The antebellum Boston African-American project began in April 2003. Thirteen students from Beverly High School signed up for a volunteer non-credit research class called PATH (Project: Apprentice to History). This program, initiated by the Beverly Public Library, began five years ago with the seed money coming from a grant from Secretary of State Galvin’s office. The major objectives of the program are to teach students archival skills through hands-on experience with research collections, cataloging, and preservation. In previous years, PATH students have studied church records, maritime records, educational records, and demographic records (such as the U.S. census and city directories).
The topic of study for the spring of 2003 program was the antebellum Boston African-American neighborhoods of Beacon Hill and the West End. Our focus was on civic engagement through participation in voluntary associations by the various residents of the neighborhoods. We knew that the first two primary sources needed would be a database of African-Americans in antebellum Boston, and local newspaper accounts of civic participation.