Much of Boston’s Pan-African history may be visible to some of us, but is definitely hidden from discussion and acknowledgement. In October, NIAAS participated in a Pan-African Heritage Tour,led by NIAAS advisory group member and local community historian Joel Mackall. What we learned about the history of people of African descent in Boston was eye-opening. Two NIAAS members reflect on their experiences of the the tour:
It was enlightening. To stand on sites in the local areas of Boston and vicinity that show how African American activists dedicated their lives to the cause of freedom was inspiring. It elucidated the importance of fulfilling the mission of NIAAS. We live in the North. You will learn more about Phillis Wheatley, a slave in Boston in the 1700s who not only became literate but was the first Black person and the third woman in the United States to publish a book of poems. It is chilling to be just outside of Boston in Medford, Massachusetts on property, now a museum, where one of the buildings was slave quarters and the other the master’s house. But there it is, in your face. Burial grounds are often visible to us in Massachusetts, as we drive by them. Joel takes you into the cemetery where you can see, touch and ponder the burial place of Prince Hall who is recognized as the father of Black Masonry in the United States. He established his African Fraternal Lodge of Masons as far back as 1784. Because of Prince Hall’s efforts, the world-wide lodge numbers in present day have increased to well over 4,500. I was moved by this historical information being part of Joel’s tour because my late father was a Prince Hall mason. We totaled eight people, comfortable on this van tour. I knew that I was in good company. Look for the next opportunity to go on this tour. Joel, the great tour guide, will not disappoint! - Dolores Alleyne Goode, Ph.D.
I felt like Joel gave me gold and diamond after this tour because of the knowledge I gain and about such remarkable history that was revealed. I have lived in the Boston area for over ten years and have never been anywhere as important and educative like the places we visited on this tour. I was so moved to see the house that Malcolm X lived in and so proud knowing that one of my country women a slave in Boston in the 1700s was literate, a writer and was the first Black person and the third woman in the United States to publish a book of poems. - Fatou D. Fatty, Executive Director, Women Encouraging Empowerment