Workshop At-a-Glance


Central questions to be visited, revisited, and explored throughout the week:

What do these sites teach us about the complexities of life for people of color in early New England?

How do we read these sites as multilayered, historical landscapes?

What was the experience of slavery in early New England, and how did it shape the lives of enslaved and free people of color, slave-holding and non-slave-holding whites, and the economy, culture, and society of early New England?

What cultural contributions did free and enslaved people of color make?

What do we learn about evolving ideas about race by examining the lives of particular people of color?

Who owns history?  What steps can we take to identify and incorporate the perspectives and voices of historically disempowered and silence groups and individuals into our historical narratives and curricula?

How can educators teach difficult or painful history to children?

 Lead Scholar:  Dr. Joanne Pope Melish, author of Disowning Slavery:  Gradual Emancipation and Race in New England 1780-1860

Project Director:  Lynne Manring, Director, Deerfield Teachers’ Center of the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association

PVMA Workshop Facilities

Throughout the workshop teachers will be using several spaces on the PVMA campus:

Memorial Hall Museum exhibit spaces,  Deerfield Teachers’ Center conference rooms and Blue & White Hall; The Memorial Libraries; Indian House Children’s Museum

Sunday- Overview

Lynne Manring and staff will be on site at noon; staff cell phone numbers will be provided to participants for assistance as needed.

3:00-5:00 pm: Welcome and refreshments

Blue & White Hall, Deerfield Teachers’ Center

Arriving participants will have the opportunity to meet project staff and each other while enjoying light refreshments.

Participants arriving before 5:00 might opt to explore the town on their own.  Memorial Hall Museum and Library, Historic Deerfield’s houses, and the Flynt Center remain open until 4:30. Guided tours are offered at the Wells-Thorn, Frary and Ashley houses. The Sheldon and Stebbins houses will be open on a self-guided basis.

5:00-6:15 pm: Slavery, Emancipation, and Race in New England:  an Overview

Lead Scholar Joanne Melish, White Church Community Center

Dr. Melish will provide a brief overview of the content of the workshop, introduce the central questions, and facilitate a discussion about them, and participants’ expectations for the workshop.  Questions can be taken throughout Dr. Melish’s lecture.

 6:15-7:15 pm: Dinner, Blue & White Hall

Readings for Monday:

  • Gerzina, Gretchen Holbrook. and Mrs. Prince. Part 2, Chapters 5 and 6
  • Greene, Lorenzo Johnston. The Negro in Colonial New England, Chapters 8 & 9
  • The “African Americans in Early Rural New England” section of the American Centuries website, especially the “African American Historic Sites Map”
  • Prince, Lucy Terry. “Bar’s Fight”
  • Shelburne Town Council record of the “poor auction” of the children of Romulus, a former Deerfield slave (1795)

Monday- Growing Up in Slavery

8:30-9:30 am:  “Lucy and Abijah Prince”

Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, Dean of Commonwealth Honors College at the University of Massachusetts, White Church Community Center

Lucy, stolen out of Africa as a child, was eventually purchased by Ebenezer Wells of Deerfield, MA. She was a gifted storyteller, remembered for her “wit and wisdom.” Her thirty-line poem from 1746, commemorating a Native American raid, is considered the first such work by an African American. Lucy gained her freedom shortly after her marriage to Abijah Prince, a free black man living in Deerfield who was also a proprietor of Northfield, MA, and Sunderland, VT. Following the birth of their sixth child, the Princes moved to Guilford, VT, where Lucy successfully fought a land battle in the Vermont State Supreme Court against a white neighbor.

9:30-9:45 am:  Question & answer period

9:45-10:15 am :  Break

10:15 am-12:00 pm:  Breakout sessions

Participants will divide into four groups to rotate through interactive concurrent sessions.

10:15 am-12:00 pm:  RED and BLUE Groups: Hands-on Activities:  Servant for Life

Lynne Manring & DTC Museum Educators, Indian House Children’s Museum

Guided by museum educators with extensive experience in teaching colonial history and lifeways, as well as curriculum and lesson development, teachers will explore activities that introduce aspects of everyday life for an enslaved child living in a rural New England town.

