Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

Nedra K. Lee

Second Advisor

Stephen Silliman

Third Advisor

Christa Beranek


The Abiel Smith School, located on the North Slope of Beacon Hill in Boston, Massachusetts, is one of the oldest Black schools in the United States in one of the oldest free Black communities. The Abiel Smith School was constructed between 1834 and 1835 as a means to resist racial discrimination in the public school system. The Smith School is central to Beacon Hill’s Black history because it helped Black Bostonians advance in society and mitigate against the effects of racism through education. However, the Smith School may have served a dual role in the Black community. Medicinal bottles excavated from the site suggest that the school may have been administering medicine to students. In the nineteenth century, mainstream medicine was closed off to African Americans thus causing African Americans to rely on institutions like churches and almshouses to receive medical care. The bottles found at the Smith School highlight the diverse roles that social institutions played in helping Black Bostonians resist racial discrimination and meet their most basic personal needs.