communities Chronicling their journey of historical recovery

Mainers in the Sugar Trade

Cipperly Good describes an 1837 trading voyage that took a 24-year-old Maine captain from West Prospect, Maine to Barbados, Trinidad, and St. Thomas, with stops at Puerto Rico and New York City.

Dudley Saltonstall’s Other Career

By Anne Farrow Captain Dudley Saltonstall is best known in Maine and national history for his disastrous leadership during the Penobscot Expedition in 1779, and for a rout which resulted in the loss of more than forty ships and the end of his naval career. Sometimes called the worst naval disaster in American history before…

A Presidential Pardon

By Bill Grabin Just History: Uncovering an Inclusive Story of the People of the Kennebunk Region On March 20, 1830, the following statement came forth from the White House: “Whereas it has been represented to me that the American Brig Volant … belonging to Adam Stone and Asa Fairfield, citizens of the United States residing…

Abolition and the Underground Railroad in Essex County

By Gordon Harris The Fugitive Slave Acts By the time of the United States Constitutional Convention in 1787, many Northern states including Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut had already abolished slavery, but Article 4 of the Constitution included a clause that, “no person held to service or labor” would be released from…

The Real Sam Huntington

Any study of the Black Governors in early Connecticut will turn up a mention of “Sam Hun’ton, slave to Governor Samuel Huntington,” all drawn from a single secondary source. Can this claim be substantiated? Pauline Merrick tries to unravel the mystery.

Making Connections and Recovering History

By Scot McFarlane Research Scholar, Historic New England, Northern New England Region Though I recently completed my dissertation on the history of slavery on Texas’ Trinity River, studying and understanding slavery’s history in New England has been a very different experience. As one of four new research scholars at Historic New England, my job is…

How the Myth of a Liberal North Erases a Long History of White Violence

Anti-black racism has terrorized African Americans throughout the nation’s history, regardless of where in the country they lived. By Christy Clark-Pujara and Anna-Lisa Cox This article was originally published on the blog for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History as the first of a five-part series titled “Black Life in Two Pandemics: Histories of…

What Alexander Hamilton’s deep connections to slavery reveal about the need for reparations today

Alexander Hamilton publicly opposed slavery, but research reveals he was also complicit in it. Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution Nicole S. Maskiell, University of South Carolina Alexander Hamilton has received a resurgence of interest in recent years on the back of the smash Broadway musical bearing his name. But alongside tales of his role in…

Cicely was young, Black and enslaved – her death during an epidemic in 1714 has lessons that resonate in today’s pandemic

Over 3.2 million people have died from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. How history memorializes them will reflect those we most value.CC BY-ND Nicole S Maskiell, University of South Carolina What I believe to be the oldest surviving gravestone for a Black person in the Americas memorializes an enslaved teenager named Cicely. Cicely’s…

Jagged Edges of Progress, Part II

By Elise A. Guyette Originally published at https://rokeby.org/blog/. From 1793 to 1961, Rokeby was home to four generations of Robinsons — a remarkable family of Quakers, farmers, abolitionists, artists, and authors. Today, the Robinson family’s home is a National Historic Landmark, designated for its exceptional Underground Railroad history. Rokeby is among the best-documented Underground Railroad…

Building a Better Black Box

By Meadow Dibble What you are looking at is a document chest believed to have belonged to Elijah Cobb (1768–1848), one of New England’s most celebrated sea captains and the founding father of my hometown on Cape Cod. You might even call it a 19th-century black box, since the purpose of this object, like that…

Jagged Edges of Progress, Part I

By Elise A. Guyette Originally published at https://rokeby.org/blog/. From 1793 to 1961, Rokeby was home to four generations of Robinsons — a remarkable family of Quakers, farmers, abolitionists, artists, and authors. Today, the Robinson family’s home is a National Historic Landmark, designated for its exceptional Underground Railroad history. Rokeby is among the best-documented Underground Railroad…

