African American Trail Project
The African American Trail Project is a city-wide network and archive housed at Tufts University. Originally inspired by the scholarship of Tufts Professor Gerald R. Gill (1948-2007) and driven by faculty and student research, this project maps African American and African-descended public history sites across greater Boston and develops collaborative, community-based public history projects. The African American Trail Project aims to develop African American historical memory and intergenerational community and places present-day struggles for racial justice in the context of greater Boston’s historic African American, Black Native, and diasporic communities.
Inspired by Professor Gill’s scholarship, in the fall of 2015, students, faculty, and staff at the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, in conjunction with Africana Studies and the Africana Center, began mapping the historical presence of African-descended women and men within and beyond Tufts. At the fall 2015 Africana symposium, alongside numerous Tufts alumni, we re-traced key on-campus sites as part of a memorial walking tour. In 2016, we added several off-campus sites, such as the Royall House & Slave quarters, the Stearns "secret six" marker (in connection to abolitionist John Brown), and the historic African American community of West Medford, and subsequently expanded to greater Boston sites. In March 2017, we organized a gathering for the unveiling of the digital map for the African American Trail Project.
Each of these gatherings were accompanied by photography and archival exhibits on the public history of slavery, freedom, and African American communities in Medford; and the history of African American students, student life, and social movements at Tufts. These exhibits were created by undergraduate and graduate students, including Africana Studies majors, Gerald Gill Fellows, and graduate students in Museum Studies, in conjunction with the Tufts University Digital Collections and Archives.
Under the leadership of Tufts’ Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, this project builds upon the work of many people and institutions, including: Tufts DataLab, Tufts Digital Collections & Archives, Tufts Consortium for Race, Colonialism & Diaspora, Tufts Africana Center, Tufts Africana Studies, Tufts Department of History, and the Gerald Gill Papers; Dean Bernard Harleston, Professor Gerald Gill, and Professor Vévé Clark; Professor Rosalind Shaw and the West Medford African American Remembrance Project; Mindy Nierenberg, Barbara Rubel, and Tisch College,” A Legacy to Remember”; Mr. Anthony Lowe; the Diversity Fund at Tufts University, the Office of the Provost, the Dean Office, Faculty of Arts and Sciences; the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life; and the Tufts University Alumni Association. Key community partners include the Museum of African American History, Boston & Nantucket, Royall House & Slave Quarters, West Medford Community Center, Robbins House, and the Massachusetts Historical Society.
The project currently documents 200 sites across greater-Boston and Massachusetts. To access the online map (115 sites), click here. For a copy of the paper map, or to be placed on our mailing list, please email Danuta Forbes.