Black Walden: Slavery and Its Aftermath in Concord,

Black Walden: Slavery and Its Aftermath in Concord, Massachusetts ✈ [PDF / Epub] ✅ Black Walden: Slavery and Its Aftermath in Concord, Massachusetts By Elise Lemire ✸ – Concord, Massachusetts, has long been heralded as the birthplace of American liberty and American letters It was here that the first military engagement of the Revolutionary War was fought and here th Concord, Massachusetts, has long been heralded as Slavery and PDF/EPUB ä the birthplace of American liberty and American letters It was here that the first military engagement of the Revolutionary War was fought and here that Thoreau came to live deliberately on the shores of Walden Pond Between the Revolution and the settlement of the little cabin with the bean rows, however, Walden Woods was home to several generations of freed slaves and their children Living on the fringes of society, they attempted to pursue lives of freedom, promised by the rhetoric of the Revolution, and yet withheld Black Walden: eBook é by the practice of racism Thoreau was all but alone in his attempt to conjure up the former occupants of these woods Other than the chapter he devoted to them in Walden, the history of slavery in Concord has been all but forgottenIn Black Walden: Slavery and Its Aftermath in Concord, Massachusetts, Elise Lemire brings to life the former slaves of Walden Woods and the men and women who held them in bondage during the eighteenth century After charting the rise of Concord slaveholder John Cuming, Black Walden follows the struggles of Cuming's slave, Brister, Walden: Slavery and PDF/EPUB Ã as he attempts to build a life for himself after thirtyfive years of enslavement Brister Freeman, as he came to call himself, and other of the town's slaves were able to leverage the political tensions that fueled the American Revolution and force their owners into relinquishing them Once emancipated, however, the former slaves were permitted to squat on only the most remote and infertile places Walden Woods was one of them Here, Freeman and his neighbors farmed, spun linen, made baskets, told fortunes, and otherwise tried to survive in spite of poverty and harassmentWith a new preface that reflects on community developments since the hardcover's publication, Black Walden reminds us that this was a black space before it was an internationally known green space and preserves the legacy of the people who strove against all odds to overcome slavery and segregation.

10 thoughts on “Black Walden: Slavery and Its Aftermath in Concord, Massachusetts

  1. Doria Doria says:

    I feel impelled to write this review in part as a response to an earlier review posted here on Goodreads, in which a reader complained that this book was too long, too detailed, and had WAY to many leaps of logic in it when it comes to identifying particular ex-slaves or their relationships with each other. I disagree with this reviewer on every point. To my knowledge, this is the first and only book ever written on the subject of slavery and the post-slavery era in Concord; as such, I found it to be quite compact in length, while simultaneously containing a wealth of information, no mean feat on the part of author Elise Lemire. It is clear that more books and more scholarship are needed on this important topic, perhaps even a textbook. Or perhaps current textbooks on American colonial history need to be amended or revised in accordance with Lemire's findings.

    Black Walden is one of the most moving and well-written works of scholarship I have ever read. It is a meticulously researched book, with facts and information culled from an extraordinarily wide variety of sources, ranging from literature (most notably Thoreau's Walden) to court records, period arts and crafts, diaries, wills, etc. Lemire has created a spare yet nuanced account of the lives of both slaves and slave-owners in Concord and it's environs during the colonial era, firmly rooted in the facts available. And despite the fact that there is a paucity of information relating directly to the lives of African Americans during this period, in contradiction to the assertion made by the reviewer I quoted above, Lemire has resisted the lure of inventing or extrapolating beyond what the few facts actually reveal, concerning the lives of Brister Freeman, Zilpah White, Case Feen and other individuals. She neither romanticizes nor trivializes the harsh lives led by those who endured slavery and its aftermath in Concord and Lincoln. She does, however, take issue with the fact that local historians of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have re-framed and re-interpreted the evidence so as to paint an inaccurate picture of what life was like for African Americans in the Cradle of Liberty.

    On only one point to I agree with the other reviewer, namely that Black Walden could have benefitted from more illustrations, maps and/or drawings. However I know that obtaining permission to use and print these can often add substantially to the length and cost of making and pricing scholarly books, which may or may not have been a consideration. The endpaper of the book does include an excellently detailed and labelled map of the area described, which I referred to often and which enhanced my experience of reading Black Walden.

    This book challenges the long-cherished but false belief that Concord was always an abolitionist community, and provides the evidence to support a contrary view. As Lemire writes, Preferring to hail from the birthplace of liberty, residents allowed Concord's own long and brutal history as a slave town to fade away. We should not allow this history to continue to fade away, and Lemire deserves our thanks for attempting to preserve a necessary piece of the American experience.

  2. Sjancourtz Sjancourtz says:

    My Concord, MA book club chose this, and initially, it's interesting. Most of us never considered that slavery existed in the North, even in the Cradle of Liberty. Yet wealthy individuals DID own slaves. It was those slaves that allowed Concord's early leaders to become ministers, lawyers, writers, politicians--instead of working with the mule on the Back 40 to put food on the family table. The book traces the story of what happened to the Concord slaves, some of whom were born in Africa and remembered it well, once they were released from servitude. It ain't a pretty picture.

    BUT--maybe I'm ADD, but the book was too long, too detailed, and had WAY to many leaps of logic in it when it comes to identifying particular ex-slaves or their relationships with each other. The author uses presumably way too often. The whole thing read like a doctoral thesis and would have been a lot more powerful with a better writer at the helm. It could also have profited from a few more maps, drawings, and photos. (People unfamiliar with Concord, especially early 19th century Concord, would find it hard to visualize just where all thee folks lived.

