The Museum of African American History is dedicated to preserving, conserving and accurately interpreting the contributions of African Americans in New England from the colonial period through the 19th century.



Site 3

Corner of Federal and India Streets.

The Atheneum is Nantucket’s public library. It was established during the 1820’s and moved in 1834 a remodeled building that had been the Universalist Church. It was the site of lectures by prominent cultural and political leaders of the day and the site of abolitionist meetings and conventions.

On August 11, 1841, young Frederick Douglass (c.1817-1895), a former slave who had come from New Bedford for the island’s first anti-slavery convention, was moved to make his first public speech before a mixed-race audience. A year later, another anti-slavery convention degenerated into riot. The convention was evicted from the Atheneum and was refused use of several other locations. It wound up at the Big Shop, a large building on the edge of town where whaleboats were built. Douglass also spoke at the 1843 convention.

The Atheneum building and its contents were totally destroyed in the Great Fire of 1846. A new library was completed within six months. Renovations in 1955-96, preparing the library for twenty-first-century service, accomplished the most extensive changes to the building since that time.

Image: footsteps
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