For Whaling Captains, Diversity Flourished

By Skip Finley Many splendid homes on Martha’s Vineyard were built by whaling captains, but little has been written about the origin of the money that allowed their construction. For 156 years — from 1738 to 1894 — whaling dominated the economy on Martha’s Vineyard. Southern New England was known for the oil derived from…

Slavery and African Americans in early Castine

Castine, Maine is a small coastal town in Hancock County, Maine. Long used seasonally for fishing and trade by Native Americans, the area was first occupied by whites beginning in 1629. Over the course of 200 years, French, English, Dutch and Americans fought over this highly prized and strategically placed deep water port. Permanent settlement…

Stories from the Black Atlantic World

By Samantha Payne, Ph.D. Candidate at Harvard University, Andrew W. Mellon Short-Term Fellow at the Massachusetts Historical Society This article was originally published on the blog for the Massachusetts Historical Society. It appeared on March 24, 2021. Reprinted with the permission of the author. In the past year, the Massachusetts Historical Society highlighted collections that…

Reparations Update to our Congregation

#Atlantic Black Box Blog Post #3 Our Reparations Task Force led the worship service last Sunday on Zoom. Thanks to all who attended. It was the first time we informed our congregation of the extent of our work so far.  When we have put the service up on the church’s website, http://www.fbpuu.org, I will post…

Stand In Solidarity Against Racism on Juneteenth!

These words, posted on Facebook, were a call to action for our mostly white community. In response, almost 80 people gathered at Lafayette Park, in Kennebunk, Maine, on a warm spring evening.   In the midst of a pandemic, the crowd included all ages: some who remembered demonstrating for civil rights back in the 1960s and…

“God Never Made a Slave”

Charlie Wilcox ’21 James Mars’s Faith   Gowing up going to Catholic school for nine years and a Jesuit school for three, I learned a lot of history, but it was rarely Black History, and never Black History in my home state state. I’ve found that looking at slavery in this way is enlightening. Throughout all my research the man who had the most profound impact on me was James Mars: particularly how he was able to stay so faithful…

Mirrors

Brendan Cassamajor ’21 My journey in this class ties into the notion that “everything happens for a reason”. It was not on my schedule when I initially stepped on campus, and it wasn’t until a week in that I finally joined, and I am extremely happy that I did.    I can confidently say that this class…

Our History

Nicholas Gray ’21 I have never questioned my history. I have a book, two books, one for my mother’s lineage, another for my fathers. I can name most every member of my family, where they lived, what they did, who they were. I understood that having a pre-printed family genealogy was a privilege, but coming…

Reel Drop

Over the past academic year, history teacher Rhonan Mokriski and his students at a high school in Salisbury, Ct have been pursuing a project-based learning course in public history focused on uncovering the lives of free and enslaved African American families in northwestern Connecticut. This blog chronicles that journey. By Clarence Nurse ’22 & Conor…

First Parish Brewster UU (Mass.) Reparations

#Atlantic Black Box Blog Post #4 Here is the Sunday Service presented by our Reparations Task Force, minus some copyrighted musical selections we are unable to publish. The Reparations Action group of First Parish Brewster UU has developed a definition of reparations as it relates to our congregation. Reparations is a process of reconciliation and…

The Extraordinary Cesar Women!

The Cesar Women (L to R): Olive Cesar Peters, Nancy Cesar, Nancy Cesar, Mary Cesar Lassiter, and Mathilda Cesar Willams (ca. 1947ish). Over the past academic year, history teacher Rhonan Mokriski and his students at a high school in Salisbury, Ct have been pursuing a project-based learning course in public history focused on uncovering the…

The Library and Searching for Slavery

By James King, Library Director at Salisbury School James Mars didn’t complain of “many things,” but one thing troubled him his entire life: the lack of “opportunity to go to school as much as I should, for all the books I ever had in school were a spelling-book, a primer, a Testament, a reading-book called…

A Deepening Lesson

(https://images.app.goo.gl/T3xTWF7ajq9xWFio6) Over the past academic year, history teacher Rhonan Mokriski and his students at the Salisbury School have been pursuing a project-based learning course in public history focused on uncovering the lives of free and enslaved African American families in northwestern Connecticut. This blog chronicles that journey. By Caleb May ’21, a senior at salisbury…

Freedom for Jenny Slew

Jenny Slew was born about 1719 as the child of a free white woman and a black slave, but lived her life as a free woman until 1762 when she was taken and enslaved by John Whipple Jr. of Ipswich.

