The Legacy of Boston’s African Meeting House, the Oldest Still-Standing Black Church in America

In the spirit of Sankofa – an Ashanti metaphorical symbol that means reaching back to the knowledge of the past and bringing it into the present in order to make positive progress – we celebrate Black History Month throughout the month of February.

Face2Face Africa takes you through the 28-day journey by highlighting 28 landmarks in the United States that are significant to African American history. We start by exploring the African Meeting House in Boston.

The city of Boston, Massachusetts, United States, has had its own share of racial disturbances, civil rights, and protest activism.

From playing a major role in America’s slave trade history, Boston also recorded alarming rates of racial segregation in schools and other public places, with attendant violent protests by white supremacists.

The same city would later play a remarkable role in the abolition of slavery and become a rallying ground for many prominent black abolitionists such as Prince Hall – the father of black Freemasonry – and William Lloyd Garrison, founder of Liberator newspaper in Boston.

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African Meeting House. Pic credit: US Slave

One can, however, not mention the revolutionary and abolitionist history of Boston without highlighting the African Meeting House. Built in 1806, the historic building is located at 46 Joy Street in Boston (Beacon Hill neighbourhood) and is the oldest, still-standing black church in the United States.

It was constructed by free black people who faced discrimination at white churches. Historical accounts state that black congregants were mostly not allowed to sit in the nave with white congregants or to vote in churches.

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The African Meeting House. Pic credit:

The Meeting House, therefore, served as a church, as well as a school for black children. Many black residents from the northern slope of Beacon Hill gathered at the Meeting House to worship and also plan political action.

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Source: Religion News Service