On the North Slope of Beacon Hill, the 1806 African Meeting House is the country’s oldest extant black church, but it’s better known as the “Black Faneuil Hall,” in honor of the fact that it once rang with speeches by Frederick Douglass and other prominent abolitionists. The meeting house and the Abiel Smith School (1834) make up this fascinating museum, which is the last stop on the Black Heritage Trail. Along with its campus on Nantucket, the museum tells the story of the free and enslaved blacks who helped shape American history beginning in the colonial era. The Smith School, the first public school built expressly for African-American children, now holds three floors of exhibits. The story they tell makes an important and inspiring complement to the Revolutionary War–era history that dominates downtown Boston. With thoughts of the Underground Railroad in your head, you’ll look at Beacon Hill in a new light.
If you are heading here in 2014 or 2015, check ahead for details of the museum’s variety of Freedom Rising programs, which commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.