Join Maddie Webster, Ph.D. for a talk on the fascinating history of the Charles Street Meeting House, which from 1876 to 1939 was home to the Charles Street African Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1920, this congregation saved the church from the widening of Charles Street by raising funds to have the building picked up and moved 10 feet away, despite the fact that the building had housed an infamous segregated Baptist congregation before the Civil War. Counterintuitively, the A.M.E. congregants had upheld this story and leveraged the legacy of prejudice to fuel them as they recalibrated the building to serve activist ends in the 1890s. In 1939, the congregation moved to Roxbury as the last Black institution to leave Beacon Hill. The building’s new owners, a white preservationist group, subsequently rewrote the history of the church into an antislavery site, a more easily digestible narrative that ultimately minimized the role of Blacks in the preservation of the church while heightening their own.
Maddie Webster received her PhD in American & New England Studies from Boston University in 2023. Her research focused on Black Bostonians’ historic preservation efforts throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She is currently working in the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, the City of Boston’s civic innovation research and design lab, as a program manager.
This program is presented in partnership with Beacon Hill Seminars, which is located in the Charles Street Meeting House.