New England Identities
Black New England Conference 2006: Lecture Summaries
Friday, June 23: UNH Memorial Union Building
Rooms 338 & 340
1:00 – 2:45 p.m.
Session #1: Black Culture in Northern New England
W. JEFFREY BOLSTER
“Race and Place in New England”
This paper begins to explore how the racial past is inscribed on New England’s landscape, and how that racially signified
landscape has become part of the contested narrative through which people in New England understand themselves and their
region. “A virtual amnesia about slavery in New England,” notes historian Joanne Pope Melish, “is almost as
old as the history of local slavery itself.” By the time of the Civil War, New Englanders were in the midst of redefining
this six-state region at the dawnland of America as mythically white. In the face of that definition, however, ancient places
retained longstanding names: Negro Island, Guinea Road, Nigger Point, and Nig’s Pond, to name just a few. By the late
twentieth century those names grated on the ears and self-respect of many well-intentioned people, and many essentially
evaporated through quiet lack of use. Those quiet erasures were simultaneously a triumph and a tragedy. In many cases, a
longstanding public testimonial to ancestral Black people’s presence in, and contribution to, New England was destroyed. My
paper reconstructs the complicated and uncomfortable history of race and place in New England through attention to place names
associated with the African American and Native American past.
W. Jeffrey Bolster is Associate Professor of History at the University of New Hampshire, where he holds the James H. Hayes
and Claire Short Hayes Chair in the Humanities. A prize-winning historian, Professor Bolster is best known as the author of
Black Jacks: African American Seamen in the Age of Sail, published by Harvard University Press in 1997. Black Jacks was
selected by the Association of American Publishers Professional and Scholarly Division as the “Best Book in History” in 1997.
It also was co-winner of the American Historical Association’s Wesley-Logan Prize for the best book in African American
History; and was named by the New York Times Book Review as a “Notable Book of the Year.”
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“Africans in Early Vermont: Jeffrey Brace and His Contemporaries”
Born in West Africa, Boyrereau Brinch / Jeffrey Brace (ca. 1742-1827) was captured by slave traders at the age of sixteen
and eventually enslaved in Connecticut. After winning his manumission by fighting in the American Revolution, Brace settled
in Vermont in 1784, where he met and married an African widow, Susan Dublin, and raised a family with her. Working as laborers,
farmers, and abolitionists, the Braces contributed to a significant African presence in early Vermont that included such
leaders as Lucy Terry Prince, Lemuel Haynes, Alexander Twilight, and Charles Bowles. In 1810 Brace published an extraordinary
memoir, The Blind African Slave, with the help of a white amanuensis.
Kari J. Winter is interested in how identity and power are constructed through interweaving ideologies of “race,”
ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, class, religion, place, and nation. Her research focuses on African American and American
Indian Studies. Her books include Subjects of Slavery, Agents of Change: Women and Power in Gothic Novels and Slave Narratives,
1790-1865 and a new edition of Jeffrey Brace's 1810 memoir of slavery, The Blind African Slave. She has published articles on
the work of Louise Erdrich, Joseph Bruchac, Ann Petry, Alberta Hunter, feminist film, Barbadian history, and other
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“Rock Rest: An African American Resort in the Age of Segregation”
Rock Rest is a summer guest house in Kittery, Maine that was operated by the same African American family from the 1940s to
the 1970s. One of the only such establishments in New England, it remains largely intact with an accumulation of furnishings,
photographs, letters, business records, and other documents. Catering to African American guests from the New York, New Jersey
and Philadelphia areas, Rock Rest provided an opportunity for professional couples to enjoy a relaxing summer vacation in Maine.
This talk will explore the time before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when Black people were restricted from public accommodations
by looking at the history of Rock Rest and the current effort to preserves this property.