How to Bring the Witness Stones Project to Life

This 2020-2021 academic year marks the third year that my students at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford have participated in the Witness Stones Project and it’s been the most inspiring and meaningful work of my teaching career.  It’s also been the most doubt-inducing, time-consuming work as well. Teaching about race, conducting the slow, laborious historical…

Venture Smith – A Story About a Hero

Over the past academic year, history teacher Rhonan Mokriski and his students at the Salisbury School have been pursuing a project-based learning course in public history focused on uncovering the lives of free and enslaved African American families in northwestern Connecticut. This blog chronicles that journey. By Hurst Thompson ’21, senior at salisbury school The…

Cesar Family Project

I signed up for this class to engage in something different. It was a chance to break free from the normal classes I had and an opportunity learn about valuable history that had barely been touched. On the very first meeting our teacher asked us to name 5 famous black people who lived before 1950.…

Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman in Portland?!!

Many of us who have studied African American history in New England are familiar with Mum Bet, later to be known as Elizabeth Freeman.   While enslaved to a family in Sheffield, Massachusetts in 1781, she was the first to challenge the new state constitution, which proclaimed that “all men are born free and equal.”…

Learning Northern Slavery Through Twitter @SlaveryNorth

I have asked my students to summarize some of their first trimester’s work in a blog post. Over the next week, I will share some of them on here. – RM My name is Simba Chen, I am a member of the Searching for Slavery class. My responsibility is to man the class twitter account. This trimester, I am…

Exeter, NH and Evolving Revolutionary History

The Ladd-Gilman House, now a part of the American Independence Museum in Exeter, New Hampshire, once overlooked wharves busy with trade that supported the system of slavery and an enslaved man once lived there. Yet, those stories have remained largely untold. Research is now underway to reassess the museum’s interpretation of the American Revolution toward…

Changed by an Assignment

“I beg you to allow me to take pictures of your utmost suffering.”Eiichi Matsumoto, Photographer, Hiroshima By Anne Farrow Almost 20 years ago, I began studying slavery as an assignment. My editor at the Sunday magazine had received a request from the editor in chief, who wanted the magazine to discover and explore the life…

The Students Speak

As promised, for this blog post, I will let my students speak. I teach sixth grade at a public charter middle school on Cape Cod. I have 84 students in my ELA classes. They cycle through in groups of 14 this year, sitting in beach chairs on the classroom floor as stiff breezes scatter leaves…

Confronting Place Ignorance in Education

By Fiona Hopper In January 2020, Starr Kelly, Curator of Education at the Abbe Museum, led a workshop for the social studies vertical team (a group comprised of teachers, parents, and students in Portland, Maine) and partner organizations titled Can We Decolonize Educational Spaces?: A Critical Look at Settler Colonialism and Empire Building. Starr asked…

Thanksgiving Takeaway

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity on the Thanksgiving front, as we head into the holidays and the first big break for students. From all of the webinars popping up in my inbox offering to help me teach about Pilgrims and Native Americans to the wild turkeys roaming serenely through my…

Munjoy Hill’s 19th Century African-American Community

By Kate Burch, Greater Portland Landmarks Portland’s Black Communities have been shaping the city’s history, landscapes, and architecture for hundreds of years. In the 19th century, Portland was a stop on the Underground Railroad and was home to a thriving community of free Black people who worked the waterfront or the commercial railroads. Surviving historic…

Are You Listening?

