Making history visible
February 22, 2019 7:45 AM   Subscribe

The Black History Trail Across Massachusetts: People often think of Boston as either “where fugitive slaves came and were ‘rescued’ by the abolitionists, or as the place where people were throwing bricks at black children” during busing protests in the 1970s. The goal of the African American Trail Project is to “complicate the narrative,” to fill in gaps, show African-American people in all their dimensions and place present-day struggles for racial justice in a continuum.
posted by ChuraChura (6 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
I was surprised to learn only this year that slavery continued in Massachusetts until after the American Revolution, and that there were quite a few slaves (4500) in MA not long before the revolution in the 1750s. Even if I'd learned some of that history previously, I, like many an Northerner, have a tendency to forget quite how important and long-lasting slavery was even in abolitionist strongholds like Massachusetts.

It is a complicated narrative, indeed, and it's cool that folks are learning more of the nuances thanks to their work!
posted by ldthomps at 8:08 AM on February 22 [1 favorite]


even in abolitionist strongholds like Massachusetts.

Massachusetts had a lot of abolitionists, but it also had a large cotton shipping industry. Many public and private abolition speeches or meetings were violently mobbed by bands of clerks from the docks, who literally tried to forbid any discussion of "the slavery question". In 1835 William Lloyd Garrison was going to address the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society, but thousands of assholes stormed the meeting. Garrison was unable to escape and was dragged through the streets at the end of a rope until the police took him into protective custody.
posted by Hypatia at 9:30 AM on February 22 [5 favorites]


Yay, Tufts! Yay, Jumbos!

I would love it if Brown University -- with its own ties to the slave trade -- would do something similar in Providence, RI.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:35 AM on February 22 [1 favorite]


Massachusetts had a lot of abolitionists, but it also had a large cotton shipping industry.

Not just shipping, but soon thereafter, actual textile manufacture. Two good books to read in conjunction on this are The Half Has Never Been Told and Empire of Cotton.
posted by praemunire at 11:13 AM on February 22 [2 favorites]


Massachusetts had a lot of abolitionists, but it also had a large cotton shipping industry.

Massachusetts also played a role in the Triangular Trade, in which slaves in the Caribbean harvested sugar and turned it into molasses, which was shipped to Boston to be turned into rum that was then sold in England to finance more slave buying in West Africa (Boston remained a large rum producer up through Prohibition, which is why it had a large tank of molasses that collapsed in the Great Molasses Flood of 1919).
posted by adamg at 7:25 PM on February 22 [2 favorites]


Last month from Public Radio International's Boston Calling podcast: “Transatlantic Sins” (½-hr audio)
posted by XMLicious at 9:46 PM on February 22


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