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Abiel Smith School

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1834. 46 Joy St.
  • Abiel Smith School (NHL/NRD) (Keith Morgan)

The nation's first public school dedicated to the education of black children, the Abiel Smith School emerged from several decades of agitation for the public education of African Americans. Primus Hall began a school for black children in his home in 1797, which moved to the African Meeting House (BH34) in 1808. White businessman Abiel Smith quickened the campaign for black education by leaving the City of Boston a $2,000 endowment for that purpose in 1815. When the Abiel Smith School opened in 1835, the children from the adjacent meetinghouse moved to this new building, a two-story, three-bay, gabled brick structure. Neglected by the school committee and overcrowded, the Smith School soon proved inadequate. In Roberts v. the State of Massachusetts, a black parent brought a suit against the City of Boston for access to better schools. Although unsuccessful, the case forced the integration of Boston schools in 1855. In 1887, the school became the headquarters for black Civil War veterans. The building houses exhibits of the Museum of Afro-American History.

Writing Credits

Keith N. Morgan


What's Nearby


Keith N. Morgan, "Abiel Smith School", [Boston, Massachusetts], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Massachusetts

Buildings of Massachusetts: Metropolitan Boston, Keith N. Morgan, with Richard M. Candee, Naomi Miller, Roger G. Reed, and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009, 115-115.

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