Family Travel: Walk the Black Heritage Trail in Boston, IMG Cred: National Park Service

‘Frederick Douglas’ in Action!


Take your kids on a living history walking tour in Boston.  The Black Heritage Trail runs 1.6 miles and gives visitors a historic perspective into the lives of free African Americans prior to the Civil War in the 19th century.  The self-guided trail and tour that passes 14 historic sites can be traveled any time of year, but the 90-minute ranger-led program offered only in the summer offers a wealth of historical information.

Most of the houses you pass by on the walking tour cannot be entered as they are still actual residences.  However, two notable exceptions to this include the Abiel Smith School and the African Meeting House.  Both built in the early 1800s, they are exceptionally valuable to the black community and history in general.

Throughout its history, the African Meeting House has been a church, school, and community meeting place.  The Meeting House was the setting for numerous historic events including the founding of the New England Anti-Slavery Society in 1832, an anti-slavery speech by Frederick Douglas, and the 1863 recruitment to the MA 54th Regiment in the Civil War.  In addition, the Meeting House is the oldest black church building still standing; Pastor Thomas Paul began preaching at the First African Baptist Church in August of 1805.  Nearly 10 million dollars in historic restorations have refurbished the Meeting House to its 1855 appearance, which now stands as a National Historic Landmark.

The Abiel Smith School was the nation’s first public school for African American children.  Today, the Museum of African American History boasting impressive rotating exhibits fill its halls showcasing the history of African Americans from slavery to today, including a substantial amount of information on the abolitionist movement which had numerous roots in Boston.  An on-site museum store offers souvenirs, historical books, and walking tour maps.

The National Park Service operates tours daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day.  If you are visiting out of season, be sure to pick up a walking tour map and guide at the museum before you begin.


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photo: Courtesy of National Park Service

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