Valerie Cunningham is a native of Portsmouth, NH and has been a social activist since the 1960s. She is a
founder and president of the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail, Inc., a self-guided walking and driving tour of landmarks
representing more than 360 years of African-American history in New Hampshire. She has been a founding member of several
civic organizations, including the Blues Bank Collective, the New Hampshire Circle of Friends, the Seacoast African American
Cultural Center, and the Portsmouth-Greater Accra Sister City Connection. Cunningham is the coordinator of Community Black
Heritage Partnerships at the University of New Hampshire and was appointed in 2005 to serve on the N.H. Commission on the
Status of Women. She is called upon as a public speaker and consultant on New Hampshire’s Black history. Her publications
include articles on African-American history and culture in New Hampshire and southern Maine. She is co-author, with
historian Mark J. Sammons, of Black Portsmouth: Three Centuries of African American Heritage (University Press of New England,
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3:00 – 4:45 p.m.
Session #2: Black Life in Northern New England
“The Blanchards: Living and Thriving in Milford, New Hampshire”
“Jim,” the protagonist’s African-American father and a “hooper of barrels” in Harriet E. Wilson’s
Our Nig, plies his trade at the farm and cooperage of one “Pete Green”, “another nigger” who provides
cheap boarding at his farm. Harriet Wilson was a native of the Hillsborough County town of Milford. It has since been found
that the only African-American landowner during that time was a man named Timothy Blanchard. This account will tell the story
of the Blanchard family of Milford and shed some light on aspects of Harriet Wilson’s early life.
Reginald H. Pitts is a professional historical researcher and genealogist. He graduated cum laude from Lincoln
University (Pennsylvania) in 1977 and subsequently earned his M.A. in American History from Villanova in 1979 and his Juris
Doctorate from Rutgers University School of Law in Newark, N.J. in 1982. Principal of Blanket Genealogical and Historical
Research Services of Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, Mr. Pitts performs primary source historical and genealogical research
services for a host of international, national and local individual clients and institutions. Pitts is coeditor of the Penguin
2005 edition of Our Nig by Harriet Wilson.
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CRAIG STEVEN WILDER
“'N_____ School': The Plight of Noyes Academy in Canaan, New Hampshire.”
In the fall of 1834 black students from across the Northeast began journeying to a new school in Canaan, New Hampshire.
About a year later, the school would come to a violent end. Open to both genders and all races, Noyes Academy sat--with a few
other advanced schools--at the radical vanguard of antebellum education. This paper tells the story of the abolitionists who
opened the school and the bold students who defended it with their lives.
Craig Steven Wilder studies United States urban history, with a particular focus on race, religion, and culture. In 2004,
Columbia University awarded him the University Medal of Excellence during its 250th Anniversary Commencement.
For more than a decade, Wilder has worked on curricular and professional development with public school teachers in
low-income areas of New York City. He has led seminars and workshops on urban affairs and race relations for community
organizations in the inner city. He has also been pursuing interests in mental illness and the urban poor. Recently, Wilder
joined the board of Gould Farm, the nation’s oldest therapeutic community for people with mental illnesses.
Professor Wilder has advised and appeared in numerous historical documentaries, including Ric Burns' award-winning PBS
series, “New York: A Documentary History,” and the recent History Channel series, “F.D.R.: A Presidency
Revealed.” He has directed or advised exhibits at regional and national museums, including the Brooklyn Historical
Society, the New York Historical Society, the Chicago Historical Society, and the New York State Museum. He was one of the
original historians for the Museum of Sex in New York City, and he maintains an active public history program with many
smaller local museums and cultural societies.
Wilder is the author of A Covenant with Color: Race and Social Power in Brooklyn (Columbia: 2000/2001) and In the
Company of Black Men: The African Influence on African American Culture in New York City (NYU: 2001/2004).
His current research project examines the history of school segregation in New York City.
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“Black Yankee Tricksters: Historical Anecdotes and Race in New Hampshire Histories”
African Americans appear in New Hampshire town histories written throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries, but their stories are often fragmentary appendages to those of prominent whites or are offered up as quaint and
amusing anecdotes of olden times. An examination of these materials reveals significant individuals, families, and
communities who have not been accorded appropriate notice in the construction of public and official historical accounts.
