Abolitionist William Cooper Nell was one of Boston's most forceful advocates for school integration in 1855. He was the author of several histories, including Colored Patriots of the American Revolution, and he worked at various times for the Liberator, the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, and the Frederick Douglass’ Paper.
He was also very active in the Boston Vigilance Committee and he sheltered or aided numerous self-emancipated slaves at 3 Smith Court.
He is considered the nation's first published black historian. In recognition of his contributions, the house was designated a National Historic Landmark.
The William C. Nell House, now a private residence, was a boarding home located in 3 Smith Court in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, opposite the former African Meeting House, now the Museum of African American History.
It is one of the "Smith Court residences" on the Black Heritage Trail® and on the Boston African American National Historic Site walking tours. The homes on Smith Court typify the types of homes built in the before 1803 and of many of the African Americans who lived in the city at that time. Other Smith Court residences on the tour include 5, 7, 7A, 4 and 2 Smith Court;
They are are not open to the public.