Boston Heritage Sites
Boston Heritage Sites are not widely known to African Americans nationwide, but are very important to the abolitionist movement and early career of Malcolm X.
African Meeting House
DESCRIPTION: Oldest Black church building still standing in America; Thomas Paul led worship services for blacks in Faneuil Hall for many years. Then in 1805, due to discrimination, Paul and 20 church members formed the 1st African Baptist Church; though church funds were raised in all communities, the church was built in 1806 with mostly black craftsmen and laborers; the facade of the building is an adaptation of a townhouse design; the meeting house is historically significant for its anti-slavery and political meetings, as well as celebrations; it was remodeled in the 1850’s. The New England Anti-Slavery Society was founded here. Although it served as a Jewish synagogue for many interim years, it was acquired by the Museum of African American History in 1972 and restored to its 1854 New England classic design. Museum of Afro American History has the most comprehensive collection of history and contributions of African Americans in Massachusetts, including extensive papers from abolitionists, drawings, photographs and art objects from colonial times to present; it also serves as a community forum in Beacon Hill district.
ADDRESS: 8 Smith Court, Boston, MA MAP
PARKING: on street
Charles Street Meeting House
DESCRIPTION: Built in 1807 as Third Street Baptist Church, then renamed the Charles Street Baptist Church later. In the beginning seating was according to segregationist rules; by the mid-1830’s Timothy Gilbert, one of the church’s white abolitionist members, challenged the rules and invited several black friends to his pew, he was expelled from the church. Gilbert and friends went on to found Tremont Temple as the 1st integrated church in America. through the years Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, William Lloyd Garrison, and Wendell Phillips spoke here. In 1876 it became the Charles Street AME Church and remained so until 1939, when it was the last Black congregation to leave Beacon Hill; though fully restored today, this magnificent building is filled with offices and retail shops that do not support the relevance of this historic site
ADDRESS: Mount Vernon Street at Charles Street, Boston, MA MAP
PARKING: on street and lots nearby
May Street Methodist Episcopal Church
DESCRIPTION: Samuel Snowden is listed as preacher in a 19th century directory titled “People of Color”. Around1860, May Street was renamed Revere Street and the 1860 edition of The Boston Almanac lists it under Methodist Episcopal on Revere Street, pastor Jenkins Williams; according to history account, the building on Revere Street had fallen into disrepair and was sold in 1903
ADDRESS: Revere Street, exact location unknown, Boston, MA MAP
PARKING: on street
Peoples Baptist Church of Boston
DESCRIPTION: Organized 1805 with twenty members, the church erect its first three-story building in Beacon Hill called the African Meeting House in 1806; through the ministry of Dr. Owens (1936 to 1979) Peoples Baptist Church became known nationally as a leader among black churches
SUNDAY WORSHIP: 10:45a
ADDRESS: 134 Camden Street, Boston, MA MAP
PARKING: lots nearby
Charles Street AME Church
DESCRIPTION: This historic church was the last Black church to move from Beacon Hill in 1939
SUNDAY WORSHIP: 8a and 11:15a
ADDRESS: 551 Warren Street, Boston, MA MAP
PARKING: lots nearby
Site of the Boston Massacre
DESCRIPTION: On 5 March 1770 Crispus Attucks, was the first to die for his country when British troops opened fire on a protest gathering here; that massacre is widely recognized as the beginning of the American Revolution. Congress Street side of the Old State House.
ADDRESS: 206 Washington Street, Boston, MA MAP
Old South Meeting House
DESCRIPTION: Built in 1729, it is the second oldest church in Boston, the place where the Boson Tea Party was planned and a National Historic Monument. Today, it’s a museum housing many artifacts of our nation’s history that includes an exhibit about the life and poems of Phyllis Wheatley (1753-1784). Phyllis arrived in Boston on a slave ship, then was sold to Suzannah Wheatley in 1761. Recognizing the special talent of this young girl, Suzannah mentored and encouraged her. Phyllis’ book of poems was published 1773 to international acclaim. Unfortunately, she was not able to translate that fame to wealth before she died at age 30.
ADMISSION: small fee
DAYS & HOURS: daily
ADDRESS: 310 Washington Street, Boston, MA MAP
DESCRIPTION: Built in 1797, this oldest standing clapboard-style house on Boston’s Beacon Hill was built by African Americans and its original owners were George Middleton and Louis Glapion. They were members of the African Lodge of Masons. It is commonly believed and supported by historian William C Neill that George Middleton led the Black company called the “Bucks of America”, in the American Revolution. Not open to public.
ADDRESS: 5-7 Pinckney Street, Boston, MA MAP
Smith Court Residences
DESCRIPTION: A series of houses which are typical of the homes that African Americans lived in beginning in 1825; William C. Nell, the first published African American historian, abolitionist and close friend of William Lloyd Garrison, lived here from 1851 to 1856 — he also led the crusade to integrate Boston’s public schools; later when James Scott, an African American clothier purchased 3 Smith Court, it was also used as a station for the Underground Railroad. No tours inside.