This past week, I sent my students outside to listen. With a pandemic shaping the ways teachers work with students this year, I’ve redrawn the curriculum to include an opening unit on nature writing in order to maximize our outdoor time this fall. The act of being outside and engaging with the world using all…

Patience Boston 1711-1735

Whenever I am working on The Prince Project (my database of people of color who were in Maine prior to 1800), I  encounter many heart-wrenching stories. The accounts of abuse and the fights for freedom leave me breathless.  So many preferred to face death rather than to remain enslaved.  Others inspire me with their courage…

Re-Thinking Space

As the bobcat rumbled away last week, I admired the transformed hillside next to our school. It had been cleared of the lumpy hillocks and spotted spurge and other pricklier species. We had created a smooth blank canvas, a sandy slope now carved to accommodate the construction of eight cedar beds with wide and mulchy…

Searsport’s Blanchards in the West Indies Trade

The Blanchard’s of Searsport commissioning of the bark CUBA in 1841 and brig DEMERARA in 1842 give insight into the importance of the West Indian sugar trade for New Englanders at that time. Demerara is a raw cane sugar and a region of Guyana, and Cuba was the port of call for the Blanchard ships.…

How the Myth of a Liberal North Erases a Long History of White Violence

Anti-black racism has terrorized African Americans throughout the nation’s history, regardless of where in the country they lived. By Christy Clark-Pujara and Anna-Lisa Cox This article was originally published on the blog for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History as the first of a five-part series titled “Black Life in Two Pandemics: Histories of…

Spencer Hall: He Died in the Guinea Trade

A distant cousin of mine, Conrad Hall, recently published a book about the descendants of our fifth-great-grandparents, A Select History of Mathews County, Virginia: 17th, 18th & 19th Centuries and The Family of Robert and Ann Hall. It’s a very well-compiled and well-written historical documentation, full of evidence surrounding the origin, environment, and events of…

Where to Begin?

It’s often the question, isn’t it? For historians, of which I am not one, it must be the question that sends reasonable academics down rabbit holes, where subterranean historical societies meet and overstuffed armchairs line up next to roaring fireplaces. As a middle school language arts teacher, I’ve not often traveled to these complex spaces.…

The Cesar Family

As I referenced in an earlier post,  I am piloting a class on slavery in Connecticut/New England. It is going to be entirely project-based learning. My only required text is Anne Farrow, Joel Lang, and Jenifer Frank’s spectacular Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery. At this inflection point, I feel fortunate…

A Public Archaeology: The Archaeology of Malaga Island

Research centered on Malaga Island, in coastal Maine, in order to better understand the regional potential for assessment of the African-American experience in this portion of Casco Bay and Southwestern Maine. Given the shallow soils, dominant softwood forest and irregular rocky topography, much of the Northeast bay held little value for settlement. However, a small…

Not finding what you’re looking for

This summer, all four of Penobscot Marine Museum’s remote interns conducted research related to ships participating in the slave trade or early Maine African American residents. The process tended to be challenging and they didn’t always find what they were looking for. High school intern Audrey described her experience looking for African American residents in…

Witness Stones and Teaching Teachers Hard History

For all of the educators reading this post: Have you ever questioned the fact that you can teach in front of dozens of students every day and never be nervous, but when get up to talk to a room full of adults the butterflies return, your throat dries, and that witty banter leaves the tip…

Taking a Closer Look in the Collections of the Penobscot Marine Museum

The Penobscot Marine Museum (PMM) in Searsport, Maine holds objects, archives, photographs, and library books related to our mission to preserve, interpret and celebrate the maritime culture of the Penobscot Bay Region and beyond through collections, education and community engagement.  A major subject throughout our collection is Maine’s nineteenth century merchant marine: Maine-built coastal schooners…

Searching for Slavery in the Northwest Corner of Connecticut

I teach at an independent school in the sleepy Connecticut town of Salisbury (pop 3,598 in 2018). I have been living here for 24 years. My lens has been largely focused on world history – particularly China – so beyond the normal US survey idea of slavery, this is a topic that I knew relatively…

The Prince Project

Prince.  His name was Prince.  Later in his life, he was often known to some as Prince McLellan, but his last moniker came later. For most of his life, and in death, he was just known as Prince. He had his singular name because he was enslaved.  Just one name.  They didn’t need a last name,…