7:00 pm South Berwick Public Library

Based on careful research conducted over many years, Patricia Q. Wall presents Lives of Consequence: Blacks in Early Kittery & Berwick in the Massachusetts Province of Maine, the first detailed look at the lives of more than 400 Black individuals who lived in Kittery and Berwick, Maine, from the 17th century until about 1820. 

Wall has collected what she says are “scattered bits” of information about slavery in the earliest European settlements in Maine. But this is much more than a dry catalog of names and statistics, remarkable as that alone would be. This is her passionately narrated account of the challenges encountered when attempting to research a community of Africans and their American descendants, a community of people who were ignored and then forgotten when their bodies were no longer useful to others for building personal wealth.

Lives of Consequence introduces a social scene that seems all wrong in this now quietly picturesque vacation land. Nothing today suggests that African children and adult ‘servants’ had been here as an involuntary workforce, held captive to provide cheap labor in the English colony. History is silent about the half-black Yankees who lived here, their status having been pre-determined at birth according to the mother’s condition as free or a bond servant and, either way, the child would be valued by the dominant society according to prevailing market prices. Any surviving evidence of Black people inhabiting the coast of Maine is difficult to find, sometimes appearing, the author says, only as a “shadowy mark” on a page that testifies to a reality that was northern complicity in the antebellum trans-Atlantic economic system.

 

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