Boston archeologists digging for artifacts tied to slavery, Underground Railroad

Boston’s archeology team is digging at several sites through the city to uncover untold stories of the city’s connection to slavery, the Underground Railroad and Black history.

The first of three excavations got underway in mid-September at the Shirley-Eustis House in Roxbury.

The mansion, built in 1747, was once the seasonal country estate of William Shirley, Royal Governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay.

Archeologists have been shoveling to find out if the property’s slave quarters are still intact underground.

They’ve found several relics during the tedious process.

“The place we’re excavating are the kitchens and living quarters of folks who were enslaved on the property,” said Bagley. “There are very few places that have survived in the ground that tell the recorded story of enslaved Africans in Boston.”

Bagley said many of the locations connected to enslaved Africans in Boston have been developed or lost.

“I think many people are going to be surprised by the fact there even was slavery here,” explained Bagley. “We started it. Massachusetts was the first state to make slavery legal.”

The team will shift their focus to 558 Massachusetts Ave in the South End on Monday.

The brick townhome is the former home of an abolitionist family with a known history of welcoming slaves.

Their home is believed to have served as a stop on the Underground Railroad.

“It being an inherently secretive process, the evidence of that action may not be left in the ground,” added Bagley. “What did Boston do to create slavery, and what did Boston do to try to change it?”

The home later became the headquarters of the League of Women for Community Service.

It was first known for supporting Black veterans returning from war and supported Black men and women in Boston through the decades.

Coretta Scott King rented a room at the home while studying at the New England Conservatory of Music during the early stages of her relationship with Martin Luther King Junior.

Boston’s archeology team will be digging at the site in the South End through the month of October.

They’ll then move to a third site in Jamaica Plain in November.

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