The Black Heritage Trail® is a walking tour that explores the history of Boston's 19th
century African American community.
Guided walking tours are offered by the
National Park Service daily, Memorial Day
weekend through Labor Day weekend, and other times by special request. A self-guided
walking tour map and guide is also available. For more information on the tour, please
contact the museum.
Note: The historic homes on the Black Heritage Trail® are private
residences and are not open to the public. Only the African Meeting House and the Abiel
Smith School may be entered.
Tour the Black Heritage Trail® Online
Between 1800 and 1900, most of the African Americans who lived in the city lived in the
West End, between Pinckney and Cambridge Streets, and between Joy and Charles Streets, a
neighborhood now called the North Slope of Beacon Hill.
The first Africans arrived in Boston in February of 1638, eight years after the city
was founded. They were brought as slaves, purchased in Providence Isle, a Puritan colony
off the coast of Central America. By 1705, there were over 400 slaves in Boston and the
beginnings of a free black community in the North End.
The American Revolution was a turning point in the status of Africans in Massachusetts.
At the end of the conflict, there were more free black people than slaves. When the first
federal census was enumerated in 1790, Massachusetts was the only state in the Union to
record no slaves.
The all-free black community in Boston was concerned with finding decent housing,
establishing independent supportive institutions, educating their children, and ending
slavery in the rest of the nation. All of these concerns were played out in this Beacon
To begin your tour of the Black Heritage Trail®, click on the footsteps.
If you would like to visit individual locations, choose from the list below, or use our
Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Regiment Memorial
George Middleton House
The Phillips School
John J. Smith House
Charles Street Meeting House
Lewis and Harriet Hayden House
John Coburn House
Smith Court Residences
Abiel Smith School
The African Meeting House
You may also visit the online tour of
the the Black Heritage Trail, Nantucket