551 Warren Street, Roxbury
An historic African Methodist Episcopal congregation, the Charles Street AME Church began in 1818, when a group of formerly enslaved people began meeting in a house on Beacon Hill and established the First African Methodist Episcopal Society. Leading up to the Civil War, the church served as a major meeting place for abolitionists and a key organizing site in the Boston abolitionist community’s fight against the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law.
Over its first several decades of existence, the church was located in various buildings in Beacon Hill. In 1876, its growing congregation, due in significant degree to a doubling of Boston’s Black population following the Civil War, led the church to move to the Charles Street Meeting House (at 70 Charles Street, on the corner of Mount Vernon Street) and take on its current name.
However, by the 1890s, the African American community in Beacon Hill was declining as families moved to the South End and Roxbury due to an influx of European immigrants to Boston and growing competition in both housing and employment. In order to accommodate its congregation, the church eventually decided to leave Beacon Hill, the last African American institution to do so, and move to Roxbury. Retaining its name, Charles Street AME bought the former St. Ansgarius Church property on 551 Warren Street and has resided there since 1939.
MBTA buses pass on Warren Street very close to the church.
To learn more:
Charles Street AME Church. “About the Historic Charles Street A.M.E. Church.”
Hayden, Robert C. Faith, Culture and Leadership: A History of the Black Church in Boston. Boston: Boston Branch NAACP, 1983.
National Park Service. “Charles Street Meeting House.” March 9, 2021.