Lectures curated around the bicentennial of the African Meeting House and the Abiel Smith School on Beacon Hill in Boston.
Located in what once was the heart of Boston's 19th-century African American community, these buildings remain a showcase of black community organization and enduring testimony to black craftsmanship.
The African Meeting House on Beacon Hill was built in 1806 and hosted giants in the Abolitionist Movement. The African Meeting House is the oldest black church edifice still standing in the United States. The African Meeting House was constructed almost entirely with black labor. Funds for the project were raised in both the white and black communities. Cato Gardner, a native of Africa, was responsible for raising more than $1,500 toward the total $7,700 to complete the meeting house. A commemorative inscription above the front door reads: "Cato Gardner, first Promoter of this Building 1806."
The Abiel Smith School was named after a white businessman who left an endowment of $2,000 to the city of Boston for the education of black children. Constructed in 1834 and dedicated in 1835, the Smith primary and grammar school replaced the Meeting House School to educate a great number of the black children of Boston. In 1787, Prince Hall petitioned the Massachusetts legislature for African American access to the public school system but was denied. Eleven years later, after petitions by the black parents for separate schools were also denied, black parents organized a community school in the home of Primus Hall, Prince Hall's son, on the corner of West Cedar and Revere Streets on Beacon Hill. In 1808, the grammar school in the Hall home on the northeast corner of West Cedar and Revere Streets was moved to the first floor of the African Meeting House. Not until the 1820s did the city government establish two primary schools for black children.