Charles Street Meeting House

Charles Street Meeting House Boston

Boston Black Heritage Trail/Charles Street Meeting House
Museum of African American History
Written By Museum of African American History

The Museum of African American History inspires all generations to embrace and interpret the authentic stories of New Englanders of African descent, and those who found common cause with them, in their quest for freedom and justice. Through its historic buildings, collections, and programs, the Museum expands cultural understanding and promotes dignity and respect for all.

Charles Street Baptist Church is born

This meeting house was built in 1807 by the white Third Baptist Church of Boston. The question arose sometime later as to whether this name was not strictly the property of the African church on Smith Court. The name was consequently changed to Charles Street Baptist Church.

Path to integration

The segregationist tradition of New England church seating patterns prevailed here. In the mid-1830s, they were challenged by one of the church's abolitionist members, Timothy Gilbert, who invited some black friends to his pew one Sunday to test the rule. Gilbert was expelled.

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Joined by other white abolitionist Baptists, Gilbert went on to found the First Baptist Free Church which became the Tremont Temple, "the first integrated church in America."

From then to now

After the Civil War, the black population of Boston increased considerably, and the largest of its churches purchased this building in 1876. The African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E.) remained here until 1939. It was the last black institution to leave Beacon Hill. Today the Charles Street A.M.E. is located on Elm Hill Avenue and Warren Street in Roxbury.

{Cover photo from Daderot via Wikimedia Commons}

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