Indeed, the representation of African Americans in white-authored and white-centered historical accounts that imagine New
Hampshire as an Anglo-Saxon and freedom-loving state reflects the methodologies whereby African Americans and their history
were excluded from serious consideration. The presentation of African Americans as “curiosities” or “anecdotes” in New
Hampshire histories is part of the nineteenth-century movement to create cabinets of curiosity and historical societies that
endeavored to visualize a hierarchy of races and a progressive narrative of American history. The audience for such materials
was conditioned to see African Americans in terms of minstrelsy productions, whereby Black culture and identity was
transformed into grotesque parody. Nevertheless, African Americans in New Hampshire town histories often became memorable by
performing as Yankee tricksters, turning the tables not only on their oppressors but also on the oppressive images and
representations they experienced in New Hampshire. This talk presents case studies from a number of New Hampshire town
histories to suggest ways of recovering and reading such materials in town histories across New England.
David H. Watters is Director of the Center for New England Culture and Professor of English at the University of New
Hampshire. He is the coeditor of The Encyclopedia of New England and the author of books and articles on New England
literature, culture, history, and gravestone art. He serves as a trustee of the New Hampshire Historical Society, the Robert
Frost Homestead Foundation, and the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail.
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7:00 – 10:00 p.m.
Session #3: Address & Opening Reception (MUB Theatre 1)
FUNSO AFOLAYAN - Welcome
JAMES O. HORTON
“Race and Slavery in New England From the American Revolution to Abolition.”
James O. Horton is the Benjamin Banneker Professor of American Studies and History at George Washington University. He is
also director of the African American Communities Project at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian
Institution in Washington, DC. Dr. Horton has lectured throughout Europe and Asia and published numerous books. In 2004, he
became president of the Organization of American Historians. Dr. Horton was historical advisor on the PBS Series, Slavery and
the Making of America, and co-authored the companion book. Jim Horton is Benjamin Banneker Professor of American Studies and
History, George Washington University and the Director of the African-American Communities Project at the Smithsonian’s
National Museum of American History. He is the author of numerous articles and five books, including, Free People of Color:
Inside the African-American Community, (1993), and In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Protest, and Community Among Northern Free
Blacks, 1790–1806, which was co-authored with Lois E. Horton and published in 1997. He has been extremely active as a public
historian, serving as adviser to numerous museums and film projects and as chair of National Park Service Advisory Board. He
has also had a distinguished teaching career over the past twenty-five years; in 1994, he received the Trachtenberg
Distinguished Teaching Award from George Washington University; in 1996, he was named CASE Professor of the Year for the
District of Columbia by the Carnegie Foundation. He is interviewed here by Roy Rosenzweig, Director of the Center for History
and New Media at George Mason University.
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Saturday, June 24: UNH Huddleston Hall Ballroom
8:30 – 10:00 a.m.
Session #1: Black Presence in 19th Century Northern New England
RACHEL TALBOT ROSS
“Malaga Island: The Destruction of an African American Community”
Rachel Talbot Ross is the director of Equal Opportunity & Multicultural Affairs for the city of Portland and
current president of the NAACP Portland Branch. She serves as the chair for the Maine advisory committee to the U.S.
Commission on Civil Rights and is on several boards including Tengo Voz (I Have Voice), Maine Haiti Solidarity, Peace and
Justice in Israel/Palestine, and the African American Collection of Maine for the University of Southern Maine. As a ninth
generation Mainer, she comes from a legacy that is committed to preserving African American history in Maine. Rachel is
leading efforts to create the “Portland (Underground Railroad) Freedom Trail” and, in conjunction with ecological preservation
efforts, to produce public awareness materials and curriculum on Malaga Island, an African American settlement of the 1860’s
located off the coast of Phippsburg in Maine.
