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AFAM 2600: Race, Science and Technology (Angel Nieves)

Abolition and the Civil War 

Boston was a hotbed of the nineteenth century national abolitionist movement.  Frederick Douglass lived in Lynn for many years, William Lloyd Garrison founded the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator in Boston, and the formidable though short-lived Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society drew black and white women to the cause of abolition, as well as establishing an African American School, and funding legal defenses for escaped slaves.

Beacon Hill was home to many African Americans in the 18th and 19th century. Today you can visit the African meeting house and museum on Joy Street . Read a Northeastern student essay about the Underground Railroad on Beacon Hill.


Boston is full of monuments to abolition and the Civil War. 

The Robert Gould Shaw memorial facing the State House at the top of Beacon Hill is one of the best known and a popular tourist attraction.  The regiment was the subject of the film Glory and the monument's prominent sword is frequently vandalized.

Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Sculptor, via Wikimedia Commons

Robert Gould Shaw Memorial:Boston Common. Augustus Saint-Gaudens,Sculptor.  via Wikimedia Commons



In 1879, a statue of President Abraham Lincoln, a copy of one in Washington D.C., was erected at Boston's Park Square.  In 2020, in response to a revisiting of monuments following a summer of Black Lives Matter protests, the Boston Statue was removed. The Boston Arts Commission determined that it did not tell the whole story of the relationship of Black people, 200,000 of whom fought on the Union side in the Civil War, to their own Emancipation.  Read what Frederick Douglass said about the monument:  

Emancipation memorial, Boston, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Emancipation statue, Thomas Ball, sculptor. via Wikimedia Commons


In the South End, near Northeastern at the intersection of Columbus and Warren Streets, you can find Harriet Tubman Square, with its monuments telling a different story about Emancipation (below).  Is this a more respectful depiction?  Visit the monument (map).

LEFT: Fern Cunningham, Harriet Tubman Memorial, STEP ON BOARD, 1999. RIGHT: Meta Warrick Fuller, Emancipation, 1913
Images from


Further Reading