Mission: Using the 1818 Boston City Directory
Boston's Black Community in 1818
A Demographic Study
Researched and compiled by Marjorie Duby (Copyright © 1994)
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Classroom lesson - Session 2
Where did Boston's black community live and work in 1818?
To answer this question, students will transfer the gathered data to a map of 19th century Boston. The plotted "x"s will create a demographic map revealing a pattern of where coloured persons lived and worked in 1818 Boston.
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Classroom materials needed for Session 2:
1. The completed transparency of "Data Sheet - STREETS" from Session 1.
2. A photocopied class set of a 19th century map of Boston
3. A blank transparency of the 19th century map of Boston
4. A photocopied filled-in 19th century map of Boston
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1. Explain to the class that during this session we will be using the data
we gathered from the 1818 Boston Directory during Session 1. As we
progress through this session, we will begin to see a pattern emerge of
where coloured persons lived and worked in Boston during 1818.
2. Display the completed transparency of "Data Sheet - STREETS"
from Session 1.
3. Direct the attention of students to the names of the streets listed from
the 1818 Boston Directory where coloured persons lived and worked.
4. Distribute a map to each collaborative working group.
- Placing dots on streets to represent buildings - (demographics study)
5. Explain that as historians, we are now going to plot where the
coloured people listed in the1818 Boston Directory were located.
Demonstrate on the map transparency how to plot the
information for where coloured people lived and worked. Place a dot
or "x" along the correct streets to represent each entry as students read
the information from the previously gathered data. Model two or three
street entries before letting the class work on their own.
* 6. Explain that if students cannot locate certain streets, for our purposes,
this is all right. Some of the street names might have changed and not
been updated on this map.
The intent of our session is to see a pattern of where people lived. The
pattern should still emerge.
7. Circulate while the students work. Allow time for collaboration of this
task. It takes time to get familiar with the street names. Reassure
students that not all streets are visible on this map. They will only be
able to mark those streets shown on this map. They should be patient
and see what pattern will emerge with the information we have.
8. While students are working on the paper maps, you might select
individual volunteers to begin putting dots on the map transparency at
the overhead projector. This will save time in displaying the results for
all and will be visually helpful to the other collaborative groups.
9. After sufficient time has elapsed to accomplish a good portion of this
activity on the map transparency, STOP.
- Interpretation and discussion time -
10. Lead the group in an interpretation of where the cluster of coloured
people seems to have focused. Which areas seem to be businesses and
which areas seem to be homes? (I have used a (w) for "work" and an (h)
for "house" on the "ANSWERS - Data Sheet - STREETS" where
information was given in the Boston Directory.)
11. View the results to our original question!
Explain that this demographic pattern shows historians that coloured persons settled on the slope of Beacon Hill. More accurately, they settled on the northern slope which is on the Cambridge Street side. Because the Boston Directory was incomplete about providing street numbers, we could not factually prove that for a long street like Belknap Street that spanned the Hill.
Putting things in perspective
for Session 2
Answers to questions dealing with Session 2 that we don't know and might like to know more about.
1. We only used the demographic pattern for the data concerning
coloured persons. Did white people also live on these streets of
I have studied the Boston Directory of 1818 which includes the entire population of Boston and have found that there were white business people living and working on some of the same streets of Beacon Hill that had our coloured persons listed.
2. When did the streets on Beacon Hill change names?
In the book, Beacon Hill by Allen Chamberlain (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1925), one can find the emerging changes on Beacon Hill from the pasture land of colonial settlers, to the cutting down of the hills, to the entrepreneurial planning of residential homes in the 1800s.
3. How might we find out more about the diverse and active black
community of Boston during the 1800s?
For a more detailed look at the black community in Boston during the 1800s, read Black Bostonians by James and Lois Horton (NY: Holmes & Meier Publishers, 1979)
Visit Beacon Hill! Explore the Black Heritage Trail with a Boston African American National Historic Site ranger. Call (617) 742-5415 for tour information.