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NATHAN D. HAMILTON
Nathan D. Hamilton, Ph.D., Department of Geography-Anthropology and Associate Professor of Archaeology, joined the
USM faculty in 1987. Dr. Hamilton also has taught in the American and New England Studies Graduate Program. He completed his
Ph.D. on Prehistoric Maritime Adaptation in Western Maine at the University of Pittsburgh. His graduate studies focused on
Latin America and he held a Rea Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Dr. Hamilton also
functions as a Research Associate at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology in Andover, Mass. In 1990 he represented USM’s first
faculty exchange with Rissho University in Japan. Various research interests include evolution of coastal environments,
faunal analysis and prehistoric diet, and studies of ethnicity with textiles and basketry production among the Black
communities in the Virgin Islands. Dr. Hamilton teaches courses on Andean South America, prehistoric East Asia, historical a
rchaeology, medical anthropology, and Native American cultures.
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“The Underground Railroad in Vermont”
Jane Williamson is the Director of Rokeby Museum in Ferrisburgh, Vermont, a ten-building ninety acre National
Historic Landmark. Ms. Williamson has an M.S. in Library Services from Columbia University and an M.S. in Historic
Preservation from the University of Vermont. She is the author of numerous articles and book reviews including a review of The
Blind African Slave edited by Kari Winter.
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“The Resurrection of Harriet E. Wilson, an African American Novelist”
JerriAnne Boggis is the founder and Director of the Harriet Wilson Project. She also acts as liaison for the
University of New Hampshire's Diversity Initiatives program and as special projects director in the Center for New England
Culture. As a community activist, Ms. Boggis has developed several community programs that dealt with history and race. These
programs served to raise awareness of New Hampshire’s diverse heritage and increase the visibility of Black history in the
state. Ms. Boggis received her M.A. in Writing from Rivier College. She is co-editor of the upcoming collection of essays on
Wilson, Harriet Wilson’s New England: Race, Writing & Region. The book will be published by the University Press of New
England in 2007.
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10:30 a.m. – Noon
Session #2: Black History in New England Museums, Historical Societies, and Communities
WANDA S. MITCHELL - Welcome
Wanda S. Mitchell is Vice Provost for Diversity. She provides leadership on campus and in the external community
on issues of diversity and inclusion; and oversees the staff support for planning and programming activities of the
President’s Commissions: Status of GLBT Issues, Status of People of Color, and Status of Women. Dr. Mitchell works closely
with the entire campus community on diversity initiatives, represents the provost in university and external activities
related to diversity, and serves as liaison to the Division of Student and Academic Services regarding undergraduate
orientation, first-year experiences, and co-curricular activities. Dr. Mitchell is an affiliate associate professor of
Education. Her research interest and teaching are in the areas of multicultural counseling, diversity initiatives in higher
education, and women career development. Mitchell earned her Ed. D. in Counseling from The College of William and Mary; M.A.
in Community Counseling from Hampton University; and B.S. in Psychology from Georgia Southern University.
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JAMES O. HORTON and LOIS E. HORTON
“African American History and Public History”
Lois E. Horton is professor of sociology at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and Department of
American Studies at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. She is a member of the Scholarly Advisory Board at the
National Underground Railroad and Freedom Center, Cincinnati, Ohio. Professor Horton is also on the Advisory Board at the
Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University. She is a research associate for
the African American Communities Project at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution in
Washington, DC. Professor Horton has co-authored numerous works with James Horton, including In Hope of Liberty: Culture,
Community and Protest Among Northern Free Blacks, 1700-1860; A History of the African American People; and Black Bostonians:
Family Life and Community Struggle in the Antebellum North. Her most recently co-authored book with James Horton is entitled
Hard Road to Freedom: The Story of African America, published in 2001. Professor Horton received her Ph.D. in social welfare
at The Florence Heller Graduate School for Advanced Studies in Social Welfare, Brandeis University, Massachusetts.
