The 54th Regiment Memorial, The African American Meeting House, and a Beacon Hill street light marking the trail's path.
(Photos from: Virtual Tourist, Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism, Boston.com)
Tom Beacham, GBP Student
One of the main points focused on in The Greater Boston Project is interacting with the community that is Boston. One of the best ways this is done, and our favorite as students, is leaving room 728 of NHS and going out into the community. These are opportunities to see these types of things with our own eyes. The trip to The Black Heritage Trail in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston was a great example of this, as we got to go into Boston and see the buildings where the events we read and talk about take place.
Over the course of the day we all walked the beautiful area of Beacon Hill all while looking at historical places that all played a major role for the black community in Boston. One of these places that we visited was the 54th Regiment Memorial Statue in front of the Massachusetts State House, where we talked about how this regiment was the first all African-American fighting unit in United States history; and, despite being thought of as bad and cowardly soldiers at the time, they took on one of the toughest jobs of the war. On July 18, 1863, the regiment became famous for leading an assault on Fort Wagner, deemed a “suicide mission” that regiment General Shaw volunteered for to prove the soldiers were not cowards. This was part of the move to capture the Confederate city of Charleston, South Carolina. In the hard-fought battle Shaw and many members of the regiment were killed. This is just one example of the many different places that we went to on the Black Histroy Trail.
One thing in common at all the different sites is that at each of the places we stopped at, the teachers told us stories of how African-Americans lived in Boston at the time. THe stories were often about these residents having the courage to stand up for what they thought was right, as well as defining what they were up against and overcoming it. Some examples of this were at the Phillips School, which was also known as the dividing line between white and black areas of town in the antebellum period as it was the best of the white schools in the city. Another stop on the tour was the Lewis & Harriet Hayden House, where slaves would reportedly hide in the North as part of the Underground Railroad. The house showed support for African Americans because when slave catchers showed up, the Haydens would threaten to blow up the house with a single match, having stored gun powder in the basement. A third place we went was the African American Meeting House. The meeting house became the host to giants in the Abolitionist Movement who were responsible for monumental historical events. These are just some of the many places we went to on the tour.
All of the buildings showed a different side of historic Boston which we explored on the trip. Specifically looking at the black heritage in Boston, it was interesting to see how African Americans interacted with the community and how the community interacted with them. As a whole, this trip was a good representation of the GBP course as a whole. We went into the community and learned about the history of the city, thinking about the things we learned in class in a real-world setting. We were able to enjoy time out of the classroom while taking in the interesting city history of Boston with our own eyes and experiences.
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