The African Meeting House, located in Boston, Massachusetts, is the country’s oldest black church. The meeting house was opened Dec. 6, 1806 for the free black community of the famous Beacon Hill.
The African Meeting House was the center for black progression for centuries. It was where William Lloyd Garrison helped to plan the New England Anti-Slavery Society in 1832. A year later, Maria Stewart became the first American-born woman to make a public speech in front of a crowd of both men and women. The African Meeting House congregants heard the voice of Frederick Douglass in his 1860 speech, and it was where Colonel Robert Gould Shaw recruited the historic 54th Regiment for the Civil War.
The building structure was built from funds raised by both the black and white communities. African native Cato Gardner was the primary fundraiser, and a plaque bearing his name still hangs at the front door.
In the late 1800s, the African Meeting House was sold to a Jewish congregation and made into a synagogue. It wasn’t until 1972 that the building was repurchased by the Museum of African-American History. Over the next decade, the museum worked to restore the building to its original design of 1854.
As money for restoration decreased, the structure remained stagnant until 2006, when a fundraising effort to raise $9.5 million was underway. Four million dollars of that money was awarded through a stimulus grant, and the rest was raised by private donations. The project put 125 Americans to work.
Restoration of The African Meeting House is only two percent from full completion, and the building is awaiting city approval. A rededication ceremony is planned for Dec. 6th of this year, the church’s 205th anniversary of its founding.