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The Hustle Hive created this route to highlight the Black History in Cambridge and Downtown Boston. There's an incredible amount of Black History in this region and it is rarely discussed or remembered. We hope you learn as much as we did during the creation of this route and we encourage you to share it with your friends.

All of the Cambridge sites have plaques with detailed information. For the Boston sites,  we recommend referencing this webpage for information. 

See the section on How to Use the Route to download the route.​

 

HISTORICAL SITES

 

  1. 53 Clifton Street
    Pauline Hopkins (1856-1930)

    • novelist, editor

    • supported herself as a stenographer

    • first novel "Contending Forces" (1900) - post-Civil War Black middle-class family

    • editor of "Colored American" magazine - African American history and rights

    • started her own publishing firm "P.E. Hopkins & Co." in 1905, later became editor of "New Era" magazine
       

  2. 226 Upland Road
    William H. Lewis (1868-1949)

    • served on Cambridge Common Council (1899-1901) and then in the MA legislature

    • along with Clement Morgan, W.E.B. Du Bois, William Monroe Trotter, George W. Forbes, and Emery T. Morris, founded Niagara Movement, the precursor to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
       

  3. 85 Oxford Street
    Maria Baldwin (1856-1922)

    • first African American headmaster of Agassiz Grammar School in Cambridge

    • helped found the League of Women for Community Service

    • served on the Boston branch of the NAACP
       

  4. 1430 Massachusetts Avenue
    Richard T. Greener (1844-1922)

    • first African American to graduate from Harvard College (1870)

    • educated at Oberlin College and Phillips Academy

    • served as a school principal in Philadelphia and Washington

    • completed law degree while teaching classics at U. of South Carolina

    • admitted to the bar in 1876. served as dean of Howard University Law School, and held public service positions in Washington and New York

    • served as U.S. consul at Russia
       

  5. 17 Story Street
    Harriet Jacobs (1813-1897)

    • born into slavery and finally escaped in 1835 to hide in a crawl space above her grandmother's storeroom for seven years

    • had two children with a white lover who were later purchased by their father, a future congressman

    • in 1861, published "Incidents in the Life of A Slave Girl, Written by Herself," a highly ranked enslaved person's narrative

    • performed relief work for Black soldiers and created Black schools after the Civil War

  6. 20 Flagg Street
    W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963)

    • first African American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard University

    • played a prominent role in the early 20th century Black Protest Movement

    • organized the Niagara Movement in 1905, co-founded the NAACP in 1909

    • wrote countless books and articles on the African American condition
       

  7. 55 Essex Street
    Charlotte Hawkins Brown (1883-1961)

    • founder of Palmer National Institute, a private prep school for African American children in Sedalia, North Carolina

    • pursued studies at Harvard, Wellesley, and Simmons

    • traveled to speak on behalf of African American education and rights

    • vice president of National Association of Negro Women, a founding member of Commission on Interracial Cooperation
       

  8. 28 Union Street
    Alberta V. Scott (1875-1902)

    • first African American to graduate from Radcliffe College (1898)

    • graduated with distinction from Cambridge Latin School (1894)

    • 4th African American to graduate from a women's college in MA

    • life's work was to teach African Americans - at a high school in Indianapolis and then at Tuskegee Institute
       

  9. 1 Lilac Court
    William Wells Brown (1814-1884)

    • escaped enslaved person who later became the first African American novelist

    • lecturer for MA Anti-Slavery Society, delivering more than a thousand lectures in Great Britain

    • "Clotel, or the President's Daughter: A Narrative of Slave Life in the United States"

    • published in 1853, was the first travel narrative/drama by an African American

    • studied medicine and practiced from 1866-1878

    • helped Frederick Douglas recruit for the 54th Regiment, served on Cambridge's Colored Civic Committee
       

  10. 2 Phillips Street

    John Coburn House

    • clothing retailer and community activist

    • treasurer for New England Freedom Association, which helped people escape slavery

    • co-founder of Massasoit Guards, a Black military company during 1850s (precursor to 54th Regiment)
       

  11. 66 Phillips Street
    Lewis and Harriet Hayden House

    • two escaped enslaved people who fled to Boston

    • Lewis was a leader in the abolition movement

    • the Hayden House become a stop on the underground railroad

    • Lewis was elected to the MA House of Representatives
       

  12. Smith Court (African American Museum too)
    Smith Court Residences and African Meeting House

    • #3 was owned by James Scott, part of the Underground Railroad; William Cooper Nell, an abolitionist also lived here, he is considered the first published Black historian in the U.S.

