George Middleton House - Atlas Obscura

George Middleton House

Historic home of a Black veteran of the American Revolution and one of the earliest civil rights activists in the United States. 

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Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood has no shortage of historic homes. But a dark gray wooden house stands out among the sea of red brick buildings. Not only is this the oldest extant home on Beacon Hill, but it also once belonged to a respected Black veteran of the Revolutionary War who became one of the earliest activists for civil rights within the newly created United States.

George Middleton was born around 1735, but not much is known about his early life. During the American Revolution, he was one of roughly 5,000 Black Americans to fight for the Patriot cause and served as commander of a Black militia company called the Bucks of America. The company served as an auxiliary unit providing security to Boston during the war and most likely did not see direct combat with British forces. Middleton served as the company’s colonel. The Bucks of America were presented an honorary flag around the end of the war in recognition of their service to the city.

After the war, Middleton married Elsey Marsh and helped build a two-family home with his friend Louis Glapion around 1786-1787. Middleton was very active in the local community advocating for rights on behalf of the Black population within the city. In 1796, he helped form the Boston African Benevolent Society, a charitable organization dedicated to community service and education.

In 1808, Middleton co-authored an anti-slavery pamphlet in which he wrote, “Freedom is desirable, if not, would men sacrifice their time, their property and finally their lives in the pursuit of this?” He remained a respected individual throughout his life and was appointed as the Grand Master of the African Masonic Lodge in 1809. Middleton died in 1815 and apparently not survived by his wife or any children.

Middleton’s legacy was followed by people like Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, W.E.B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, John Lewis, and many more. It is an essential stop along Boston’s Black Heritage Trail.

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