February is Black History Month, so here on the MyHeritage.com blog we're spotlighting historical hotspots in Boston – a city rich in African American History. Visiting these sites and tracing the steps of your distant relatives is a fun and meaningful way to connect to your family's heritage.
The Museum of African American History is the perfect place to embark on a journey back to colonial times to trace African American history in New England. On exhibit through December 2011 is Treasures from the Collections – a retrospective of African American life in Boston. Documents on display include a 1834 city record for Boston's "African Schoolhouse," a 1848 bill of sale for an enslaved man, Edward Home, as well as narratives published by Frederick Douglas.
African Americans have a long and rich history in Massachusetts. In 1638 (only eight years after Boston was founded) the first Africans – purchased in Providence Isle, a Puritan colony off the coast of Central America – were brought to the town. By 1705, with 400 slaves living in the city, a free community started to form in the North End. And it wasn't long before this all-free black community began to tackle the major issues – housing, institution building, education, and above all, abolishing slavery in the rest of the nation. The Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston is the place where these crucial issues were deliberated and realized.
The Museum of African American History is a great starting point for the The Black Heritage Trail, a walking tour that highlights historic figures and monuments. The first site, the Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment Memorial, is a memorial to the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, which was the first black regiment to be recruited in the North. Robert Gould Shaw, a young white officer from a prominent Boston family, volunteered to command the unit.
Click here to tour the virtual Black Heritage Trail.
For a round-up of resources - websites, blogs, DNA research - that will help you learn more about your family, please click here.
Credit: Tour the Black Heritage Trail® Online, http://www.afroammuseum.org/trail.htm Photo: PBS.org, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h1526b.html