African Meeting House

African Meeting House

The African Meeting House, located in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, was built in 1806 and is on the list of National Historic Landmarks. The ‘house’ is the oldest black church standing in America and sits next to the Abiel Smith School.

In old Boston, while blacks were permitted to attend white churches, they had no place to call their own. An African American preacher, Thomas Paul, led black only meetings at Faneuil Hall and formed the First African Baptist Church, buying land for a building that was built a year later and became The African Meeting House. While the pews were still reserved for whites, the church was considered to be the primary place of worship for black Bostonians.

The building was funded by public donations collected from both black and white communities. The end cost of the project was $7,700, $1,500 of which was raised by a single man, Cato Gardner whose name is inscribed above the front door. The construction took approximately a year to complete and was undertaken by blacks comprising a majority of the labor force.

Some 25 years after the building's establishment, William Lloyd Garrison founded the New England Anti-Slavery Society within its walls. The church was used as a meeting place for anti-slavery supporters, political gatherings and religious celebrations and was remodeled in 1850.

In the late 1800s, a Jewish congregation purchased the building as the black community left the area, moving further south in within the city. In 1972, the building stopped serving as a synagogue when it was sold to the Museum of African American History. The building, and the land it sits on, was named a National Historic Landmark in 1974 and is also a part of Boston African American National Historic Site(s).

The museum is open to the public and admission is available for a small fee while seniors 62+ and children 12 and under are admitted for free. The museum operates Monday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm and is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. It should be noted that there is no parking available on site with the closest lot being the Cambridge Street Garage located underneath the Holiday Inn hotel.