Boston — By Maria Olia on February 8, 2010 at 3:50 pm
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Boston’s African American Historical Sites

Boston has a rich African-American history. The first Africans arrived in Boston as slaves soon after the city was founded in the 1630′s. By the end  of the American Revolution, Boston was home to more free blacks than slaves. And just prior to the Civil War, the north side of Boston’s Beacon Hill was the country’s center to a thriving, free African community- the “New Guinea Colony” which at its peak numbered 8,000 residents. It is believed that as many as 1000 African Americans from this colony  are buried in unmarked graves at the Copp’s Hill Burying Ground in the North End (193 Salem St., Boston)(Map)

The Museum of Afro-American History (46 Joy St.,Boston, 617-725-0022) (Map) occupies the Abiel Smith School, the nation’s first public school for African- American children. The adjacent African American Meeting House is one of America’s oldest black churches and was a center for the Abolitionist Movement. In 1860,  Frederick Douglass delivered an anti-slavery speech here  and in 1863, it was the recruitment site for African- Americans to the 54th Regiment.  You can pick up a self-guided walking tour map of Boston’s 1.6 mile Black Heritage Trail here . Guided National Park Service tours of the Black Heritage Trail  are offered daily from Memorial Day-Labor Day , and by appointment, 617-742-5415.

The starting point for the Black Heritage Trail is the beautiful high -relief bronze, the Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Regiment Memorial on the Boston Common, directly opposite the State House (Beacon and Park Streets) (Map).  The memorial honors the first northern all-volunteer African- American Union regiment to fight in the Civil War, the story which was the basis for the movie Glory.

During the  month of February,  the Freedom Trail Foundation (Boston Common Visitor’s Center) (Map) will be offering its African-American Patriot’s Tour on Fridays and Saturdays at noon. These guided walks  highlight the contributions of early African- Americans like Crispus Attucks- believed to be the first casualty of the Revolution, and African-American poet Phyllis Wheatley.

Image Credit: Museum of African American History

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