Last updated: March 28, 2023
Charles Street Meeting House
Built in 1807, the Charles Street Meeting House originally served as the home of the Third Baptist Church. Like most Boston churches at the time, Third Baptist enforced racially segregated seating. In 1836, Timothy Gilbert, a White abolitionist, challenged the church's policy by inviting several of his African American friends to sit in his pew. Expelled for his actions, Gilbert founded the First Free Baptist Church, also known as Tremont Temple, considered the first integrated church in Boston. In 1876, Third Baptist sold the building to the First African Methodist Episcopal Church. Known thereafter as the Charles Street A.M.E. Church, it became the largest of Boston's five Black churches at the time. When the church moved to Warren Street in Roxbury in 1939, Charles Street A.M.E. Church became the last Black institution to leave Beacon Hill.1
Throughout its history, the Charles Street Meeting House served as a space for social activism. During abolition, anti-slavery leaders held lectures and meetings. At the end of the 1800s, women's suffragists of the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association held suffrage meetings to encourage support among the Black community.2 In 1895, Black clubwomen held a special meeting at the end of the First National Conference of Colored Women of America to establish a national organization that laid the foundation for the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs.3 As the neighborhood changed in the 1900s, the Meeting House became a safe space for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
**Historic buildings on the Black Heritage Trail® are private property and not open to the public. Please respect the privacy of the owners.
Listen: Charles Street Meeting House on the Black Heritage Trail Audio Tour
Charles Street Meeting House - Boston African American National Historic Site
- "Black Heritage Trail," Boston African American National Historic Site, c.1980s.
- “Suffrage Meeting in Ward Nine,” Woman’s Journal 16, no. 40 (October 3, 1885), Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, accessed January 10, 2020, https://iiif.lib.harvard.edu/manifests/view/drs:49020442$322i.
- "Historical Records of Conventions of 1895-96 of the Colored Women of America," (1902), Ida B. Wells Papers, University of Chicago Library , https://www.lib.uchicago.edu/ead/pdf/ibwells-0009-006.pdf.