First Church was complicit with Northern slavery during the 200 years that it was legal in Massachusetts. In 2011, research into First Church records and other sources from the Congregational Library showed that 36 enslaved persons (33 Africans and 3 Indigenous persons) owned by First Church members, including two Senior Ministers, became members of the church in the 17th and 18th centuries. After slavery in Massachusetts was abolished in 1783, First Church was largely silent on the great questions of slavery, abolition and emancipation through the Civil War and Reconstruction.
Public Remembrance Project
The Public Remembrance Project at First Church is engaging persons in the congregation and community members in the wider Cambridge and Greater Boston communities, across racial, class, and economic lines, in conversations that we hope will involve our communities in discussion of a public remembrance of First Church’s complicity in Northern slavery and possible forms of reparations.
MORE ABOUT FIRST CHURCH’S SLAVEHOLDING HISTORY
- View our triptych exhibit: Enslaved Africans and Native Americans at FCC Triptych
- Read the paper “Owning Our History: First Church and Race 1636-1873″ by David Kidder, from 2013, revised 2019.
- “Stories Impossible to Tell”. In 2018, Senior Minister Dan Smith and James Ramsey, a Harvard Divinity School student, collaborated on a study that focused on stories of enslaved persons in Cambridge, including some members of First Church. Click here to read Stories Impossible to Tell (Full)
- View a 2018 PowerPoint by Reverend Dan Smith: Remembering Slavery’s Living Legacy (9/23/18)
- View a 2019 Powerpoint by member David Kidder: Searching for Phillip Field