This memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts’ 54th Regiment, the first African Americans to fight in the Civil War, is one of the sites on the Black Heritage Trail in Boston.
African Americans lived freely in Boston during a time when those in the South were still living in slavery. By the year 1800, Boston’s free African-American community was one of the largest in North America. If you’re looking for ways to observe Black History Month in February with your family, try these Beantown attractions:
• The Boston African American National Historic Site – The National Park Service has designated 15 pre-Civil War structures located on the north slope of Boston’s Beacon Hill as a historic site. The area is comprised of the Black Heritage Trail and the Museum of African American History, among other structures. These all honor the 19th-century African Americans who lived freely in Boston and were leaders in the Abolition Movement, the Underground Railroad, the Civil War and early struggles for civil rights and education. Learn more about this site at nps.gov/boa.
• The Black Heritage Trail – This 1.6-mile walk takes you past 14 Beacon Hill-area sites related to Boston’s 19th-century black community, beginning with a memorial honoring Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts’ 54th Regiment, the first African Americans to fight in the Civil War. The African Meeting House, established in 1806 and the last stop on the trail, is the oldest existing black congregation church in the country. The National Park Service offers guided walking tours of the trail daily from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend and at other times by special request. Self-guided tour information is also available. For more information, contact the park service at 617-742-5414 or visit afroammuseum.org/trail.
• The Museum of African American History – Located at 46 Joy St., in Boston, the historic African Meeting House and Abiel Smith School make up this museum that chronicles black history in Boston. The school building, the nation’s first public school for African American children, houses the museum’s exhibit galleries. “Freedom Rising 2013,” a new exhibit opening this month, commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, the first African Americans to fight in the Civil War.