No trip to Boston should be complete without a stroll through Beacon Hill. And nestled, nearly hidden, in this lovely neighborhood of hilly, narrow streets and majestic brick townhomes is a small, yet significant unit of the National Park System—Boston African American National Historic Site.
Two important buildings—the Abiel Smith School and the African Meeting House—combine to make up the Museum of African-American History, and anchor the historic site. The Abiel Smith School (which currently houses the park's visitor center) was the first building in the United States constructed as a public school for black children. Children attended school here from the early 1800's until Boston schools were officially desegregated in 1855. Exhibits in the school tell the story of African Americans in New England from the days before the Revolution through the late 19th century. The African Meeting House, build in 1806 was a center of the black community in Boston for nearly 100 years, housing religious meetings and anti-slavery rallies with well-known abolitionists like Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison.
Supplementing the central museum site are several additional historic buildings, including a school, the homes of several prominent Boston African Americans, and the Boston Common monument to Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment. With the exception of the Shaw monument, these buildings are privately owned, but there is a self-guided walking tour, and periodic tours guided by Park Service staff, as well. These sites are all within easy walking distance of each other, and of the Freedom Trail, and are easily accessible by bus or subway. Just make sure to bring comfortable shoes!
—Laura Connors, NPCA