Field Trip :: African Meeting House + Abiel Smith School


Interior of African Meeting House Boston (photo: wgbh)

By: Curtis Robinson, BArch Candidate 

Making a list of things to do before the semester gets too crazy and you still have some time to get out and have a life? Make sure you put a visit to the Museum of African American History on that list. The African Meeting House and The Abiel Smith School, located on the north slope of Beacon Hill, remain a showcase of the African American Community and a testimony to craftsmanship of the time. 


Central aisle of Meeting House
The African Meeting House was built in 1806 in what was once the heart of Boston's 19th century African American community. The facade of the Meeting House is an adaption of a design for a townhouse designed by Boston architect, Asher Benjamin. The building was used for both educational and religious purposes, and turned into a place for celebrations and political and anti-slavery meetings. The building was sold at the end of the 19th century to a Jewish congregation, but was acquired by the Museum of African American History in 1972. It has since undergone extensive renovations and has been restored to its original design, with modern additions making the building accessible to all who wish to visit.

Historic Abiel Smith School, Boston
The historic Abiel Smith School is the first building in the nation built for the sole purpose of serving as a public school for the African American community of Boston in the early 1800s. The building now serves as exhibit space for the museum. Check out the current exhibits, celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. For a list of future exhibits click here.

Don't forget to check out the Black Heritage Trail, as the buildings are along the guided tour of Boston's 19th century African American community. The buildings are open Monday through Saturday from 10am-4pm with an admission fee of $5.00. The African Meeting House and Abiel Smith School are both located within the Beacon Hill neighborhood at 46 Joy Street.