Offered at the Indian House Children’s Museum, a reproduction of the original 1699 Ensign John Sheldon House, these activities are designed to set the stage and provide jumping-off places for discussion and implementation of institute themes.  Participants will explore in a hands-on manner foodways, clothing, chores, and New England in the Triangular Trade.

10:15-11:00 am: YELLOW Group: Walking Tour:  Who Lived Here?

Barbara Mathews, Public Historian, Historic Deerfield

A walking tour along Old Deerfield’s Main Street to identify sites where Deerfield’s people of color lived and worked.

GREEN Group: House Tour:  Wells-Thorn House– a Historic Deerfield Master Guide

Lucy Terry Prince lived in this house as a small child, when it and she were owned by Ebenezer Wells. The building is now owned by Historic Deerfield, Inc. Participants will tour relevant sections of the house.

11:15-12:00 pm:  YELLOW and GREEN groups switch

12:00-12:45 pm:  Lunch, Blue & White Hall

1:00-2:45 pm:  Afternoon breakout sessions

GREEN and YELLOW Groups:  Servant for Life

1:00-1:45 pm: RED Group:  Who Lived Here?

BLUE Group:  Wells-Thorn House

2:00-2:45 pm:  RED and BLUE groups switch

2:45-3:15 pm:  Break

3:15-4:45 pm: Getting Started:  Lesson Development and Institute Resources

Lynne Manring & Joanne Melish, Blue & White Hall

Participants will receive additional information about the lessons to be developed. They will report about topics that interest them and will have the opportunity to work individually or in teams. Project staff will introduce them to primary and secondary sources relevant to workshop themes and offer advice on incorporating the Common Core techniques. Time will be allotted for browsing off-line resources and/or beginning work on lessons.

After 4:45 pm:  Free evening

Area restaurants provide affordable quality meals. Participants are also free to visit the nearby towns of Amherst, Northampton, or Greenfield, all of which have lively arts scenes.

 Readings for Tuesday:

  • Manegold, C.S. Ten Hills Farm: the Forgotten History of Slavery in the North. parts I-III
  • Newell, Margaret. “The Changing Nature of Indian Slavery in New England,” in Reinterpreting New England Indians and the Colonial Experience, ed. Colin G. Calloway and Neal Salisbury (2003)
  • Lin, Rachel Chernos. “The Rhode Island Slave Traders: Butchers, Bakers, and Candlestick Makers,” Slavery and Abolition 23, No. 3 (Dec. 2002), pp. 21-38
  • Richardson, David. “Slavery, Trade, and Economic Growth in Eighteenth-Century New England,” in Slavery and the Rise of the Atlantic System (1991)
  • Two petitions (1676 and 1700) to the Governor of Massachusetts for and against the keeping of Indian slaves
  • Selected correspondence regarding Indian slavery from the Winthrop Papers (1631-1637), Vol. 3
  • A selection of newspaper items, legal documents, and personal correspondence associated with the Royall family and their slaves, from the digitized “Primary Resources” collection maintained by Royall House


Tuesday- Indian and African Servitude in Its Broader Atlantic Context

 8:30 am-5:30 pm:  Field excursion to the Isaac Royall House & Slave Quarters, Medford, MA

Lead Scholar Joanne Melish, Project Director Lynne Manring, & Project Coordinator Beth Gilgun

8:30- 10:30 am: travel to the Royall House

The Royalls were the largest Massachusetts slave-holding family in the 18th century. Participants will tour the mansion and the only existing slave quarters in the northern U.S.  Dr. Alexandra Chan will give a presentation about an archaeological dig  she did at the site and what the more than 65,000 pre-Revolutionary artifacts uncovered there reveal about the family life, leisure activities, and craftwork of the enslaved people, and the family who enslaved them. Dr. Melish will give a short lecture during the bus ride placing the two phases of settlement of the site, first by John Winthrop and later by Isaac Royall, in the larger context of English migration to the Americas, the so-called Indian wars, and the triangular trade of rum/slaves/ sugar between New England, the Caribbean, and Africa.