    • #5 was owned by George Washington, a bootblack and laborer who served as a deacon for the African Meeting House

    • #7 and 7A was owned by Joseph Scarlett, a chimney sweep and entrepreneur, who also owned #10

    • #8 was the African Meeting House, built in 1806 by free Black laborers. It is considered the oldest surviving Black church building in the U.S. It was the center of religious, political, education, and social activity in the 1800s. The New England Anti-Slavery Society was founded in the meeting house in 1832. Frederick Douglas also spoke here
       

  13. 5 Pinckney Street
    George Middleton House

    • the oldest home in Beacon Hill (1787)

    • Middleton led the Bucks of America, one of three Black militias, that fought in the Revolutionary War

    • Middleton became an activist and helped found the Free African Society
       

  14. Anderson and Pinckney Street
    Phillips School
    (labeled as Sharp School)

    • was a white-only school until 1855 when the MA Legislature abolished segregated schools

    • up until then, Black students attended school at the African Meeting House or at the Abiel Smith School (46 Joy Street)

    • the Phillips School was the first integrated school in Boston
       

  15. 86 Pinckney Street
    John J. Smith House

    • born a free Black person in Virginia and moved to Boston in the 1840s

    • Smith owned a barbershop which served as a meeting place for abolitionist activity

    • was also a stopping point for the Underground Railroad

    • Smith served three terms in the MA House of Representatives
       

  16. Mt. Vernon and Charles Streets
    Charles Street Meeting House

    • built in 1807 by the all white Third Baptist Church of Boston

    • Timothy Gilbert, an abolitionist and member of the Third Baptist Church, challenge segregation by inviting Black friends into the church and was expelled as a result

    • Gilbert then founded the First Baptist Free Church (now Tremont Temple), the first integrated church in the U.S.

    • The African Methodist Episcopal Church used this building until 1939
       

  17. Park and Beacon Streets
    54th Regiment Memorial (currently under construction)

    • first Black regiment recruited in the North during the Civil War

    • led by Col. Robert Gould Shaw

    • hard-fought battle in Charleston S.C. at Fort Wagner - Sgt. William Carney became the first Black soldier awarded Medal of Honor for his bravery in capturing the flag

    • memorial by Augustus Saint-Gaudens was dedicated in 1897
       

  18. Parkman Bandstand

    • April 23rd 1965 - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at the Parkman Bandstand after a march protesting segregated housing, racially imbalanced schools, and socio-economic inequality to a crowd of 22,000 people.

    • 1915 - newspaper editor William Monroe Trotter led a rally to protest D. W. Griffith's racist film "Birth of a Nation."

    • 2007 - President Obama held a political rally with Deval Patrick, MA's first African-American governor
       

  19. Comm. Ave between Fairfield and Gloucester
    Phillis Wheatley statue

    • Phillis Wheatley was the "first American, the first slave, and third woman in the U.S. to publish a book of poems."

    • kept in slavery by the prominent Wheatley family yet educated in various subjects
      gained critical international acclaim for her poetry beginning with her work "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773)

    • captured from Senegal/Gambia, West Africa at approximately seven years old, entered the Wheatley household in 1761, released from slavery in 1774

 
 

HOW TO USE THE ROUTE

The 20mi route starts and ends at Alewife Station. You can also begin and end in Lexington Center for a 30mi ride.

Allow yourself 3-4 hours to complete the route. There are 19 sites in total and you can expect to spend 5-10 mins at each one - that's roughly 2 hrs total stopped time. The route runs through dense city streets and some of the sites are a little hard to locate.

Google My Maps

The best way to follow the route is with Google My Maps. My Maps doesn't support turn by turn navigation however this will show the route, the historical sites, and your location on the Google Maps interface. We recommend using a handlebar phone mount for ease of reference.

Using a desktop, open this map and star it. Then open Google Maps on your phone, click on the "Saved" tab on the bottom of the screen, and click on the "Maps" icon. You should be able to see the Cambridge and Downtown Boston Black History Ride listed - load the route up and you're ready to go.

Ride with GPS / Bike Computer

Load up the Ride with GPS route as you would with any other route. Alternatively, download the GPX file. The historical sites are not identified in the GPX.

We recommend loading My Maps to supplement navigation with your bike computer. 

Strava

Any user can navigate the route using the Strava app, however, the historical sites are not identified.

We recommend loading My Maps to supplement navigation with Strava. 

REFERENCES

This route was created using resources from:

  • "African American Heritage Trail," a guide written by the Cambridge Historical Commission

  • "Boston Black Heritage Trail", a guide written by the National Park Service

  • African American Trail Project at Tufts University

  • Friends of the Public Garden

  • The Poetry Foundation

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