Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail
South Ward Room
(now Portsmouth Children's Museum)
This 1866 Victorian election hall was the site of two major 19th-century institutions in the lives of Portsmouth's black citizens. Starting on New Year's Day in 1881, many annual celebrations of the Emancipation Proclamation were held here. The first was attended by "most of the colored people of the city" and over 100 invited white guests. The celebrations included speeches, a catered supper and music, and recurred for eighty years.
This building was also home to New Hampshire's first black church. It began when a multi-denominational Bible-study class outgrew the capacity of James F. Slaughter's living room, and moved here in 1890 as People's Mission. In 1892, it reorganized as the People's Baptist Church with Reverend James Randolph as its first pastor. It was an auxiliary of the Middle Street Baptist Church. Racially separate churches in this county allowed and provided not only a center for social and political activities, but relief from the segregated seating and other limitations imposed by white religious institutions.
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