Abiel Smith School

Abiel Smith School, founded in 1835, is a school located at 46 Joy Street in Boston, Massachusetts, United States, adjacent to the African Meeting House. It is named for Abiel Smith, a white philanthropist who left money (an estimated $2,000) in his will to the city of Boston for the education of black children. The city constructed the school building with Smith’s legacy. In 1835, all black children in Boston were assigned to the Smith school, which replaced the basement school in the African Meeting House. Though the school was the first public school for free blacks, it was under-funded and overlooked by the public school committee and received about half of the amount of funding that other white public schools received.

Thomas Dalton was elected president in 1834 of the Infant School Association created to support the new Abiel Smith School for colored children built on Belknap Street (now Joy Street). He helped organize the colored citizens of Boston to elect supportive School Committee members. "Resolved, That to secure the blessings of knowledge, every possible effort should be made by us…to secure such persons as we know to be favorable to the elevation of the people of color to their natural, civil, political, and religious rights, and are interested in the education of our children." He was among those signing a petition to the School Committee of the City of Boston for improved schools for Boston children of color. He was instrumental in the long fight to integrate the schools of Boston which were integrated in 1855.

The school is a site along the Boston Black Heritage Trail and is part of the Museum of African American History. Its renovation was completed in February 2000 and it now serves, in part, as the administrative offices for the Museum.


Bower, Beth Ann. "The African Meeting House, Massachusetts: Summary Report of Archaeological Excavation, 1975- 1986." Museum of African American History, Boston, MA.

Jacobs, Donald M. ed. Courage and Conscience: Black and White Abolitionists in Boston. Bloomington: Indiana University Press for the Boston Anthenaeum, 1993

Kendrick, Stephen and Kendrick, Paul. Sarah’s Long Walk: The Free Blacks of Boston and How Their Struggle for Equality Changes America. Boston: Beacon Hill Press, 2004.

Wesley, Dorothy Porter, and Constance Porter Uzelac, eds. William Cooper Nell, Nineteenth-Century African American Abolitionist, Historian, Integrationist: Selected Writings, 1832-1874. Baltimore: Black Classic Press, 2002.

“Historic Resource Study Boston African American National Historic Site” by Kathryn Grover and Janine V. da Silva

Building Activity

  • removed a media
    about 6 years ago via OpenBuildings.com