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Black History Month

Sergeant Horatio Homer, Boston’s first Black police officer and lover of music and art

Horatio Homer was the first black officer appointed to the Boston Police Department in 1878.BPD News

This Black History Month, the Globe is saluting people who have made a difference in Massachusetts.

On Christmas Eve in 1878, Horatio J. Homer reported for duty as Boston’s first Black police officer.

It was the start of a 40-year career, much of it spent at the old police headquarters in Pemberton Square. He was a polite man, known for his courtesy to all who may have crossed his path, according to an 1895 Boston Daily Globe article.

He joined the force at a time when Black men were being recruited for jobs in public service and government, according to Boston police archivist Margaret Sullivan.


Homer, born on May 24, 1848 in Farmington, Conn., followed a circuitous path to policing. He worked many jobs, including as a waiter, janitor, and parlor car porter until he moved to Boston in 1873.

He then worked on steamboats traveling between Boston and Bangor, Maine, before becoming a police officer.

At the beginning of his policing career, when the headquarters was closed on Sundays but officers were still required to work seven days, Homer walked the beat between the Museum of Fine Arts and the Boston Garden, the statement said.

At headquarters, Homer had all the responsibilities of a sergeant, but did not attain the rank until 1895, according to Sullivan.

Off duty, Homer enjoyed collecting art, playing many wind and string instruments, and making furniture out of pasteboards and canceled postage stamps, according to a feature in the Boston Daily Globe in April 1906.

His musical skill was, “a treat for any lover of good music to hear him play his various instruments, with Mrs. Homer accompanying him on the piano,” the article stated.

Homer had a piano, phonoharp, guitar, mandolin, violin, viola, double bass, trombone, flute, clarinet, and cello in his music room.


Homer retired in 1919, earning respect as a “reserved, responsible, and trustworthy,” police officer, Sullivan said.

He passed away on Jan. 9, 1923 in his home at 83 Humboldt Ave. in Roxbury.

In 2011, a community room at Boston Police Headquarters overlooking Nubian Square in Roxbury was dedicated to Homer.

Madison Mercado can be reached at madison.mercado@globe.com.