Tag Archives: african Meeting House

Toni Morrison, Nobel Laureate

21 Years Ago Today Toni Morrison Received The Nobel Prize for Literature. 10343017_10152109245264058_8664006753028362288_n

A FEW years before that, I organized a program in her honor at the African Meeting House on Beacon Hill in Boston, when she came to town to receive an honorary degree at Harvard. I was the curator at the Meeting House, and was able to arrange Toni Morrison’s visit thanks to her close friend, Florence Ladd.

There was a line of people around the block. Camille Cosby was there, sociologist Kenneth Clark, other notables. We ran out of space and sadly had to turn some away; fortunately we made a video. Morrison said she would be pleased to attend, but that she would be too tired, after all the Harvard events that day, to make any remarks beyond acknowledging the gathering. So we had a symposium on the raised podium area with excellent talks by Marcia Lloyd, Clyde Taylor, and others.

I gave the welcome, and Museum board chairman, the late Henry Hampton, spoke. I also made that the occasion for the donation of a signed first edition of Phillis Wheatley’s poems. It had originally been offered to Morrison, but I lobbied for it to go to the Museum and she VERY graciously agreed. Student intern, Kelly Stupple, received the volume for the collection.

AND THEN: when Morrison came forward to deliver the few words we expected, she went to the podium, said how moved she was by the evening, and that she would like to read something she was working on (!). She read for about ten gorgeous minutes. Followed by an extended standing ovation, of course. The feeling in the room was wonderfully festive and congenial.

Some months later, when I read her new book as soon as it came out, I discovered, along with others, that we had the incredible honor of hearing the beautiful final section of “JAZZ” as it was still coming into being.

The African Meeting House on Beacon Hill in Boston

The original African Meeting House built in 1806

The Meeting House after it was remodeled in 1855

The African Meeting House on Smith Court off of Joy Street housed a Baptist church and a school. It is the oldest surviving black church building in the United States.

For a while, back when, I was the entire curatorial staff for the Museum of African American History on Beacon Hill in Boston during the period when the late Henry Hampton (Eyes On The Prize) was Chair of the Museum board. I was reponsible for the African Meeting House (1806) on Joy Street, the Abiel Smith School (1835) next door, and the rescue of the African Meeting House on Nantucket which has since been restored.

-I offered guided tours in English, French, and with interns, Spanish and German.

-Brought Brian Lanker photo exhibition, I DREAM A WORLD, and the New England premiere of film GLORY to Boston.

-Acquired signed first edition of book by Phillis Wheatley for the Museum among other additions to the collections.

-Presented readings by Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Leon Forrest, etc.

-Co-curated exhibitions on early New England African American history and culture with the Boston Athenaeum – – including the publication Courage & Conscience.

-Initiated and organized concerts and recording of music by William Grant Still and other major black classical composers performed at the African Meeting House.

See the book MARIA W. STEWART: AMERICA’S FIRST BLACK WOMAN POLITICAL WRITER (available on Amazon) for the life and work of a woman who lectured in this building in the 1830s.

Stewart bok cover



“ . . . enthusiastic, well-written . . . read it if you want to be inspired by a truly heroic woman.” —New Directions for Women

“ . . . the fullest account to date of Stewart’s life and an excellent basis for understanding Stewart’s work.” —History

“This is informative and inspiring source material for today’s scholars, lay readers, and ‘professionals’ . . . ” —Journal of American History

In gathering and introducing Stewart’s works, Richardson provides an opportunity for readers to study the thoughts and words of this influential early black female activist, a forerunner to Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth and the first black American to lecture in defense of women’s rights, placing her in the context of the swirling abolitionist movement.

Citations (learn more)

66 books cite this book:

More Citations: 1 2 3 4 Next


. . . and I have related essays in these books:

sisters of the spirit cover_lrg






African-American historian William Cooper Nell lived and wrote in this house facing the African Meeting House in Smith Court. As a child he attended the school in the church basement. He later was a leader of the boycott and movement to integrate the Abiel Smith School next to the Meeting House.



William Cooper Nell was the author of






Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote the intro to Nell’s book, was not only a brilliant and prolific writer, she was also a striking and charismatic woman




An 1851 Boston, Massachusetts, poster warning both fugitive slaves and free blacks of kidnapping risk following the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850