  3. Debra Debra says:

    I read this for my Concord-Carlisle book club. It was a very interesting and informative read. American History has taught us a lot about slavery in the South but I was astonished to read about Slavery in the North. I guess one could say that I was naïve. Looking back I knew slavery in the North occurred. Look at the Salem witch trials - The slave Tituba was being accused as being a witch. But I guess it never occurred to me that slavery happened in other parts of MA especially in an area that I lived in. . Henceforth the naiveté. Having said that, I knew of the location or could drive to many of the locations mentioned in the book. It made the topic feel even more real to me. I also never knew that Slaves fought in the Revolutionary War. They were sent by their owners to fight for them. That was one thing that stayed with me the most. We learn so much in American History but not nearly enough.

    I really enjoyed this book. It felt a little long winded in parts. There were a lot of facts and sometimes it was hard to wade through all of them. But this book was a very worthwhile and educational read for me.

  4. Nancy Piccione Nancy Piccione says:

    At first, I was skeptical of this book, but Lemire won me over. Her writing transformed my thinking, especially the following segment: [slaves} never exceeded 2 to 3 percent of the local population. But Concord was a slave town nonetheless. Every inhabitant who was not enslaved, whether a slaveholder or not, agreed to uphold the institution, watching slaves as they went about their masters' business and questioning them if there was any reason to suspect they were intent on running away.
    Lemire uncovers powerful local history and elegantly challenges assumptions at the same time.

  5. Michael Michael says:

    I have always admired Thoreau's Walden, and so I have consequently been extremely interested in the history of Concord, MA. Thoreau's rural home town played a major role in the founding of our country and the birth of the American abolitionist movement. It is often held up as the quintessential example of an enlightened New England township. In this book, Lemire reminds us of the initial presence and later exodus of a small but highly significant enslaved black population, one whose unpaid labor ironically made the intellectual fermentation of liberty and rebellion possible. She speculates about factors which contributed to their immediate post Revolutionary War emancipation, bringing up the high probability that whites needed to be coerced into these actions by the blacks themselves. Through amazingly thorough research into town records and resident's memoirs, she paints a picture of Concord life, for both the haves and the have nots. We discover that formerly enslaved families were immediately marginalized and ultimately nudged out of town by their wealthy neighbors, leaving us with a lily white rural enclave where the concept of slavery could be condemned as a faraway evil.
    By it's very nature, a book like this is more speculative than the typical historical project. It deals with the history of a community that left very few personal records of their thoughts and actions. Lemire is forced to piece together and defend a narrative gleaned from secondary sources. Consequently, there is always the danger that her evidence is insufficient to support her conclusions. At times, I found myself thinking that she was a little too quick to moralize and judge. Then again, her most prominent points seem to be based on indisputable, common sense reasoning of how normal people with and without power would behave in a small, rural town. Still, there was unquestionably something different going on in this place! I wish that she had followed her well researched reasoning even further, delving into the question which always comes into my head when I think about Concord. How did this typical small New England town end up having such an indisputable positive influence on the world? That's a ridiculously big question, and it makes me think that I should just be extremely thankful that Elise Lemire took the time to give us more extremely valuable insight and background while we all attempt to find our own answers.

  6. Skylar Primm Skylar Primm says:

    I have no connection with Concord beyond having read and enjoyed Walden a few years back. Black Walden unearths and displays a history that seems to have been willfully forgotten by the area. (I have no doubt that similar histories could be written about many, if not most, northern cities.) Lemire has pieced together biographies of several enslaved and formerly enslaved people who settled in Walden Woods, inspiring Thoreau and others. I found their rich lives fascinating and enlightening to read about, but I felt that Lemire spent far too many words here on the white families of Concord.

    Also, I recognize that the book is a decade old, but it was starring jarring to read enslaved people repeatedly referred to as “slaves” in a book that is ostensibly dedicated to humanizing those same people.

  7. Nicole Nicole says:

    One reason we must never stop questioning and learning is that what we were taught in school is often more propaganda than history. Until I picked up this book, I had no idea how extensive slavery was in New England. As the former slaves died, Concord white washed its history and our understanding of the early years of the nation is poorer for that. There are some pieces of this I would love to have teased out further - especially the roots of the divide in women's lives between white and black, rich and poor. Because of the source information availability there is more of this book that is about the white owners rather than the black slaves but that only reinforces the point.

  8. Jonathan Jonathan says:

    I was quite impressed with this work. The author has really applied an enormous body of background knowledge of farming, trade, and the town to work in interpreting persuasively the poorly documented lives of the slaves and ex-slaves of Concord and environs. It was recommended to me by a Concord resident who was reading it for a bookclub, but I have to say, it is of wider interest than to just Concordians. It seems to be an important addition to our understanding of northern revolutionaries and the federal period. And Anyone reading Walden at an advanced level might want to take a look for the very close reading she gives the sections treating of the former inhabitants of his woods.

    My one issue with the book it that the profusion of families and characters does become a bit unclear at times, so I would have appreciated a bit more help in the text to ensure keeping folks straight, and the dramatis personae ought to be up front for continued reference rather than buried in the back.

  9. Judy Judy says:

    Very important book for those of us working with Concord's History. Elise Lemire discovers clues of the lives of blacks (slave and free) during the colonial period, and weaves them into an engaging narrative.

  10. Emily Emily says:

    Interesting to read about the slaves in Concord which we never learned about despite growing up there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *