Why visit the Boston African American National Historic Site?
The Boston African American National Historic Site offers students insight into an important and exciting part of Boston history that is often unknown or overlooked. Your students will explore and learn about the important people and places from the time of the Revolutionary War to the Civil War. The Black Heritage Trail® teaches about the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, Abolitionism, the Underground Railroad, and the role of African Americans in the Civil War. The trail aligns with Massachusetts Curriculum Standards and provides great discussion about leadership, diversity, and courage. Check out our curriculum resources and add African American History to your classroom!
Below please find a listing of websites that offer curricular materials and primary sources relating to the free black community of Boston
o A Library of Congress collection that includes many materials on Free Blacks in the Revolutionary era, the Antebellum period and the Civil War. Several figures from Massachusetts feature prominently in this collection, including Phillis Wheatley, Prince Hall, William Lloyd Garrison, and Frederick Douglass.
o The Anti-Slavery Literature project is a joint endeavor between Arizona State University and Iowa State University to electronically publish material on the literature and history of the anti-slavery movement in America. These include anti-slavery tracts and sermons relating to the end of the slave trade, as well as to abolition in general. Prominent individuals mentioned in these documents include, Jedediah Morse, Wendell Phillips, Maria Weston Chapman, William Lloyd Garrison, Ralph Waldo Emerson, David Walker and Frederick Douglass.
o The Yale University Law School has digitized a collection of documents relating to law, history and diplomacy. These include several documents relating to the history of African Americans in Boston, including materials relating to the Amistad case, the Fugitive Slave Act, the Emancipation Proclamation, the speeches of Frederick Douglass and the trial of John Brown.
o A joint project of the Boston Athenaeum, the Bostonian Society, Historic New England Library and Archives, and the Massachusetts Historical Society, this site includes broadsides, caricatures, illustrations, manuscripts, pamphlets, political cartoons, portraits and views, all relating to the African American experience in history of Boston.
o The Boston Public Library has many primary documents available online, with an anti-slavery collection that deals with the abolitionist movement in Boston. This collection includes the correspondence and speeches of William Lloyd Garrison, as well as the correspondence of other prominent abolitionists, including Maria Weston Chapman and Wendell Phillips.
o The National Park Service has partnered with the University of Houston and other organizations to offer this digital archive of American History resources. Digital History has a variety of documents that relate to the Boston African American National Historic Site, including material on the Amistad, the John Brown Trial and the Boston Massacre Trial, as well as political party platforms from the 19th century.
o Frederick Douglass was an African American abolitionist who escaped slavery and became an outspoken lecturer, writer and publisher. During his career, Douglass frequently traveled to Boston to speak and work with figures in the community, including William Lloyd Garrison. Douglass also played a prominent role in the founding of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment. Many of his papers have been digitized by the Library of Congress.
o A digital collection from the Library of Congress, made up of pamphlets from the Daniel A.P. Murray Collection. These pamphlets were written by many prominent African Americans, including Frederick Douglass. Several of these pamphlets relate to groups or events in Boston, including the African Society, the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, and the rescue of Shadrach Minkins.
o A selection of documents relating to slavery and emancipation which have been digitized by the National Archives and Records Administration. The records in this collection specifically relate to the Northeast region, with particular information on Lewis Hayden, one of the most prominent figures in the history of Boston's free black community.
o Complied by former Boston African American National Historic Site Park Ranger, Horace Seldon, the Liberator Files is a digital collection of items which appeared in The Liberator, one of the most prominent anti-slavery newspapers in the nation. These documents cover the period of William Lloyd Garrison's editorship, between 1805 and 1879.
o A collection of primary source documents digitized by the University of Michigan, including pamphlets on the struggle for equal school rights in Boston.
o The Massachusetts Historical Society offers a variety of digital collections that focus on abolition and the free black community of 19th century Boston. These include "Images of the Antislavery Movement in Massachusetts", "African Americans and the End of Slavery in Massachusetts", and "The 54th Regiment"
o A part of the digital collections of the Library of Congress, the Slaves and the Courts site highlights significant legal cases relating to slavery between 1740 and 1860. These cases include several that pertain to the Boston African American Historic Site, such as the Amistad Case, the Trial of Anthony Burns and the Trial of Theodore Parker, as well as arguments by Richard H. Dana and Wendell Phillips.
o A selection of documents from the National Archives and Records Administration which relate to the slave trade. These include information on the Amistad case.
Did You Know?
By 1800 some 1,100 Black Bostonians made up one of the largest free African American communities in North America.