Tenth in our series to appear on the first Friday of each month: Boston Firsts Fridays. #BostonFirsts
First Realty Management Corp. was founded in Boston over 50 years ago. We are proud to call this wonderful city our home, and call focus to some of the events & innovations that happened FIRST in Boston.
BF#10 African-American History Firsts: First African-American Meeting House & First Public School for African-American Children: Abiel Smith School
In honor of African-American History Month (http://www.africanamericanhistorymonth.gov/) our Boston Firsts Friday for February is focusing on two important firsts that stand together quite literally:
- The 1806 construction of the The African Meeting House at 8 Smith Court
- The 1835 founding of the Abiel Smith School at adjacent 46 Joy Street
It seems only fitting to feature both firsts together, as they share a common history in addition to their location; the school began in the meeting house. Both sites are celebrated at 46 Joy Street, now home of The Museum of African American History (http://www.afroammuseum.org/index.htm).
The African Meeting House was built in 1806 as a Baptist church and stands today as the oldest African-American church structure in the United States. African-Americans in Boston were barred from or discriminated against when attending white churches, both prior to and even after creation of this church. In addition to church services, the meeting house was host to anti-slavery meetings and speeches by such luminaries as Frederick Douglass, Maria Stewart and attended by Harriet Tubman.
The meeting house also housed the African School from 1808 until the opening of the Abiel Smith School next door in 1834-1835. Prior to that time, the school was located in a private home as community members petitioned the Boston School Committee for recognition and funding. The school was closed in 1855 when the Massachusetts Legislature finally outlawed segregation in public schools.
Among the many important historical events to take place at the site was a recruiting rally in 1863 for the MA 54th Regiment, one of the first official African American units in the United States during the Civil War (popularized in the 1989 motion picture “Glory” and immortalized at the 54th Regiment Memorial by Augustus Saint-Gaudens on Boston Common).
The Museum of African American History: http://www.afroammuseum.org/index.htm
The National Park Service has a website on all of the Boston African American National Historic Sites: http://www.nps.gov/boaf/index.htm
The Abiel Smith School: http://www.nps.gov/boaf/historyculture/abiel-smith-school.htm
The African Meeting House: http://www.nps.gov/boaf/historyculture/amh.htm