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.
The building itself
Built in 1797, this is the oldest extant home built by African Americans on Beacon Hill. Its original owners were George Middleton (1735-1815), a liveryman, and Louis Glapion, a hairdresser. Both Middleton and Glapion were members of the African Lodge of Masons founded by black educator Prince Hall.
Who was George Middleton?
George Middleton was a veteran of the American Revolution. Honorifically called "colonel," Middleton supposedly led the all-black company, the "Bucks of America." John Hancock, in front of his house on Beacon Street, was documented by William C. Nell as having presented the company with a painted silk flag bearing the initials JGWH, a pine tree, a deer, and a scroll bearing the name of the company.
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George Middleton's house at 5-7 Pinckney Street. Photo credit: Jasperdo via Flickr.
During the Civil War, Nell donated the flag to the Massachusetts Historical Society where it is preserved today. Middleton in his old age on Pinckney Street was remembered by Lydia Maria Child during a speech.
"If became a frolic with the white boys to deride them on this day [the anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade, celebrated in June] and finally...to drive them from the Common. The colored people became greatly incensed by this mockery of their festival, and rumor reached us...that they were determined to resist the whites, and were going armed with this intention...Soon, terrified children and women ran down Belknap Street [now Joy Street] pursued by white boys, who enjoyed their fright. The sounds of battle approached; clubs and brickbats were flying in [all] directions. At this crisis, Col. Middleton opened his door, armed with a loaded musket, and in a loud voice, shrieked death to the first white who should approach.
Hundreds of human beings, white and black, were pouring down the street…Col. Middleton's voice could be heard above every other, urging his party to turn and resist to the last. His appearance was terrific, his musket was leveled, ready to sacrifice the first white man that came within his range. The colored party, shamed by his reproaches, and fired by his example rallied…." - Lydia Maria Child
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