10:30-11:00 am:  Greeting & overview

11:00-11:45 am:  Archaeology presentation by Alexandra Chan

11:45 am- 12:15 pm:  Box lunches provided by the Royall House

12:15-1:30 pm:  Guided tours of buildings and grounds

1:30-2:00 pm:  Culminating discussion

2:00-4:00 pm:  Return trip to Deerfield

4:15-6:00 pm:  Explore the town, develop lessons

Participants might opt to spend this time networking or developing lessons.

6:00-8:00 pm:  Dinner & View the film, “Traces of the Trade:  A Story from the Deep North” Joanne Melish, Blue & White Hall

Participants will watch the film, “Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North,” that follows a family that discovers its descent from the most notorious American slave trader in history and decides to retrace the route of the triangular trade to attempt to come to terms with their family’s past. After a short break, Dr. Melish will lead a discussion on the film and the questions it raises about how Americans’ collective history has shaped ideas about race today, what strategies we can use to teach this history effectively, and how that may make a difference in cross-racial understanding.

 Readings for Wednesday:

  • Gerzina, Gretchen Holbrook. and Mrs. Prince. Chapters 5 & 6
  • Caretta, Vincent . Phillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genius in Bondage, Chapters 2-4 & 6
  • Hardesty, Jared Ross. “’The Negro at the Gate:’ Enslaved Labor in Colonial Boston.” The New England Quarterly 87 No. 1 (March 2014): 72-98.
  • Fatah-Black, Karwan. “To These Lands and Nowhere Else?” Chapter 3 of White Lies and Black Markets: Evading Metropolitan Authority in Colonial Suriname, 1650-1800. Boston:  Brill, 2015.
  • “Introduction: A World of Unfreedom” in Unfreedom:  Slavery and Dependence in Eighteenth-Century Boston. New York:  New York University Press, 2016.
  • Jordan, Winthrop D. “The Influence of the West Indies on the Origins of New England Slavery.” William and Mary Quarterly 18 No. 2 (April 1961): 243-250.
  • Prince, Lucy Terry. “Bars Fight”
  • Selected poems of Phillis Wheatley from Poems on Various Subjects (1773), including “On Being Brought from Africa to America.”

Wednesday- Enslavement and Cultural Production in Urban Versus Rural Settings

 8:30-9:30 am: Atlantic Slavery in Eighteenth-Century Boston, Jared Hardesty

White Church Community Center

This talk examines eighteenth-century Boston’s connections to a wider world of slavery.  While historians have studied slavery in New England, many have overlooked the fact that a large number of Boston’s enslaved population did not come directly from Africa, but either were born in the Americas or spent time in other colonies after being captured in Africa and before coming to New England.  Sometimes called “Atlantic creoles”, these slaves arrived in Boston through the town’s mercantile connections to the West Indies, Southern Mainland Colonies, and Latin America.  In those places, Bostonians not only purchased sugar and other cash crops, but also human beings.  These slaves arrived in Boston and were immediately put to work in the town’s bustling and dynamic economy.  There, they became central figures in a number of industries, including shipbuilding and distilling.  Yet, they also brought a number of cultural traditions and practices with them that profoundly shaped slave life in Boston.  Topics explored in this presentation will include the working world of Boston’s Atlantic creole population, how they navigated slavery in Boston, and their influence on Boston’s slave community.

9:30-10:00 am:  Question and answer period

10:00-10:30 am:  Break 

10:30-11:30 am:  Breakout session 1

Participants will divide into two groups to rotate through concurrent sessions.

Pre-K-gr. 8: A Primary Source Session: Quash Gomer

Joanne Melish, Room 11, Deerfield Teachers’ Center

Participants will piece together life narratives from a collection of primary documents-emancipation and marriage certificate, birth records of his ten children, apprenticeship contracts, records of various brushes with the law, store accounts, etc.- associated with the life of Quash Gomer, a slave from Angola who arrived in Wethersfield, Connecticut, in 1748.

