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Historic New England honors Black History Month

Feb 8, 2023

This February we share some of the voices our researchers are recovering.

Rhode Island Slave History Medallion dedication on Juneteenth 2022

Historic New England’s Recovering New England’s Voices scholars have already uncovered more than 580 previously unknown stories in the past two years and their work is ongoing. We share the following stories as we continue our commitment to telling a fuller more complex New England history.


Meet David Chesnut, a coachman at the Eustis Estate in Milton, Mass., who later became a career chauffeur, invested in nearby real estate, and raised a family. Learn more about Chesnut.

Young Black man with horse in sepia color photo

Cicero was one of at least three Black servants at Bowman House in Dresden, Maine, along with Boston and Dinah. Documentation suggests that Cicero and Boston were enslaved by Jonathan Bowman. Cicero ran away in 1775 probably to join the Continental Army and fight in the Revolution. This runaway notice was published on November 16, 1775. It provides a detailed description of Cicero and the clothes he was wearing when he ran away from Bowman House.

Newspaper notice

More to explore

What court records can reveal

Read an article in Historic New England magazine about a conspiracy uncovered in Essex County Quarterly Court documents that involved an enslaved Black man called James who escaped from the household of Richard Dole.

Stone pillar with medallion

Sharing stories through Rhode Island Slave History Medallion

Casey Farm in Saunderstown was one of many Rhode Island plantations that used people of Indigenous and African descent to care for crops and animals and handle domestic duties. Read more about enslaved people and their legacy at Casey Farm on the RISHM website.

Property ownership

In 1670 Zipporah Potter Atkins became the first black woman on record to buy a house and land in colonial Boston. Read more about this remarkable discovery in an article in Historic New England magazine.


Videos to enjoy

Richard Haynes's Cyrus Bruce
Richard Haynes’s Cyrus Bruce

Video Presentation – Stories of Ona Judge and Cyrus Bruce at Langdon House

JerriAnne Boggis, executive director of the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire, and artist/educator Richard Haynes Jr. discuss their work with Historic New England to tell the stories of Ona Judge and Cyrus Bruce at Langdon House in Portsmouth, N.H.


Edward Mitchell Bannister and Christiana Carteaux Bannister

Video Presentation – Edward M. Bannister: The Artist and His Influences

Nancy Whipple Grinnell, curator emerita of the Newport (R.I.) Art Museum, presents a program on Edward M. Bannister, his upbringing, his marriage to Christiana Carteaux, and the challenges he faced as a Black artist.


Portrait of young Black woman - Harriet Tubman. Seated.

Video Presentation – Harriet Tubman: A Portrait of an American Freedom Fighter

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson, American historian and Harriet Tubman scholar, speaks about Tubman—the woman, warrior, soldier, activist, and leader—and discusses why her story resonates so much today.

Explore more

Through these stories and others, we invite you to join us in celebrating Black History Month. For more stories, check out a few portraits from our carte de visite collection and an online exhibition highlighting African American vacation destinations in New England.