The African Meeting House of Nantucket
This historic building operated as a schoolhouse, a church, and a meeting house for the African American residents of Nantucket. The building has been preserved and holds a small museum that is open to the public.
Backstory and Context
The African American Meeting House was built in the 1820s. At the time, the island Nantucket was a major whaling port. Many African Americans worked on the ports and on the ships, and this meeting house was the center of their community. The building eventually turned into a school in the mid 1800s before being sold as a private home in the 1900s. Today, it is open for the public as a museum.
The building was essential as the only school open to African Americans. In 1846, a daughter from one of the founding fathers of the meeting house sued a nearby high school because they would not accept her due to her race. This is when Nantucket became one of the first communities in the nation to end explicit racial segregation in their schools.
The museum includes exhibits about local history, African American culture, and the role of African Americans in the community. There is also information about the effort to preserve the building and its history as a meeting house, school, private home, church, and museum.