While acknowledging that more research and books about Northern slavery – like Robert Romer’s Slavery in the Connecticut Valley of Massachusetts – are available today, and more communities are offering public programming on the topic (like Deerfield, with Mr. Romer’s assistance), she asked us to remember that:
“most Northern communities have not unearthed, much less made available, information about slavery’s existence in their towns. Many communities prefer to busy themselves telling other stories, particularly stories that make them feel good about themselves.”
“While the Underground Railroad is certainly an important part of the history of American slavery,” she said, “and the North’s participation in its demise, helping southern slaves run away isn’t the only role the North played in slavery’s history. Before there was an underground railroad, there was 150 years of slave history in Massachusetts.”
Thought not acted on until today -- Jan. 1, 2013 -- Ms. Lemire’s words stuck into my brain that day when she said, “despite the region-wide attempt to erase the signs of enslaved people in the North, everything a town or an organization needs to tell or present a coherent history of Northern slavery is, in fact, still available if we know where and how to look.” She entreated all of us in attendance that day to take the first step in unearthing those stories and to make them available for all to see.
That first step happened today, a year and a half later, as Hatfield celebrated the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation with a nondenominational service titled “Let Freedom Ring!,” hosted by and in the First Congregational Church of Hatfield.
Let this day mark our pledge, mine and others, to honor Hatfield’s slaves and their sacrifices, by telling their stories.
Tomorrow’s post will start this process by giving my talk, with links to bills of sale for Hatfield slaves. And the following day’s post will give Glenda Flynn’s response to and recap of Robert Romer’s story of Amos Newport, a Hatfield slave.
With these humble beginnings, we ask the community to help us bring these stories and artifacts of Hatfield slavery into the light, where they can be shared with all.