We've all heard of Paul Revere and John Hancock, but what about Crispus Attucks?
Attucks, a dockworker in his 40s, was the first American to die in the American colonists' fight for freedom from Britain. He also was African-American and Native American. He was shot during the Boston Massacre in 1770, along with four others. Attucks is buried at the historic Granary Burying Ground, resting place for some of America's founders, including John Hancock and Paul Revere.
The Granary Burying Ground is on Boston's famous Freedom Trail tour (www.thefreedomtrail.org). Our visit started at Boston's African American National Historic Site on Beacon Hill (www.nps.gov/boaf).
"When people think of the American Revolution, they don't realize there were a significant number of African-Americans involved. It's a forgotten story," says Jarumi Crooks, the national park ranger assigned to the site.
Boston is a good place to remember it, especially with the multimillion-dollar restoration of the African Meeting House, the oldest African meeting house in America. The three-story brick building, built in 1806, was constructed primarily by free black artisans and served as school, church and meeting place. Newspaper editor William Lloyd Garrison founded the New England Anti-Slavery Society here; Frederick Douglass spoke out against slavery here.
Boston is a great place to enjoy a 21st century hotel, grab some good eats (Anna's Taqueria, www.annastaqueria.com, around the block from the Museum of African American History is a good bet), as well as to revisit some important history lessons.
We stayed on the Cambridge side of the Charles River at the Royal Sonesta (www.sonesta.com) -- with hot tub, indoor pool and huge mall next door -- which touts an overnight package starting at $149 a night, including garage parking.
The American Revolution proved a turning point in the status of African-Americans in Massachusetts. In 1783, slavery was declared unconstitutional, though African-Americans certainly weren't treated equally, forced to ride on the outside of trains.
There are many African-American stories to be told here, especially along the North Slope of Beacon Hill, from Revolutionary War days onward and including the Abiel Smith School, the first building in the nation constructed for the sole purpose of housing a black public school. Abiel Smith was a philanthropist who left money to the city of Boston for educating African-American children and his school remained Boston's only black public school until schools were integrated in 1855.
But attending that school was no picnic, Ranger Crooks told us -- there were more than 60 students with one teacher in a single room with no heat or books. Today, the Abiel Smith School is part of the Museum of African American History (www.maah.org). The museum has four historic sites dating back to the 1770s in Boston and on the island of Nantucket.
A guided walking tour of the Museum's Black Heritage Trails on Boston's Beacon Hill includes the 54th Regiment Memorial. (The Volunteer Infantry was the first black regiment recruited in the North during the Civil War and the subject of the movie "Glory.")
Stop at the John J. Smith House -- his barbershop became a center for abolitionist activity and a rendezvous for the Underground Railroad. George Middleton was a Revolutionary War veteran who led one of three black militias that fought against the British. His house on Pinckney Street built in 1787 is one of the oldest on Beacon Hill.
During the decades before the Civil War, over half the city's 2,000 African-Americans lived on Beacon Hill, just below the homes of the wealthy whites. The historic buildings along the Black Heritage Trail were the homes, businesses, schools and churches of a community organized from revolutionary times to help those who faced discrimination and slavery, working toward equality and freedom.