Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

John M. Steinberg

Second Advisor

Nedra K. Lee

Third Advisor

Douglas J. Bolender


The first Black church constructed in Boston, and the oldest extant Black church building in America, the African Meeting House was located on the North Slope of Beacon Hill; the predominant residence of Boston’s Black population during the nineteenth century. The African Meeting House has been the subject of several important archaeological investigations. In 1840, a schism within the African Meeting House congregation resulted in the establishment of the Twelfth Baptist Church. Historical contexts suggest that this neighborhood was highly segregated. A geographic and statistical analysis of the unique 1850 Boston City Census, which was made to yield spatial contexts for population by building, indicates that the neighborhood was more integrated than previously thought. To analyze Beacon Hill’s population, and to understand the role of the churches as central places, catchment areas were created around the African Meeting House and the Twelfth Baptist Church, which finished construction in 1855. The Twelfth Baptist Church’s catchment area and population were marginally larger than that of the African Meeting House. These catchments show that the Black population had a higher percentage of occupied space closer to the church. The percentage of the Black population decreased with increasing distance from both churches. A kernel density map along with a hot spot analysis of the neighborhood indicated that only a small portion of either catchment area was predominantly Black. Other than the distribution of voters, the demographics of the Black population were not much different than the non-Black population within the church’s catchment areas. The mature settlement structure around the African Meeting House shows that the church was centrally located within the Black population of its catchment. The Black population surrounding the Twelfth Baptist Church, which was still under construction in 1850, is not as regular or structured as its older counterpart and likely developed due to the existing population.