Shaw Memorial

Explore Black History in the #threeparks! 

This Black History Month, pay tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society.

Within the three parks care several important sculptures memorializing Boston African Americans:

Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial by Augustus Saint-Gaudens

One of the most acclaimed sculptures in the nation rests on our Boston Common. The memorial is a testament to the men who were the first African Americans to fight in the Civil War.

The monument portrays Captain Robert Gould Shaw and his men marching down Beacon Street past the State House on May 28, 1863, as they left Boston on their way to South Carolina. Shaw rides upon his horse; depictions of 23 men marching alongside.

One of the premier artists of his day, Saint-Gaudens grew up in New York and Boston and trained in Paris. It took him nearly fourteen years to complete this bas-relief bronze monument, considered the first civic monument to celebrate the valor and sacrifice of Black soldiers.  

The monument was paid for through private donations and unveiled in a national ceremony. The Friends of the Public Garden raised funds to restore and endow the monument, which was rededicated in 1997 and again in 2022 after a restoration of the monument’s infrastructure.

Boston Massacre Memorial honoring Crispus Attucks by Robert Kraus

The Boston Massacre Memorial was dedicated near the Tremont Street Mall on Boston Common in 1888, honoring Crispus Attucks, a man of African and Indigenous ancestry, and the other victims of the March 5, 1770 Boston Massacre.

The work of Robert Kraus, the memorial is a standing bronze figure of the Revolution breaking the chains of tyranny and crushing the crown of the British monarch under her foot. The bas-relief bronze plaque is taken from a famous engraving by Paul Revere and depicts the events near what is now known as the Old State House. The frieze shows Attucks, the first to die, lying in the foreground.

Phillis Wheatley Memorial, part of the Boston Women’s Memorial by Meredith Bergmann

Located on the on the Fairfield-Gloucester block of the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, the Women’s Memorial was dedicated in 2023, depicting Abigail Adams, Lucy Stone, and Phillis Wheatley.

Phillis Wheatley was kidnapped in West Africa in 1761 and transported across the Atlantic to Boston aboard the Phillis. She was purchased by John Wheatley as a servant for his wife when she was just seven years old. She would go on to become a literary prodigy.

The Wheatleys noticed her intelligence immediately. Their daughter encouraged her to study theology and the English, Latin, and Greek classics. Phillis published her first poem at age 13, modeling her work on the famous English poets of the time, John Milton, Thomas Gray, and Alexander Pope. Six years later, she published Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, which achieved international distinction and included Christian essays and poems dealing with race, such as “On Being Brought from Africa to America.”

In 1771, Phillis accompanied Nathaniel Wheatley on a trip to London, where she was well-received and treated as a celebrity. She wrote to a friend of the “unexpected and unmerited civility and complaisance with which I was treated by all.” Always in fragile health, she died before securing a publisher for a second volume of poems and letters. Her final manuscript was never found.

The Embrace by Hank Willis Thomas

Installed on Boston Common in January 2022, The Embrace commemorates Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King and depicts four intertwined arms, representing the hug they shared after he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. The sculpture stands within a circular plaza, the 1965 Freedom Plaza, which also recognizes 69 civil rights leaders in Boston from the 1950s through the 1970s.

Hank Willis Thomas’ design was selected from among 126 submissions. The work was fabricated by Mass Design Group in Walla Walla, Washington. It was formally dedicated on January 13, 2023, with dignitaries present, along with the King’s son and one of their granddaughters.

Tour the Black Heritage Trail in person or virtually:

The National Park Service Boston African American National Historic Site Black Heritage Trail begins at the Shaw 54th Memorial on Boston Common and includes another 13 sites in and around Beacon Hill. Visit to take a virtual tour or download the NPS App.

The tour lasts approximately 90 minutes and covers approximately 1.4 miles.

Revisit some of our favorite programs:

Sit back, relax, and re-enjoy your favorite moments with The Friends! Click on the links below to revisit some of our most beloved virtual programs.

  1. A Community Conversation: The Power of Public Monuments in a Time of Racial Reckoning
  2. 54th MA Regiment: Interviews with Soldiers
  3. Boston Uncovered: The Black Heritage Trail 

Things to do with children:

Here are four of our favorite children’s books by BIPOC authors that celebrate nature:

1. Nell Plants a Tree by Anne Wynter (Author), Daniel Miyares (Illustrator)

This beautifully illustrated book tells the heartwarming story of a young girl who lovingly nurtures a pecan tree, eventually becoming the focal point of a close-knit, multi-generational family. The book’s poetic narrative and stunning visuals create an unforgettable reading experience.

2. Joy Takes Root by Gwendolyn Wallace (Author), Ashleigh Corrin (Illustrator):

In this intergenerational story, a young girl learns about plants and herbs from her grandmother in South Carolina’s garden. Joy listens to the earth’s heartbeat and connects it to her own while putting her intentions into the soil. By the story’s end, she learns to grow seeds in her garden while honoring all that her grandmother taught her. This sensory-rich book with illustrations by Ashleigh Corrin is a blissful reminder of nature’s wonders.

3. Jayden’s Impossible Garden by Mélina Mangal (Author), Ken Daley (Illustrator):

This story celebrates intergenerational relationships, imagination, and perseverance in bringing a community garden to life. Jayden’s love of nature inspires readers to see their surroundings as full of opportunities. The book also includes activities to make items like the milk jug bird feeder.

4. Something, Someday by Amanda Gorman (Author), Christian Robinson (Illustrator):

Presidential inaugural poet Amanda Gorman and illustrator Christian Robinson share a timeless message of hope to reveal how even the smallest gesture can have a lasting impact.