• Dedication of the Shaw Memorial 1897

    Boston African American

    National Historic Site Massachusetts

George and Susan Hillard House- 62 Pinckney Street

The George and Susan Hillard House, located at 62 Pinckney Street, was built circa 1835. The Hillards lived there from the early 1840s until the 1870s. George Hillard was a law partner of Charles Sumner, until Sumner was elected to the U.S. Senate. However, these men’s political views grew more divergent over time. Sumner became the most forceful abolitionist in the Senate, but Hillard remained a more conservative Whig. While Hillard believed that slavery was wrong, he sided politically with Senator Daniel Webster and was not willing to risk the dissolution of the nation to end slavery.

In addition, George Hillard was a federal commissioner and in 1850 this meant that he had to uphold the new Fugitive Slave Law by giving out arrest warrants to slave catcher. This law, which did not allow the accused to speak in their own defense, put all African American in Boston in jeopardy. Anyone, it seemed, could be kidnapped and taken down into southern slavery. However, Susan Hillard was hiding known fugitive slaves in their home during these very same years, and in full knowledge and plain view of her husband. Whatever his position on national politics, George Hillard was sympathetic to self-emancipated slaves and was a proponent of racial equality, especially in education. Ellen Craft was in the protection of the Hillards in 1850 when slave catchers came to Boston in search of her and her husband. At least five fugitive slaves resided in the Hillard home between 1855 and 1858.

Note: The George and Susan Hillard House is a private residence and is not open to the public.

Sources:

Still, William. Underground Railroad. 1871. Reprint. Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company, 1970.

Taylor, Anne-Marie. Young Charles Sumner and the Legacy of the American Enlightenment, 1811-1851. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001.

“Historic Resource Study Boston African American National Historic Site” by Kathryn Grover and Janine V. da Silva

Did You Know?

Sgt. William Carney of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment and the Boston African American NHS logo

The first African American recipient of the Medal of Honor was William Carney in 1900. Carney was a member of the famous Massachusetts 54th Regiment, and was honored with the medal for his valor at the Battle of Fort Wagner in 1863.