For over 400 years the United States of America was only free for land owning white men. We were a slave holding country and built our empire on the backs of Africans kidnapped and brought to this country. Our relationship with slavery is one we hold dear. The right to own another man in part lead to one of the bloodiest wars in our history. Looking back, as a mixed heritage woman from Honolulu Hawaii, I cannot imagine what our country would be if slavery had not been abolished.
Slavery is one of the darkest parts of American history and I understand why we try to forget the savagery this country was built on. I am not suggesting that we revisit the Willie Lynch letter or Fredrick Douglass Slave Narratives every day, but I believe it does our country no good to have this history completely removed from our purview. It was with that motivation I walked the black heritage trail this past weekend.
Funny enough I had been using the term Freedom Trail to talk about the Black Heritage Trail, because they melted together in my mind as points in America’s freedom. However, when I started at the statue for the 54th regiment, I realized that our history remains as segregated as Jim Crow.
Walking the Black Heritage Trail I saw the homes of escaped slaves, stops on the Underground Railroad, and the first black public school ever built. Looking at these brick buildings and cobble stone streets I imagined abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and escaped slave Fredrick Douglass walking through Beacon Hill, meeting in secret or speaking publicly at the African Meeting House. “Another chapter in America’s search for freedom happened in Boston,” I thought to myself with pride.
When at the African Meeting House I was pleased to see how busy they were and disappointed that a majority of visitors were black. While I agree it’s important for African Americans to know their history, the story of slavery is more than black history, its American history. It’s the original sin for a country founded on equality. I became personally hurt watching so many white families walk the Freedom Trail and not continue on to the Black Heritage Trail.
The Black Heritage Trail should be a freedom trail, and we should be making every effort to integrate our history to tell the complete story of freedom in America.
– Malia, FutureBoston Director