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Basic Black; African Meeting House


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Basic Black
African Meeting House
Program Number


Series Description

THe series was formerly known as Say Brother. Series title change as of 1/8/1998. This series is black produced and is one of public television's longest-running series that is rooted in and reflects the culture, concerns, achievements and history of people of African descent. Also includes controversial issues, African American artists, and events of special interest to the African American community.

Series release date: 1/8/1998

Program Description

In the early 1800s, Nantucket’s lucrative whaling industry and tolerant Quaker culture lured African Americans from the North and the South to the tiny island off the coast of Cape Cod. In 1825, the Black community (about 300 of the island’s 7,000 residents) built a one-room meeting house on the south end of town.

BASIC BLACK reveals the Meeting House’s prominent place in history. A school as well as a center of activity, it spearheaded one of the first equal education bills in the country. African Americans on Nantucket achieved relative wealth and confidence in the whaling industry, which paid Blacks equally. One of them—Absalom Boston—became captain of his own ship, The Industry, which was crewed completely by African Americans. When Boston’s daughter was denied admission to Nantucket’s high school because she was Black, Boston sued the town and won, integrating the public schools there.

For most of the 20th century, the African Meeting House teetered on the brink of disrepair, serving as a garage, a workshop, and a storage house. But in the late 1980s, Boston’s Museum of Afro-American History purchased the building and began restoring it. Architecturally, the Meeting House is unique; its walls curve seamlessly to its vaulted ceiling, like the hull of an overturned ship. Given Nantucket’s seafaring culture, the building was likely constructed by African American shipwrights.



Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Race and Ethnicity
Social Issues
Chicago: “Basic Black; African Meeting House,” 02/26/1998, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed April 18, 2019, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_BC0F09EED9A74B16B1674D660950F549.
MLA: “Basic Black; African Meeting House.” 02/26/1998. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. April 18, 2019. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_BC0F09EED9A74B16B1674D660950F549>.
APA: Basic Black; African Meeting House. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_BC0F09EED9A74B16B1674D660950F549
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