We will begin in the North End, Boston's oldest neighborhood, by discussing the arrival of the first enslaved Africans. As we pass by such key monuments as Copp’s Hill Burying Ground or the Prince Hall Monument we'll discuss the system of slavery in Massachusetts, which was the first state to accord legal status to slavery, and how at times resembled indentured servitude. As a result, we'll learn, by 1650 there were a number of free Africans living in the Boston area, enjoying a variety of legal rights.
As we move through the North End and such sites from the provincial period as the capitol, now called the Old State House, we'll discuss the role of African Americans in the Revolutionary War.
Our focus will shift eventually to Beacon Hill where in the last quarter of the eighteenth century the African-American community relocated. In this area, once part of the now mostly obliterated West End, we will find the oldest extant black church building in the nation, the African Meeting House. Using this historic structure as a backdrop we'll look at how the black community established itself here and the various intellectual and cultural contributions that it made to Boston at large. Our journey may also bring us into the Common to visit the Shaw Monument that commemorates the participation of African Americans in the Civil War.
Public education, religious freedom, community organization, Abolition, and war are all consistent themes that we'll explore as we travel through more than two centuries of Boston's history together, from the arrival of Africans in Boston and the departure of the Massachusetts 54th Infantry Regiment in 1863.