Abiel Smith School // 1834

The Abiel Smith School, located at 46 Joy Street, was constructed between 1834 and 1835. It was built by the City of Boston to house the African School and was one of the earliest buildings designed by architect Richard Upjohn. Starting in 1787, many black Bostonians fought tirelessly against the inequality and discrimination in public schools. At that early date, numerous community members, including Prince Hall, petitioned the state legislature claiming that it was unjust for their taxes to support the education of white children when the city had no school for black children. However, a small number of African American children did attend the city’s white schools in the early 1800s.

In 1798, sixty members of the black community organized the African School in order to educate their children. In 1815 white businessman Abiel Smith died and bequeathed $4,000 for the education of African American children in Boston. The school committee used interest from this money to fund the African School and they later used a portion of it to construct the Abiel Smith School. The school was opened on March 3, 1835, but the conditions in this school were inferior to those of the white schools in Boston and the black community continued to fight for equal opportunities in education. The school has since been acquired by the Museum of African American History.

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