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The Black Heritage Trail

The Black Heritage Trail is a path in Boston that highlights the rich history of the African American community in the city during the 19th century. It traverses through the Beacon Hill neighborhood and includes a collection of historic sites that played a significant role in the life and achievements of the city’s African American residents, as well as in the broader narrative of the American abolitionist movement.


Beacon Hill, once the heart of Boston’s 19th-century African American community, housed many of the leaders of the abolitionist movement and served as a pivotal network point for the Underground Railroad. The creation of the Black Heritage Trail was an effort to preserve and share this important part of American history.

Notable Stops on the Trail

  1. Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment Memorial: This monument honors the first African American regiment in the North to fight for the Union during the Civil War.
  2. African Meeting House: Built in 1806, it is the oldest existing black church building constructed primarily by African Americans in the United States.
  3. Abiel Smith School: The first public school for African American children, opened in 1835.
  4. John J. Smith House: Home of a black abolitionist who served three terms in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
  5. Lewis and Harriet Hayden House: A stop on the Underground Railroad, owned by escaped slaves who became prominent abolitionists.
  6. George Middleton House: Built around 1797, it was owned by George Middleton, a Revolutionary War veteran and leader in the black community.


The trail is centered in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston, with the main information starting at the Museum of African American History, located at 46 Joy Street, Boston, MA 02114.


For more details on the trail, including guided tours and educational resources, you can visit the Museum of African American History’s website:


The trail can be experienced through self-guided tours or by guided tour led by the National Park Service during certain months of the year. Guided tours typically start at the visitor center at 15 State Street.

Tips for Visiting

  1. Wear Comfortable Shoes: The trail includes walking on some steep, uneven streets of the historic Beacon Hill neighborhood.
  2. Weather Preparations: Check the weather beforehand and dress accordingly; the trail is outdoors.
  3. Visit the Museum: Start at the Museum of African American History to gain context for the sites on the trail.
  4. Guided Tours: If possible, schedule a visit when guided tours are available for a more informative experience.
  5. Respect the Neighborhood: Remember that Beacon Hill is a residential area, so please be considerate of the community.
  6. Allow Time: Give yourself at least 1-2 hours to walk the trail and absorb the history.
  7. Accessibility: Be aware that some areas of the trail may be challenging for those with mobility issues.


The Black Heritage Trail offers a profound educational experience, shedding light on the lives of African Americans who shaped not only the history of Boston but also the course of the nation. Walking the trail provides an opportunity to honor the legacy of courage, resilience, and determination that defines the African American journey toward freedom and equality.

Places to Visit