Gloucester’s Gloster, Fortune & Kate: Interpreting Their Words and Surfacing Evidence of their Lives, with Lise Breen

Thursday, April 27 at 5:00 pm

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In this talk, Lise Breen raises questions about the nature of enslavement in New England and its interpretation. Presenting sketches of four enslaved people with ties to Gloucester, Massachusetts, she recounts aspects of their lives by interpreting overlooked archival evidence–including their own carefully parsed words––to restore a voice to those so rarely heard. In 1753, Gloster dictated a letter to his enslavers from what is now Maine, negotiating for independence while claiming affection. Fortune’s letter contained an oblique threat to pressure his enslaver for release. Kate’s perilous situation emerges between the lines of Annisquam church books. By weaving baptismal records, probate records, and advertisements to these letters, quotations, and anecdotes, we might evaluate and analyze such accounts for both what they include and what they suppress.

About the speaker:

In the course of finding and interpreting evidence of African-descended individuals on Cape Ann, Lise Breen has identified Gloucester slave ship captains and investors, kidnappers and enslavers. Her essay, “Hidden City: Slavery and Gloucester’s Quadricentennial,” is published in Gloucester Encounters: Essays on the Cultural History of the City 1623-2023. Gloucester Cultural Initiative. Martin Ray, editor.

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