African American History Trail


African American History Trail Story Map Thumbnail Image

The African-American community in Cambridge has a long, rich, and fruitful history going back to before the country was even founded. The roots of this, much like the rest of the United States, are in the institution of slavery, which brought Black people from Africa and the Caribbean to New England soon after the Puritans settled. The small Black population of Cambridge became free in 1783, when the Supreme Court of Massachusetts decided to end legal chattel slavery in the state. This measure, combined with the general movement of southern Black people to the North in the 19th century and the attractive integrated school system, brought many Black families to Cambridge, expanding the African-American community.

This is where the people of this trail come into the story. Over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth century, Cambridge saw a great variety of prominent African-American activists, officials, and leaders. Coming from all over America, these figures have contributed to the growth and empowerment of the Black communities in Cambridge, the United States, and even the entire world. We at the Cambridge Historical Commission invite you to explore the inspiring and unique stories of twenty of Cambridge's most important Black leaders.

View the story map: The Cambridge African American History Trail