3. Copps Hill Terrace

Street or Other Address: 68-72 Charter Street

Nearest Corner: Charter corner of Snow Hill

Digital & Degree Coordinates: 42.367583,-71.055317; N42 22.055 W71 03.319

View Little Guinea. A small community of free African Americans lived on the steep slope of Copp's Hill from the 17th to the 19th century. Members of this community were buried in the Copp's Hill Burying Ground, where a few remaining headstones can still be seen today.

View Burial site for Prince Hall.  In 1784 the first African-American Masonic Order was granted a charter from London.  Prince Hall had been leading the unincorporated organization since 1775.  The organization is still headquartered in Boston today and is known as the Prince Hall Masons. 1787 Prince Hall petitioned the Massachusetts legislature to grant African-American children access to public schools.  His request was denied.

By the late 19th century, the African American community of the North End was known as New Guinea. By that time, however, much of the community had actually moved to the West End, on the North Slope of Beacon Hill.

View Bunker Hill Monument (Charlestown)— where African-American soldiers Peter Salem and Salem Poore, representing 5000 of their number in Revolutionary War, won honorable mention in history.

View Zakim Bridge Lenny Zakim, head of the Anti-Defamation League and the United Methodist Reverend Charles Stith founded an annual Black-Jewish Seder in Boston which inspired many interfaith Seders with Catholic, Protestant and Jewish participants in Boston and nationally. At the time of his death [in 1999] it was the largest black-Jewish seder in the US. His political connections and friendships led tohe establishment of community organizations and public-service events, including the 12,000-member Team Harmony antiracism rally for teenagers.  The bridge is officially the Leonard P. Zakim – Bunker Hill Bridge.  Controversy surrounded the naming of the bridge.  Charlestowners wanted Bunker Hill.

View U.S.S. Constitution (War of 1812 victories over British ships Guerriere and Java.). Among the many sailors was James Bennett, a freeborn black man who plugged holes from enemy shot and was later killed in the Battle of Lake Erie.

Jesse Williams later fought in the successful battle of Lake Erie for which Pennsylvania awarded a medal.  His luck ran out while assigned to USS Scorpion.  The British captured the ship and he became a prisoner of war until the peace treaty was signed.  Williams received the equivalent of 2 1/2 years in prize money.  He slipped out of history after 1830, when he was living alone in Strasburg Township, PA.

David Debias, a freeborn black child from Beacon Hill was just 8 when he joined the crew, becoming a servant for a master’s mate.  Debias was among the crew chosen to sail on the HMS Levant after it was captured by the Constitution. That vessel was in turn seized by the British on its return to the United States. He was imprisoned in Barbados for a few months before being sent home to his family. He was discharged in 1815, earning $32 for his seven-month stint.  But Debias was soon back on the seas again, joining the merchant fleet and then reenlisting on the Constitution. In 1838, he left his ship while it was docked in Alabama and was seized in Mississippi as a runaway slave.  A lawyer sent a letter to the Secretary of the Navy pleading Debias’ case and requesting that the Navy record be sent to his captors as proof that he was not a slave.  No response has been found.  His fate is not known.

Image: 
latitude: 
42.37
longitude: 
-71.06