I'm standing by the Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment memorial by Augustus Saint-Gaudens in Boston, Mass. This sculpture, dedicated in 1897, was commissioned to commemorate the most notable Black troops to see combat in the Civil War. William Carney, a soldier who was shot several times in the assault at Fort Wagner in South Carolina, rescued the regiment's battle flag and became the first Black man to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor. A copy of this sculpture is at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and it became the main reason I would visit the museum when I lived in D.C. Aug. 14, 2017
The history of Boston is the history of America. I will begin with the past because so much of this country’s revolutionary history from my school days took place right here in Boston. Yet, there are people in Boston whose names never made it to my history books like William Carney, Elizabeth Freeman, George Middleton, Charles Morris, Charles Sumner, William Cooper Nell, Lewis Hayden and the husband and wife team of William and Ellen Craft.
Don’t get me wrong, it was great t
o be reintroduced to America’s revolutionary heroes like Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, John Hancock and Benjamin Franklin, but it was the chance to see the fight for freedom on all fronts that makes Boston such a historical melting pot.
The thing about history is sometimes it can be very one sided and if we don’t wake up to the accomplishments of all, history has a way of repeating itself when we don’t learn the lessons the first time. And, when you come to Boston and see how people died to free themselves from British rule and from the brutal bonds of slavery, you begin to understand that present-day people either don’t know their history or they don’t care what valuable lessons their history…an inclusive American history… can teach them about our present and future.
Okay, enough preaching.
Boston is a very walkable city. And, if you have a good pair of shoes, which I did and have beautiful weather, which was definitely the case, Boston is stunning.
This morning I took the 2.5 mile walking tour of the Freedom Trail and the 1.6 mile walking tour of the Black Heritage Trail and both were fascinating. The Black Heritage Trail tour is conducted by the National Park Service and it is not only excellent, but it is free. And, better than the Freedom Trail tour I paid for through Boston Walks.
Let me show you just some of what I got to see during my first full day in Boston.
The Freedom Trail walking tour began with the Old State House and Boston Massacre Site in Boston, Mass. Five colonists, including Crispus Attucks, a free black man, were killed by British soldiers on March 5, 1770. The Old State House served as Boston’s City Hall from 1830 to 1841. (Aug. 14, 2017)
A Freedom Trail marker…and my feet selfie…implanted on the sidewalk denoting stops in Boston, Mass. Aug. 14, 2017
The Old South Meeting House was built in 1729 to replace the Cedar Meeting House in Boston, Mass. Here Benjamin Franklin was baptized and where poet Phyllis Wheatley, who was kidnapped from Africa and sold into slavery in Boston, worshipped. Kidnapped from Africa and sold into slavery in Boston, Wheatley, who died around age 31, was the first published African-American female poet. Aug. 14, 2017
The Old City Hall from 1865 to 1969 is now a Ruth Chris Steak House Restaurant, but Boston has become very good at preserving the exterior of its historic buildings. Aug. 14, 2017
The street mosaic outside of the Old City Hall in Boston is a 1983 hopscotch grid to commemorate the original site of the Boston Latin School, the first public school in the US. The school educated many influential politicians and writers, including Benjamin Franklin and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Aug. 14, 2017
The street mosaic outside of the Old City Hall in Boston is a 1983 hopscotch grid to commemorate the original site of the Boston Latin School, the first public school in the U.S. And, the Freedom Trail marker along with the bricked paved line marks the trail. Aug. 14, 2017
A costumed guide at the Old Granary Burying Ground in Boston, Mass., sharing the history of the final resting place for three signers of the Declaration of Independence, John Hancock, Samuel Adams and Robert Treat Paine. Paul Revere, known for his famous ride to alert the Patriots of the British march on Lexington and Concord, is also buried here. Aug. 14, 2017
The Old Granary Burying Ground in Boston, Mass., with the large Franklin cenotaph in the center of the cemetery. This obelisk marks the grave of Benjamin Franklin’s parents. Although Franklin was born in Boston in 1706, he left for Philadelphia when he was 17. He died there in 1790 and is buried there. Aug. 14, 2017
I’m standing by the Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment memorial by Augustus Saint-Gaudens in Boston, Mass. This sculpture, dedicated in 1897, was commissioned to commemorate the most notable Black troops to see combat in the Civil War. William Carney, a soldier who was shot several times in the assault at Fort Wagner in South Carolina, rescued the regiment’s battle flag and became the first Black man to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor. A copy of this sculpture is at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and it became the main reason I would visit the museum when I lived in D.C. Aug. 14, 2017
A close up of the the black soldiers of the Robert Gould Shaw and the 54the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment memorial in Boston, Mass. The story of the unit was depicted in the 1989 Academy Award-winning film Glory, starring Matthew Broderick as Shaw, Denzel Washington as Private Tripp, Morgan Freeman, Cary Elwes, Jihmi Kennedy and Andre Braugher. Aug. 14, 2017
The Massachusetts State House with its gold dome was completed in 1798 and built on John Hancock’s former cow pasture. The dome, which was once made of wood, was later overlaid with copper by Paul Revere. Aug. 14, 2017
Stairway leading from the Boston Commons (more about Boston Commons tomorrow) into the historic Boston, Mass., neighborhood of Beacon Hill. It is a neighborhood of Federal-style rowhouses and is known for its narrow, gaslit streets and brick sidewalks. Aug. 14, 2017
The cobble-stoned Acorn Street on Beacon Hill is considered to be one of the most photographed streets in the city and is reminiscent of colonial Boston with its row houses and true cobble-stoned street where 19th century artisans and trades people once lived. Aug. 14, 2017
