Social Movements & Spiritualities Digital Exhibits

This collection of exhibits attempts to make known what education looked like for Black persons in Boston and the ways in which education, generally, and educational institutions engaged with literacies. Because Black people were not deemed “legal persons,” enslavers feared that Black literacy would endanger the institution of slavery, creating laws that made reading and writing criminalized. In Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, she notes that she taught an elderly enslaved man how to read to understand the word of God and that these acts could imprison both of them. Anti-slavery activists, like Maria Stewart, used spirituality as a means of advocating for and against enslavement. The church’s moral mission proved to be supportive and conducive to antislavery movements. Particularly, catechism’s, the doctrine and principles in which the church lived by, seventh commandment advocated against/forbid enslavement (St. Charles Borromeo). 

The exhibits in this collection, “Uneven Spread,” “Shielding Slavery,” “Faneuil Hall: Cradle of Liberty Funded by Slavery,” and "Early Black Christian Spirituality" in Boston all revolve around the intersection of Black literacy, spirituality, and un/freedom.

Explores issues of displacement, gentrification, and the challenges faced by underserved communities in resisting the expansion of modern-day universities.

This exhibit examines the continuing resonances of the histories of enslavement in New England by exploring the debate surrounding the inclusion of the Royall family crest as part of Harvard Law School’s seal. the Royall family's fortune derived from enslaved people’s labor on their Antiguan plantations.

Conveys the role of Christian spirituality in empowering the Black community in 19th-century Boston to recognize and resist racial oppression, leading to their involvement in the abolitionist movement and pursuit of social change and equality.

Often referred to as the "Cradle of Liberty," Faneuil Hall hosted numerous abolitionist meetings and anti-slavery speeches during the 19th century. It was also a site for civil rights activism.

The Black Heritage Trail and the "Trails to Freedom" initiative are both related to the preservation and promotion of African-American history and heritage in the United States.


The African Meeting House is an important symbol of African American history and the struggle for civil rights. It served as a center for educational, spiritual, and abolitionist activities.