May 13, 2017: Landmarks of Slavery and Freedom: Exploring Local African-American Historic Sites

Abigail Adams Historical Society (AAHS), stewards of the Abigail Adams Birthplace, and the Hingham Public Library present Landmarks of Slavery and Freedom: Exploring Local African-American Historic Sites on Saturday, May 13, 2017, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Hingham Public Library, 66 Leavitt St., Hingham, Mass.
Abigail Smith Adams strongly opposed the institution of slavery, yet she grew up in a slave-owning household. Her father, the Reverend William Smith, owned a male servant named Tom and a female servant named Phoebe; both played significant roles in Adams’s life. As part of the Abigail Adams Historical Society’s continuing efforts to explore the subject of colonial New England slavery, it will co-sponsor with the Hingham Public Library a panel discussion on local African-American historic sites. Representatives from the Abigail Adams Birthplace, Museum of African American History, Parting Ways Historic Site, and the Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee/Florence’s African-American Heritage Trail will discuss the stories behind these landmarks and the important role they play in the community. This program is part of the Abigail Adams Historical Society’s year-long focus on historic preservation programming in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Birthplace’s rescue from demolition.

The Museum of African American History (MAAH) is New England’s largest museum dedicated to preserving, conserving, and interpreting the contributions of people of African descent and those who have found common cause with them in the promotion of liberty, dignity, and justice for all Americans. In Boston and Nantucket, the museum features two Black Heritage Trails® and preserves four historic sites that include the African Meeting House (pictured), the oldest extant black church in the country, and the Abiel Smith School, the first building in the nation erected solely to house a black public school. Three of these sites are National Historic Landmarks. Executive Director Marita Rivero will share how the museum explores the African-American New England experience from the colonial period through the nineteenth century.

Parting Ways in Plymouth is the resting place of four African-American former slaves who served in the American Revolution. It is also the site of their former homes and a historically significant archaeological dig. Eddie Johnson, the president of the Parting Ways Museum of African-American and Cape Verdean American Ethnohistory, will talk about the lasting importance of this site, and what it can teach us about early African-American life.

In 1992 a group of citizens from many walks of life came together to create a memorial statue in Florence, Mass. to honor the life and work of Sojourner Truth, former slave, abolitionist, and social activist who lived in Florence 1843–1856. The Sojourner Truth Memorial became a major stop on Florence’s African-American Heritage Trail. The Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee raises awareness of Truth’s legacy by offering special programming, walking tours, and scholarships. Committee member Anna Newman will discuss the committee’s successful efforts to increase the appreciation of diversity, build community, challenge oppression, and promote social justice.

Representing the Abigail Adams Birthplace and moderating the panel will be Michelle Marchetti Coughlin, AAHS board member, independent scholar, and author of One Colonial Woman’s World: The Life and Writings of Mehetabel Chandler Coit.

Providing insight into the lives of African Americans in early New England will be historian Kerima Lewis. Ms. Lewis holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and has served as a fellow at the Massachusetts Historical Society. She has taught at Tufts University and Bridgewater State University and currently teaches at Quincy College.

Time will be allowed for audience questions. Admission is free; reservations are not necessary.

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