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HISTORY OF FIRST CHURCH
IN ROXBURY

There are two parts to the history of the First Church in Roxbury: the well known information that can readily be found online, and the true history that together - we are investigating.  This is the part of our history that includes the enslavement of Black- and Indegenous-people by the white parishoners who worshiped here.  This page will continue to be a work in progress as we examine our history.

The First Church in Roxbury is a Boston landmark that has been the home of the UU Urban Ministry since 1976. That was the year that the last congregation that called the church their home disbanded - largely because of "white flight". The UU Urban Ministry is a non-sectarian, non-profit social justice organization that has its offices at this historic building. 

 

why people mad at me sometimes

they ask me to remember

but they want me to remember

their memories

and i keep on remembering

mine.

.

- Lucille Clifton

(Response when asked to write a poem "celebrating our colonial heritage" for Maryland's 350th anniversary.)

EXAMINING OUR HISTORY

We Speak Now:  Race & Enslavement at the First Church in Roxbury

In early-2023, Aabid Allibhad, a PhD candidate in the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, completed a report that focused on the history of racism and enslavement at First Church in Roxbury.  Aabid started this report  at the request of the UU Urban Ministry at First Church and the Roxbury Historical Society, and also solicited feedback from other historians and residents before the report was published.

The report, titled, "Race & Slavery at the First Church in Roxbury (The Colonial Period 1631-1775)", tells the story of at least fifty-eight human beings—Black and Indigenous men, women, and children— who were enslaved by First Church’s white parishioners. Aabid's report is part of our commitment to an accurate look at our history in order to work for a more just future.  And it is not a one-and-done project, but the beginning of our work.

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Click image to read"Race & Slavery at the First Church in Roxbury (The Colonial Period 1631-1775)" 

Virtual Presentation of the Report

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In addition to the presentation of the of Aabid's report at an event hosted here, we also held a virtual presentation of "Race & Enslavement at the First Church in Roxbury". 

The virtual presentation features the report's author, Aabid Allibhai, as well as historian Byron Rushing, to discuss the contents and answer questions from those who joined us.  The video is available by clicking the image (left) or
HERE.  

Click the image above to watch the virtual presentation of, We Speak Now:  Race & Enslavement at the First Church in Roxbury.

HISTORY OF FIRST CHURCH

First Church in Roxbury has been in continuous use since early English settlers built the first meetinghouse on this site in 1632. The church building you see today dates back to 1804. It is the fifth meetinghouse built on this site. First Church in Roxbury is the oldest wooden frame church in Boston, and is an excellent example of the Federal Meetinghouse style.

Below is information about each of the five churches that has been built here, as well as the history of Roxbury.
:

SIGNIFICANCE OF ROXBURY'S MEETINGHOUSE

This video features Anthony Lanier, who has documented life in Roxbury for years. He shares why he is drawn to the Meetinghouse and special photos from an historic event that took place there: the Boston reenactment of the 1965 March in Selma which featured a speech delivered by civil rights icon, John Lewis.


Photographs in video are courtesy of Anthony Lanier.

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