ADDRESS: 3-10 Smith Court, Boston, MA MAP
Abiel Smith School
DESCRIPTION: In 1787 Prince Hall petitioned the Massachusetts legislature for African American access to the public school system. After numerous petitions were denied, it became the 1st public school for African Americans opened in Prince Hall’s home on the northeast corner of West Cedar and Revere Streets. In 1808, the grammar school was moved to larger quarters on the 1st floor of the African Meeting House. The school was named after a white businessman who left an endowment for the education of Black children. That endowment was used to build this school in 1834. It is now a renovated National Historic Landmark.
ADDRESS: 46 Joy Street, Boston, MA MAP
DESCRIPTION: In 1855 when slavery was abolished by legislative act in Massachusetts, this became the 1st integrated school in Boston. The school was moved to its present location in 1861.
ADDRESS: Anderson and Pinckney Streets, Boston, MA MAP
DESCRIPTION: Named for Charles Dillaway, an educator who lived in the house for most of the 19th century. Today the house serves as a heritage center providing historical and cultural events, special exhibits and a unique oral history project called “The Griots of Roxbury”, which is conducted by a youth group.
DAYS & HOURS: Tours Tue-Sun
ADDRESS: 183 Roxbury Street, Boston, MA MAP
Lewis Hayden House
DESCRIPTION: Hayden, after an escaping slavery, moved to this house with his wife Harriet in 1849. Funded by his clothing store on Cambridge Street, their home became a major stop on the Underground Railroad. An abolitionist friend, Francis Jackson, purchased the house to help secure its use for that purpose. Reputedly, the Haydens kept kegs of gunpowder under their front stoop — they greeted slave bounty hunters with lit candles and threatened to blow up the bounty hunters along with the house, rather than surrender escaped slaves. In 1865, the Jackson estate sold the house to the Haydens, who were also recruiting agents for the 54th Regiment during the Civil War. Not open to public.
ADDRESS: 66 Phillips Street, Boston, MA MAP
DESCRIPTION: When affluent Copley Square office and shopping complex was built next door, planners had authorized slum replacement for many adjacent properties. But African American activists stood up or more accurately, pitched tent to protest the destruction of housing when so many were homeless. At the end of the day, mixed moderate and lower income apartments and row houses were built and this remarkable red-brick community that kept the name Tent City.
ADDRESS: Dartmouth Street at Columbus Avenue, Boston, MA MAP
Malcolm X Residence
DESCRIPTION: Malcolm Little (before his first name change) lived here with his half-sister, Ella Little-Collins from 1941-1946. His time in Boston is covered in his autobiography and at http://www.brothermalcolm.net. The 2 1/2-story house was declared a Boston historical landmark in 1998 and is owned by Malcolm X’s nephew, Rodnell P. Collins. The house is not open to public.
ADDRESS: 72 Dale Street, Boston, MA MAP
Prince Hall Masonic Temple
DESCRIPTION: In 1787 Prince Hall founded the 1st African Lodge of Masons in the US. This lodge (#459) is one of the few to still possess its original Royal Charter; Hall was also a notable Methodist minister, Revolutionary War soldier and abolitionist; his grave is at Copp’s Hill Burying Ground in Boston’s North End.
ADDRESS: 18 Washington Street, Boston, MA MAP
William Monroe Trotter House
DESCRIPTION: Trotter (1872-1934) founded and published the Boston Guardian newspaper which championed civil rights issues for African Americans; he founded the Boston Equal Rights League in 1901, which was the predecessor to the NAACP; built in 1893, this house is now a National Historic Landmark (closed to public)
ADDRESS: 97 Sawyer Street, Boston, MA MAP
William Wells Brown House
DESCRIPTION: Former home of nation’s first African American novelist. Private residence, no visitors.
ADDRESS: 15 Webster Street, Boston, MA MAP
Bay State Banner
Black weekly newspaper published on Thursdays
ADDRESS: 68 Fargo Street; Boston, MA MAP
W.E.B. Du Bois Residence
DESCRIPTION: This simple, historic site was the former home of one the great minds of the 20th century, Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963). Among his many accomplishments, Du Bois was the first African American to earn a doctorate from Harvard University, taught and strengthened the curricula at Atlanta University and co-founded the NAACP. Du Bois is honored for framing a widely recognized scholarly examination on the effects of American racism from a Black perspective via several books, including The Souls of Black Folk and The Philadelphia Negro. He is also remembered for a staunchly opposite view to the approach taken by Booker T Washington on how best to advance the interests of Colored People.
ADDRESS: 20 Flagg Street, Cambridge, MA MAP
African Meeting House
DESCRIPTION: Only public structure central to the history of the African American community remaining on the island. The building dates from 1827, when it served as a church, school for African children, and meeting house. On Nantucket Island there are more than 800 structures that predate the Civil War. Open July and August.
DAYS & HOURS: Tue-Sat 11a-3p, Sun 1-3p
ADDRESS: 29 York Street, Nantucket, MA MAP