37. Lives of Consequence

Lives of Consequence Cover

Blacks in Early Kittery and Berwick in the Massachusetts Province of Maine

by Patricia Q. Wall

Foreword by Portsmouth Historical Society Executive Director Kathleen Soldati, and Black Heritage Trail of NH Executive Director Jerrianne Boggis. Preface by Valerie R. Cunningham, Trustee emeritus, Black Heritage Trail of NH. Gerald W.R. Ward, editor.
2017 Softcover, 240 pages, 6×9, ISBN: 978-0-915819-46-1 $20.00

Order Now

>> Read the Portland Press Herald Book Review, Sept. 10, 2017

From the Foreword:

Based on careful research conducted over many years by Patricia Q. Wall, this book presents the first detailed look at the lives of more than four hundred Black individuals who lived in Kittery and Berwick, Maine, from the seventeenth century until about 1820. Pat has patiently combed the available public and private documents to find whatever scraps of information had been recorded about these African Americans. Because most lived their lives in the shadows of the historical record, much has been lost. As Pat reveals, however, in addition to the personal trajectories of their own lives, they also played important roles in the life of their towns. Thanks to her research, we have a much better understanding of the importance of the Black, Native American, and mixed-race populations in southern Maine, both in qualitative and quantitative terms. We congratulate Pat on her research and are proud to publish her work. As a pioneering modern social historian, she has shed light on an important but largely ignored subject.

From the Preface:

Patricia Q. 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 catalogue 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 that was 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 vacationland. 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.

Patricia Q. Wall, author of Lives of Consequence

About the Author

For the past forty-eight years, Patricia Quigley Wall has been involved with New England’s colonial history through professional museum work, research, teaching, and writing. More recently, after meeting Valerie Cunningham and learning of her ground-breaking research on Black history in early Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Mrs. Wall wrote an historical novel, Child Out of Place (Fall Rose Books, 2004, for ages 10 and up), based on a fictional, early nineteenth-century Black family in that locale. Six years later, its sequel, Beyond Freedom (Fall Rose Books, 2010), followed that family into Boston’s 1812 Black community on Beacon Hill. Both books were based on meticulous research.

Since 2004, Mrs. Wall has visited with more than 11,000 school children throughout New England, given numerous lectures and teachers’ seminars—all in an effort to awaken greater awareness of the importance of this region’s early African American history.

Born in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, Mrs. Wall grew up in the Philadelphia suburb of Germantown and is a graduate of Temple University (BA ’53) and Pennsylvania State University (MS ’64). For sixteen years, Mrs. Wall, widow of the late Robert A. Wall, was associated with the Darien Historical Society, Darien, Connecticut, as a board member and then as executive director. After moving to Kittery Point, Maine, in 1986, she worked at Strawbery Banke Museum for several years before retiring to become a volunteer docent and board member of the Warner House Museum. For five years she also served as events coordinator for the Portsmouth Historic Sites Association, a small group of house museums and historical sites in Portsmouth. Mrs. Wall now lives in Exeter, New Hampshire.