American Way staff
May 2020

Everyone knows the Freedom Trail and its stops, such as Faneuil Hall and the Granary Burial Ground. Just as deserving of your attention is the Black Heritage Trail, a 1.6-mile walking tour winding through Beacon Hill with 10 official stops to explore the city’s African-American history. Be sure to visit the Museum of African American History for the full experience. 

African Meeting House

Built in 1806, this is the oldest surviving black church building in the US — and the first African-American Baptist church north of the Mason-Dixon line — and its history is remarkably rich. This is where William Lloyd Garrison founded the New England Anti-Slavery Society; Frederick Douglass gave an anti-slavery speech here in 1860; and it served as a recruitment office for the 54th Massachusetts Regiment during the Civil War.


George Middleton House

George Middleton was an African-American Revolutionary War veteran who led the Bucks of America, one of three black militias that fought the British. He went on to become an activist and helped found the Free African Society. His home, a simple gray wooden structure built in 1787, is one of the oldest in Beacon Hill.


54th Regiment Memorial

Dedicated in 1897, this bronze memorial by Augustus Saint-Gaudens honors the members of the 54th Regiment, the first black regiment recruited in the north after President Lincoln admitted African-American soldiers into the Union Army in 1863. (The film Glory, starring Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman, is about them.) After the regiment led an assault on Fort Wagner in Charleston, South Carolina, Sergeant William Carney became the first black soldier to receive the Medal of Honor.


Abiel Smith School

This was the first building in the country constructed specifically to be a public school for black students. It opened in 1835 and was named for Abiel Smith, a philanthropist who willed money to the city of Boston for educating African-American children. For 20 years it served as Boston’s black public school until schools were integrated in 1855. In 1887, it became the headquarters for black veterans of the Civil War.


Lewis and Harriet Hayden House

This red-brick building was the home of Lewis and Harriet Hayden, a married couple who escaped slavery in Kentucky and settled in Boston, where Lewis became a leading abolitionist and politician. Their home was an important stop on the Underground Railroad and they even hosted Harriet Beecher Stowe when she was researching for her book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In 1873, Lewis was elected as a Republican representative to the Massachusetts state legislature.


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