During the late eighteenth century, Beacon Hill’s north slope section became home to a considerable African American population. By the mid-1700s, the African American population in the area around Belnap Street exceeded 1,000. Throughout the early nineteenth century, the African American population in Beacon Hill continued to grow. This neighborhood is notable for its central role in the antebellum abolitionist movement, housing important locations like the African Meeting House. Advertisements in African American newspapers often featured notices for boardinghouses located in Beacon Hill including one operated by Lewis and Harriet Hayden. Many of these buildings including the African Meeting House, the Hayden House, and more, still stand. Today the African Meeting House is the location of the Boston Museum of African American History.

From the time they arrived as a self-emancipated couple, until decades after the Civil War, Harriet and Lewis Hayden were prominent members of Boston’s African American community. The Haydens lived on 66 Phillips Street in the North Slope section of Beacon Hill — near the African Meeting House, Twelfth Baptist Church (known as the Fugitives’ Church), and much of the bustling activity of Black reform.