Longfellow House Washington's Headquarters
National Historic Site Massachusetts

Black History

Black history is integral to every era of the Vassall-Craigie-Longfellow House. On this page you'll find stories of slavery and resistance; of freedom and community; of abolition and education.

This home was originally built for enslaver and sugar planter John Vassall Jr. in 1759. The people he and his family enslaved in Cambridge - including married couple Cuba and Anthony Vassall and their children - seized their freedom in 1774. Others enslaved by John Vassall in Cambridge included Dinah, Malcolm, William, and three children: James and two unnamed “small boys.”

Cuba and Anthony Vassall's children became involved in the struggle for abolition and civil rights, occasionally intersecting with the Longfellows' philanthropic abolitionist efforts. Other key stories include the experiences of free and enslaved Black laborers at Washington's Cambridge headquarters, literary history, and the site's connection to Tuskegee and Hampton Universities.
Manuscript with Anthony Vassal's "T" mark in the lower right corner

Though Dwelling in a Land of Freedom

Learn more about the lives and activism of Tony and Cuba Vassall - enslaved and free at 105 Brattle St. - and their descendants.

Historical document reading Anthony Vassall / Coby Vassall

Bondage and the Building of Brattle St.

We explore the early history of 105 Brattle Street, focusing on the history of slavery and emancipation at the site.

1872 engraving of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Beyond "Poems on Slavery"

This new article examines the work of Black abolitionist poets Frances E.W. Harper and George M. Horton in contrast with Longfellow.

Printed seal for Hampton Institute features plow, books, globe, and tools

“More Precious Than Rubies”

Learn about the Black students whose education and work at Hampton Institute and Tuskegee Institute was supported by Alice Longfellow.

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    5 minutes, 39 seconds

    Ranger Anna explores the early history of 105 Brattle Street, including the history of slavery and emancipation at the site.


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    Unfinished: America at 250

    The American Revolution remains unfinished. Visit Unfinished 250 for upcoming events, speakers, and related articles.

    Last updated: June 20, 2022

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    105 Brattle Street
    Cambridge , MA 02138


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