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THE REV. DR. ARTHUR HILSON
“The Black Church as Community”
The Rev. Dr. Arthur Hilson is the pastor and founder of the New Hope Baptist Church in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
A longtime civic and civil rights leader in New Hampshire, he was among those who led the struggle to get New Hampshire to
observe Martin Luther King Day. He has served on the Portsmouth School Board, and he has taught courses in civil rights
history at the University of Hampshire. At UNH, he was the Director the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and the
Director of the Race, Culture and Power Minor. In 2004, he received the Citizen of the Year Award at the annual Martin Luther
King Jr. Breakfast.
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1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
Session #3: Black Family History and Genealogy
“Methods to Researching Black Families”
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“Cumberland County: Home for Eight Generations”
Bob Greene - Retiring after a 36-year career as a journalist with The Associated Press, Greene returned to his
roots by moving to South Portland, Maine. He is at least the eighth generation of his family to be born in Cumberland County,
Maine, and began in 1991 to trace his roots. As an Associated Press writer, he has covered riots in Omaha, Neb., and Kansas
City, Mo., the funeral of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and many other top news stories. He began traveling the world
when he became the AP Tennis Writer and has covered the sport in places as far-flung as Paris, London, Shanghai, New York as
well as Harare, Zimbabwe. He currently chairs the steering committee of the Jean Byers Sampson Center of Diversity at the
University of Southern Maine’s Glickman Library and is on the board of directors of the Maine Philanthropy Center. He also
finds time to research and speak on Maine’s lengthy African American history.
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ELISE A. GUYETTE
“Lincoln Hill: 1790-1870: Black Hill Farmers in Northern Vermont”
Elise A. Guyette, a former public school teacher and president of the Vermont Alliance for Social Studies (VASS),
is presently a doctoral candidate and adjunct faculty at the University of Vermont. She also works as a consultant on
ethnohistory, social sciences and curriculum development for schools, theaters, television and museums. She has produced a
series of K-12 videotapes featuring exemplary history and social science teachers from Vermont. These can be viewed on the
VASS website www.vermontsocialstudies.org. She has led educational history workshops in places as varied as Yunnan Normal
University in China, Durban in South Africa, Albuquerque, Boston, and throughout Vermont. She is the author of many
publications, including the history text Vermont: A Cultural Patchwork, “The Working Lives of African Vermonters in Census and
Literature, 1790-1870" in Vermont History, and "Behind the White Veil: A History of Vermont's Ethnic Groups" in Many Cultures,
One People: A Multicultural Handbook for Teachers. Ms. Guyette is presently researching the history of Lincoln Hill, a Black
farming neighborhood in Hinesburg & Huntington, VT from the 1790s to the 1870s. Her talk will focus on this community and put
them in the wider context of Vermont during the antebellum period.
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3:00 – 4:40 p.m.
Session #4: Civil Rights and Current Issues
PURNELL F. ROSS JR.
“The NAACP and New Hampshire”
Purnell F. Ross Jr. is the current Human Rights Commissioner for the State of New Hampshire and the current
President for the Portsmouth branch of the NAACP. After thirty (30+) years of continuous military services, retiring at the
top Enlisted rank of “Chief”, Ross received a direct Commission to the rank of Captain in the Air Force Auxiliary (CAP), and
currently holds the rank of Major. Among his numerous military awards is the Bronze Star with a “V” for Valor.
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KEITA ANNIE WHITTEN
“Dialogues in Diversity: The Voices of Anti-Oppression Peer Educators in Portland, Maine”
Keita Annie Whitten is the Multicultural Programming Coordinator for the Department of Multicultural Students Affairs at
the University of Southern Maine. Whitten is an active NASW Maine & NAACP Portland chapter member and she is the first elect
Black woman president of the Phi Alpha Honors Society. Whitten received her MSW form the University of Southern Maine and is
currently writing a book and working to publish her thesis project.
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