Conversations about Black History
During Black History Month, the Friends of the Millicent Library is presenting informal talks and discussions about Black people in Massachusetts and Rhode Island who changed history. We will talk about the realities of northern slavery and the challenges that continued after emancipation. The conversations will be led by Beth Luey, a Fairhaven resident who has written about these fascinating historical figures. The talks will begin at 6:30 and last about an hour, at the Millicent Library, 45 Center St., Fairhaven, in the auditorium (use Walnut Street entrance).
• Monday, February 6: Elizabeth Freeman (“Mumbet”). “Bet,” enslaved in the Sheffield home of Colonel John Ashley, sued for her freedom in 1781. She won, effectively ending slavery in the Commonwealth, and went on to become a much-respected midwife, healer, and property owner.
• Wednesday, February 15: Sojourner Truth. Born enslaved in upstate New York, the young woman who later took the name Sojourner Truth worked as a domestic servant until New York State’s gradual emancipation law freed her in 1827. She became an evangelical preacher and a nationally known orator speaking for emancipation, women’s rights, and human rights more broadly.
• Wednesday, February 22: Samuel Harrison. Born free in Philadelphia in 1818, Harrison became a shoemaker and minister in Pittsfield. In 1863, he became the chaplain of the Massachusetts Fifty-Fourth Regiment, and the symbol for equal pay for Black soldiers.
• Monday, February 27: Elleanor Eldridge. Of African and Narragansett ancestry, Elleanor Eldridge began working as a domestic servant as a small child around 1790. Developing skills and entrepreneurial instincts, she started her own business and began buying real estate in Warwick and Providence. When dishonest businessmen and politicians colluded to seize her property, she went to court— paying her legal fees with the income from her autobiography.
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