Touching the Past
The new executive director of the Museum of African American History, Marita Rivero, has been championing a message of inclusion and equality for years. Rivero comes to the museum after a career in public broadcasting, building new radio stations and television opportunities for WGBH, but she has also been volunteering with the museum since the late 1980s. “The common thread in my broadcasting career was that I wanted to tell the full American story,” Rivero explains. “That is the same interest that
connected me to this museum.”
A fuller American story is exactly what you will experience when you visit either of the museum’s locations (Boston and Nantucket) or walk Boston’s Black Heritage Trail. The trail starts at the Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment Memorial across from the State House, then winds through Beacon Hill to a historical neighborhood once the location of Boston’s free black community, and now the site of the museum and the lovingly preserved African Meeting House, where the abolitionist movement was born. U.S. Park Service Rangers lead daily free walking tours that begin at the Shaw Memorial and end at the African Meeting House. “So many African meeting houses in the country have been lost to time,” says Rivero, “but this is the original building.” Thus, visitors can tread in the footsteps of no less a figure than orator Frederick Douglass, who gave many speeches against slavery on Beacon Hill, fueling the abolitionist movement.
Rivero encourages everyone to walk the trail, visit the museum and see the meeting house. “I think it’s good for young people, and also for adults, to once in a while touch base with a serious part of American history.… These are unique places. You can read about history, but when you have the opportunity to walk inside a building and experience a physical place that played an important part in American history, it is worth your time to do that.”