What the African Meeting House Means to Us

Kenneth A. Heidelberg
Former Boston African American
NHS Site Manager

The foundation of the freedom of a people has not been destroyed. Therefore, joy has come in the morning with the opening of the African Meeting House.

Diana Parcon
Director of Capital Improvements & Facility Operations, Museum of African American History

It is an honor to be associated with the restoration of the African Meeting House. To be able to say that I played a role in restoring the crown jewel of the Museum of African American History's historic sites is quite humbling.Being involved with this current restoration is truly a preservation professional's fantasy.To experience the building's transformation to its 1855 period of significance is truly amazing. I am especially grateful that as Project Manager for this restoration I have been a part of the rich history of the African Meeting House.

Horace Seldon
Park Ranger, BOAF

It opens my mind to understand the contradictions on which our nation was founded: All men are created equal, endowed with certain "inalienable" rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. BUT some are only 3/5 of a person, and can be "owned" by others who have "property" rights over them.
It opens my heart to believe the truth, which was known by this north slope community, centered in the Meeting House, and claiming those "inalienable rights."
It opens my spirit to hear David Walker, in this Meeting House, appealing to his brothers to prove that "we are MEN, not brutes".It opens my whole being to feel the energy of a possible world that we must build beginning today!

Bernadette Williams
Volunteer Coordinator, Boston
National Historical Park

What the reopening of the African Meeting House means to me is the beginning of a new chapter in the story of this holy place. On December 6th, 1806, Reverend Paul and his congregation gathered to open this building to all to meet, to talk, to learn and, most of all, to give thanks and praise. This reopening is a collective embodiment of all the great men and women who used this special meeting place to stand up and speak up for those who could not. I know that they passed on to me the will to be strong and to speak out against today's injustices.Because of this place, I know to be proud of our past and never ashamed of our mothers and fathers who were enslaved and endured. We must never forget.

Vincent Licenziato
Phillips Street Resident of Beacon Hill,
Boston, Massachusetts

History Professor Kennell Jackson stated, "Blacks and America were joined at birth… Blacks have contributed immensely to America - building it, helping to produce one of the most unique cultures in the world, expanding its legal definition of itself, lending its geniuses to the improvement of American life."

The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620 - a year after the first Africans arrived at Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. But sadly, for most Americans, the African American story has been completely left out of their history books or it has been distorted by down playing African American contributions to the U.S. The reopening of the African Meeting House rights this wrong.Its very history
tells the story of the African American community's struggle for equal rights, in addition to portraying how black and white Americans could - and did - work together.

Jim Shea
Site Manager, Longfellow House National
Historic Site

The restoration and re-dedication of the African Meeting House is deserving of a great celebration. It is a powerful place with layers of history and deep community connections. It stirs up images of Frederick Douglass, Maria Stewart, Wendell Phillips, William Lloyd Garrison, among many others, who gathered at the Meeting House. It is this place that evokes the earliest efforts towards equality and civil rights for all.

Ryan McNabb
Park Ranger, BOAF

The community centered around the African Meeting House redefined freedom in this country.Having that sacred space once again open to the public will help usforge more powerful connections with their legacy and inspire today's generation to follow in their footsteps.

Tatiana Grant
Park Ranger, BOAF

The reopening of the African American meeting house is a blessing! It brings me closer to the heart of the history that I interpret for visitors on all of my tours. Knowing that significant figures such as abolitionist Frederick Douglass and Maria Stewart spoke here is amazing. Everything this free African American neighborhood fought for has a direct relationship to this building. It is not only inspirational to me but it brings sentiment to the struggle. It is truly unbelievable that this historical site that was built in 1806 will be up and running in 2011!

Jarumi Crooks
Park Ranger, BOAF

When I was about 8 years old, I visited Boston for the first time from Albany, NY. Various things stay with me in memory, but what stands out the most is my visit to the African Meeting House. As a child, I loved the stories of Frederick Douglass, Nat Turner, and Harriet Tubman: models of African American resistance in the face of injustice. To have a Park Ranger explain the history of the Meeting House had a profound affect on me as a child. To understand that as long as you had the confidence to stand for something, even in the face of everyone telling you that you are wrong, meant to me that adversity could be overcome. Here I am, 20 years later, in the Park Ranger position. I now have the opportunity to interpret the African Meeting House history to the next generation of curious young people.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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