The African Meeting House on Beacon Hill, Boston, Massachusetts

The African Meeting House on Beacon Hill is the oldest African American extant church in the United States. Built in the Colonial style in 1806 largely by black laborers in the heart of Boston’s African American community, the meetinghouse was a magnet for the free and self-emancipated black community in the new republic’s formative years. The African Meeting House served as a center for the community as a church, school, and public space for celebrations, political and social reform meetings. Its walls hosted key figures in the Abolitionist Movement including William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Maria Stewart, and Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. As the black community migrated to other neighborhoods in the late nineteenth century, the African Meeting House became a Jewish synagogue until 1972 when the Museum of African American History acquired it. Returned to its mid-nineteenth century appearance, the African Meeting House is a testament to black craftsmanship and a symbol for equality and freedom of speech.