -16, 2015

Categorized | History

African American History in Boston

African American History in Boston

This post was written by Claudette Newhall, Librarian at the Congregational Library and Archives

Did you know Massachusetts was the first state in the country to officially abolish slavery? It happened in 1783 after two slaves, Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman and Qwok Walker, successfully sued in separate cases for their freedom.  African Americans’ role in Boston has been vast. Crispus Attucks, Phillis Wheatley, David Walker, Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Bob Moses, and President Barack Obama have all settled in Boston at some point in their lives.  Here are some noteable places to visit if you’re interested in learning more about African American History.

The Museum of African American History is New England’s largest museum dedicated to preserving, conserving and interpreting the contributions of African Americans. The museum includes two national historic landmarks, exhibits, tours, gift store, and holds events.
Location: 14A Beacon Street, 1st floor, Boston
Museum Admission: $5.00,  Seniors 62+: $3.00

African Meeting House is one of the national historic landmarks a part of the Museum of African American History. Built in 1806; “it is the oldest black church edifice still standing in the United States.” The church was a forum for abolitionists and was used to recruit black men to join the Union Army during the Civil War.  Boston is the home of noted abolitionists William Henry Garrison and Sen. Charles Sumner. The latter was a part of an infamous incident on the Senate floor. He was caned by a South Carolina representative for defending slavery.  Check out the Boston Public Gardens for statues of both men.  
Location:  46 Joy Street, Beacon Hill, Boston    617-720-2991

Abiel Smith School is one of the national historic landmarks a part of the Museum of African American History.  Opened in 1835, it was the first public school to serve black children.
Location:  46 Joy Street, Beacon Hill, Boston    617-720-2991

Black Heritage Trail is a way to see historic landmarks of the black community during the 19th and early 20th century.  National Park Service Ranger led walking tours are free. You can also download self-guided walking tours for 99 cents.

Massachusetts Historical Society has an extensive African American collection that covers slavery through the Civil Rights Movement.  African Americans and the End of Slavery in Massachusetts is a web presentation that brings together historical manuscripts and rare published works that serve as a window upon the lives of African Americans in Massachusetts from the late seventeenth century through the abolition of slavery under the Massachusetts Constitution in the 1780s.
Location:  1154 Boylston Street, Boston    617.536.1608

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Archives are located at Boston University’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center. Dr. King, a Boston University alum, in 1964 donated his papers to the university. Currently this archives contains 83,000 items.  The Exhibit can be viewed Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Free of charge.
Location:  Boston University, Mugar Memorial Library, The Martin Luther King Jr. Reading Room – 3rd floor,  771 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston    617-353-3710

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