This gray house on Pinckney Street on Boston’s Beacon Hill was the home of George Middleton (1735 -1815) an African-American Revolutionary War veteran, a Prince Hall Freemason, a horse trainer by trade and a community civil rights activist in Massachusetts. Aug. 14, 2017
The Phillips School, built in 1834 for white children, is on the Black Heritage Trail because of Sarah Roberts, a 5-year-old black child who had to walk past several white schools to get to the all-black school of Ariel Smith. With the help of Robert Morris, a black attorney and Charles Sumner, a white abolitionist attorney, Sarah’s father, Benjamin Franklin Roberts filed a lawsuit challenging school segregation. The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled, in 1850, that “separate but equal” schools were constitutional. But that was overturned in 1855 when a law was passed ordering all public schools in the state to be integrated. It is now a private residence. Aug. 14, 2017
This is the former Beacon Hill home of African-American abolitionists Lewis and Harriet Hayden in Boston, Mass., who escaped from slavery in Kentucky and Meagan, the insightful park ranger with the National Park Service relating this couple’s history. The Haydens maintained the home as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Lewis Hayden was an important leader in the African-American community of Boston;in addition, he lectured as an abolitionist and was a member of the Boston Vigilance Committee, which resisted the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. The Act provided for the return of slaves who escaped from one state into another state or territory. Supposedly the Haydens kept kegs of gunpowder under their front porch, and when visited by slave bounty hunters looking to retrieve runaway slaves, would come to the door with lit candles and a rifle, threatening to blow up their own home rather than surrender ex-slaves in their trust. Lewis is said to have helped at least 100 slaves find freedom including the Crafts, William and Ellen who as a fair skinned woman was able to disguise herself as a man with her husband as her slave. Aug. 14, 2017
A plaque on this building is dedicated to the birthplace of white abolitionist Charles Sumner (1811-1874) in Boston, Mass. Although this is not the original home, it honors Sumner who became a powerful anti-slavery voice in Congress. Sumner was born on Irving Street in Boston on January 6, 1811. He was the son of Charles Pinckney Sumner, a liberal Harvard-educated lawyer, abolitionist, and early proponent of racially integrated schools. Aug. 14, 2017
The North slope section of Boston’s Beacon Hill was a seedy waterfront area where the water and noxious smell of the Charles River along with the narrow alleys and passageways made this area a breeding ground for vice. But for the black residents the area was ideal for avoiding slave catchers. Aug. 14, 2017
Boston was long considered a desirable destination for southern black slaves escaping slavery via the Underground Railroad. This passageway, known by the residents of the North slope of Beacon Hill was probably used to hide and/or escape from the slave catchers. Between 1800 and 1900, most of the free African Americans in Boston lived in this hilly neighborhood with winding streets and narrow pedestrian alleyways. Aug. 14, 2017
The African Meeting House built in 1806 and located in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston, Mass., was also known as the First African Baptist Church. It is considered to be the oldest black church edifice still standing in the United States. The African Meeting House is now owned and operated by the Museum of African American History. Aug. 14, 2017
The interior of the African Meeting House in Boston, Mass., where during the Civil War it became the major recruitment center for the volunteers of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, the first of the United States Colored Troops, who contributed so much to the Union effort. Aug. 14, 2017
Me at the replicated podium inside the African Meeting House in Boston, Mass., considered the first African-American church in the United States became the gathering place of the anti-slavery movement. Here is where Frederick Douglass gave many speeches. including his impassioned call for blacks to take up arms against the South in the American Civil War. Aug. 14, 2017
The William Cooper Nell (1816-1874) House, now a private residence, was a boarding home located in 3 Smith Court in the Beacon Hill neighbourhood of Boston, Mass., and is across the street from the former African Meeting House, now the Museum of African American History. Nell, as a young boy was the recipient of the Benjamin Franklin Award for scholastic abilities but because he was black, he was not allowed to attend the award’s event. That incident propelled Nell to dedicate his life to desegregate Boston’s schools, performance halls and railroads. He was also a leader of the black resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act. Aug. 14, 2017
The Abiel Smith School on 46 Joy Street on Beacon Hill now houses the Museum of African American History in Boston, Mass. Founded in 1835, all black children in Boston were assigned to the Smith school, which replaced a basement school in the African Meeting House next door. Aug. 14, 2017
A photographic exhibit of Frederick Douglass at the Museum of African American History in Boston, Mass. Douglass, after escaping from slavery in Maryland, became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, gaining notoriety for his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery writings. Aug. 14, 2017
More of the Frederick Douglass exhibit at the Museum of African American History in Boston, Mass. Aug. 14, 2017
Sculptor Mary Edmonia Lewis lived and worked in Boston in 1863 at the invitation of Frederick Douglass. Aug. 14, 2017
The houses along Joy street in Boston. ThisThe area around Belknap Street (now Joy Street) in particular became home to more than 1,000 blacks beginning in the mid-1700s. Aug. 14, 2017
This is one of several plaques on buildings along Joy Street (formerly Belknap Street) in Boston, Mass., commemorating the contributions of African-Americans. Aug. 14, 2017
And, here’s another plaque on a buildings along Joy Street (formerly Belknap Street) in Boston, Mass., commemorating the contributions of African-Americans. Aug. 14, 2017