Gr. 9-12: A Primary Source Session:  A Web of Community

Kitty Lowenthal, Room 14, Deerfield Teachers’ Center

We will examine archival material from Deerfield which provides rare documentation of rural colonial enslaved African Americans in New England. On the common (weather permitting) we will explore fundamental economic and social relationships among the free and enslaved residents of Deerfield as they cross paths on a daily basis, worshipping in the same meetinghouse, shopping in the same stores, and often cared for by the same physician.

11:30-12:15 pm:  Lunch, Blue & White Hall

12:15-1:15 pm:  Breakout session 2

 Pre-K-gr. 8: A Web of Community

Gr. 9-12:  Quash Gomer

1:15-6:00 pm:  Explore the town, develop lessons

Participants may choose how to spend this time. Memorial Hall Museum & Library, Historic Deerfield’s houses, and the Flynt Center remain open until 4:30. Guided tours related to the workshop theme are offered at the Wells-Thorn house. The Frary and Ashley houses also offer guided tours. The Sheldon and Stebbins houses will be open on a self-guided basis. Participants might also opt to spend this time consulting with the PVMA curator or librarian, networking, or developing lessons

6:00-6:45 pm:  Dinner, Blue & White Hall

6:45-7:45 pm:  Phillis Wheatley’s Poetry

Joanne Melish, Blue & White Hall

In 1761 Phillis Wheatley was captured from Africa as a child and became the property of the Wheatley family of Boston.  She was provided with an education and developed a passion for writing poetry.  She was encouraged to publish a book of her works but first she had to prove to colony leaders that she had, indeed, written the poems and then the only publisher to be found willing to publish the writings of a black person was in England.  Her book, Poems on Various Subjects- Religious and Moral, sold well both in England and in Massachusetts.  Participants will discuss Wheatley’s life in a comparative perspective with Lucy Terry Prince and will examine selected poems from Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects. Participants will also view clips about Wheatley from the video series “Great African American Authors”.  Dr. Melish will lead an interpretive discussion of “On Being Brought from Africa to America.”

Readings for Thursday:

  • Hardesty, Jared. “An Angry God in the Hands of Sinners: Enslaved Africans and the Uses of Protestant Christianity in Colonial Boston,” Slavery and Abolition 35, No. 1 (March 2014), pp. 66-83
  • Bailey , Richard A., “From Goddess of Love to Unloved Wife: Naming Slaves and Redeeming Masters in Eighteenth-Century New England,” in Slavery/Anti-Slavery in New England, ed. by Peter Benes, in The Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife Annual Proceedings, 2005.
  • The 1741 Body of Liberties
  • The petition of Belinda for compensation for her former enslavement by Isaac Royall, Jr.
  • Text of the 1781 suit by Elizabeth Freeman in Brom and Bett V. Ashley
  • Cotton Mather, “Rules for the Society of Negroes” (1693) – Broadside.

Thursday- Slavery, Religion, and the Law

8:30-9:30 am:  “Race” and the Dilemma of the New England Puritan

Richard A. Bailey, Associate Professor, Canisius College, Department of History, Buffalo, NY, White Church Community Center

John Williams and Jonathan Ashley, two of Deerfield’s eighteenth-century ministers, owned slaves.  In this regard, these frontier “divines” were by no means anomalies. In fact, many of their ministerial brothers also participated in the practice of enslaving African Americans. Participants will receive an overview of religious thoughts and beliefs among early eighteenth-century English Protestants and then will examine how a minister, or anyone at the time, might justify the dilemma of owning slaves, treating enslaved men, women, and children as simultaneously person and property.

9:30-10:00 am:  Question and answer period

10:00-10:30 am:  Break

10:30-11:45 am:  Elizabeth “Mum Bett” Freeman

A first-person presentation by Tammy Denease Richardson

Elizabeth Freeman, also known as “Mum Bett”, was a slave in the home of Col. John Ashley in Sheffield, MA.  In 1781 she successfully sued him for her freedom.

11:45 am-12:30 pm:  Lunch, Blue & White Hall

12:30-4:00 pm:  Breakout Sessions

Participants will divide into three smaller groups to rotate through interactive concurrent sessions.

