On Wednesday, December 6, Lois Brown, director of the Weissman Center for Leadership and the Liberal Arts and associate professor of English at Mount Holyoke College, will help mark the bicentennial of the African Meeting House in Boston, along with Governor-elect Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.
Brown is cocurator of "Gathering Place for Freedom," an exhibition focusing on the bicentennial of the African Meeting House, the oldest African American Baptist church in the North, which sits on Beacon Hill and is one of the primary historic sites of the Museum of African American History in Boston.
The celebration on December 6, marking the day on which the church was established 200 years ago, will take place at the Tremont Temple, 88 Tremont Street, just off the Boston Common, from 7 to 9 pm. It is free and open to the public.
Brown will be delivering a historical overview of the church; its congregations and ministers; and the vital role that both the church and its members have played in religious, educational, political, civic, and social worlds in and beyond Boston since the church's founding in 1806.
"The meeting house is the enduring symbol of the faith, enterprise, political savvy, and resilience of one of New England's most accomplished and oldest communities of color," Brown said. "It is a majestic reminder of the still-untold stories that need to be more visible in our collective American history."
The bicentennial celebration program will also feature speeches by Governor-elect Deval Patrick, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, and the Rev. Peter Gomes of Harvard Memorial Church. Musical tributes will be performed by Myran Parker Brass of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Vivien Cooley-Collier of the Black Nativity.
Brown has a number of connections to the celebration in addition to cocurating the museum exhibition. The African Meeting House is the church pastored first by the father of Susan Paul, the schoolteacher and author of the 1835 Memoir of James Jackson that Brown republished and edited in 2000. In addition, Brown's forthcoming biography of the New England writer Pauline Hopkins relates to this pioneering nineteenth-century community. Hopkins is a descendant of the Pauls, and the church figures significantly in her cultural and political sensibilities.
Brown was honored recently with one of the first African American History Awards given by the Museum of African American History. The museum lauded her for her "extraordinary commitment to American history" and her "obvious commitment to education and equality." In 2005, she cocurated a two-part exhibition, Words of Thunder, that marked the bicentennial of William Lloyd Garrison. Over 12,000 patrons visited the exhibitions, which were funded by a $500,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services Agency and staged at the Boston Public Library and at the museum.
Brown's research focuses on nineteenth-century New England literary history and culture, abolitionist and evangelical literature, and African American biography. Her biography of Pauline Hopkins is forthcoming in 2007, and her new projects include a scholarly study of William Lloyd Garrison and nineteenth-century feminism.