Hosted by Atlantic Black Box

Thursday, May 26, 2022, 5:00 PM EDT

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Next up in our What Happened Here speaker series, James Tanzer discovers the will of a formerly enslaved Black man from Topsham, Maine

In the spring of 2020, while working on a genealogy project in the history of a white family in Lincoln County, Maine, independent researcher James Tanzer came across a digital copy of the will of a formerly enslaved Black man named Quash, who lived in Topsham, Maine during the eighteenth century.

Eager to learn more about Quash, but unable to find any mention of him in local history books, James decided to research Quash’s life himself. Thus began a years-long project in local history to uncover the life of Quash and bring his memory to the fore once again in the communities in which he lived.

By searching for evidence in Quash’s surroundings, including town records and social connections, not only was James able to find direct evidence of Quash’s life, but build a picture of a well-connected, motivated, and successful individual, whose story adds weight to arguments that Black history is there to be found, if only we know where to look.

About the speaker:

James Tanzer grew up on the North Shore of Boston, Massachusetts. He has a degree in history from Smith College and a master’s degree in medieval history from the University of Toronto, where he was also a PhD student. He has been the Outreach Coordinator at the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine for the past 13 years.

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