12:30-1:30 pm :  Breakout Session I

Gr. Pre-K-6:  Readers’ Theater: “Keepin’ Still and Mindin’ Things”

Tammy Denease Richardson, Rm. 11, Deerfield Teachers’ Center

Participants will use “Readers’ Theater”, a technique requiring acting via one’s voice with minimal to no action or props, to create dialogs from primary source texts about key points in Elizabeth Freeman’s life.

Gr. 7-9:  House Tour: Ashley House, a Historic Deerfield Master Guide

Participants will tour the home of Jenny and Cato Cole, and Titus.  They were the slaves of the Reverend Jonathan Ashley.  Jenny, along with her infant son Cato, was purchased by Ashely in 1738 and both continued to serve the household into the 19th century.  Ashley purchased Titus in 1750 and sold him in 1760.

Gr. 10-12: Primary Source Session:  1824 Brick Meetinghouse, Timothy Neumann, PVMA Executive Director

Between 1735 and 1786, ministers at Deerfield’s Fourth Meetinghouse baptized 17 enslaved Africans and the 6 free children of freed slaves Abijah and Lucy Prince; admitted 6 slaves to church membership; and married a slave couple.  Participants will view the interior of Deerfield’s 5th meetinghouse and examine physical evidence of and primary sources about the religious life of Deerfield’s enslaved and free African Americans.

2:00-3:00 pm:  Breakout Session II

Gr. Pre-K-6:  Ashley House

Gr. 7-9:  1824 Brick Meetinghouse

Gr. 10-12:  “Keepin’ Still and Mindin’ Things”

3:30-4:30 pm:  Breakout Session III

Gr. Pre-K-6:  1824 Brick Meetinghouse

Gr. 7-9:  Keepin’ Still and Mindin’ Things”

Gr. 10-12:  Ashley House

 After 4:30 pm:  Free evening

Participants might opt to spend this time networking or developing lessons. Area restaurants provide affordable quality meals. Participants are also free to visit nearby Amherst, Northampton, or Greenfield with lively arts scenes.

 Readings for Friday:

  • Woodson, Carter G. “The Relations of Negroes and Indians in Massachusetts,” The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 5, No. 1 (Jan., 1920), pp. 45-57
  • Mandell, Daniel. “Shifting Boundaries of Race and Ethnicity: Indian Black Intermarriage in Southern New England,” Journal of American History 85, No. 2 (September 1998), pp. 466-501;
  • “Northern Slavery: Still a New (and Unwelcome?) Story,” in Understanding and Teaching American Slavery, eds. Bethany Jay and Lynne Lyerly (2015).
  • Kaplan, Sidney. The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution. Chapters 1, 2, & 5

Friday-Africans and Indians in Slavery and Freedom:  a Comparative Perspective

 8:30-9:30 am:  “Massa done had da meat, now he got dem bones”

Thomas Doughton, Senior Lecturer, Center for Interdisciplinary and Special Studies, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA, White Church Community Center

Dr. Doughton will assess how Massachusetts authorities responded to the needs of liberated African and Afro-Indian slaves in the late eighteenth century.

9:30-10:00 am:  Question & answer period

 10:00-10:30 am:  Break

 10:30-11:30 am:  Roundtable Discussion, Joanne Melish, Thomas Doughton, Lynne Manring, White Church Community Center

This is a lively discussion on the comparative experiences of blacks and Indians in slavery and the legacies of their differences and similarities for the lives of Africans and Afro-Indians in freedom. Participating educators will be invited to join in the discussion.

11:30 am-12:15 pm:  Lunch, Blue & White Hall

12:15-1:45 pm: What’s Next?

Joanne Melish, Lynne Manring, Blue & White Hall

Teachers will report about the lessons they are creating and the resources and new insights that inspired them. The process for submitting final lessons and receiving CEUs and graduate credits will be reviewed.

Saturday- Optional Opportunities for Exploring the Landmark Site

Participants may opt to find lodging in order to stay an extra day for further exploration of the area on their own. They will each receive a complimentary ticket that will allow them to visit the historic houses owned by Historic Deerfield, Inc., on the main street of Old Deerfield. Free access will also be given to teachers for Saturday at Memorial Hall Museum with optional guided tours by Tim Neumann.