Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail presents Spring Symposium

Underground Railroad

The Black Past Remembered and Reclaimed in New Hampshire

Saturday, May 6, 2017 (10 to 3 pm)
Strawbery Banke Lecture Hall, 14 Hancock St., Portsmouth, NH

$35 Conference, Lunch & Tour || $25 Conference & Lunch || $20 Tour

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The North has historically basked in its participation in the Underground Railroad leaving untold, till recent times, its complicity in the slave trade.

The keynote address and panel discussion for this symposium will highlight stories of some Black New Hampshire heroes and present information on the state’s participation in the Atlantic slave trade and what became known as the Underground Railroad.


Pomp Spring, Harriet Wilson, Richard Potter & Noyes Academy


Atlantic Slave Trade and Underground Railroad in New Hampshire


Panelists for 2017 Symposium
Panelists are: Archeologist and Author Dr. Cheryl LaRoche, J. Dennis Robinson, JerriAnne Boggis, John Hodgson & Joel Gill

Keynote Address by Archaeologist Dr. Heryl Laroche

Archaeologist Dr. Cheryl LaRoche, our distinguished keynote speaker, is an historical and archaeological consultant who combines law, history, oral history, archaeology, geography, and material culture to define nineteenth century African-American cultural landscapes and the relationship to enslaved captives seeking freedom.
LaRoche has been researching and physically exploring the landscapes of 18th and 19th century free Black communities, their churches, cemeteries and institutions, and their relationship to the Underground Railroad for more than a decade.

Program Outline

10:00 AM      Welcome
Rev. Robert Thompson, President Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire

10:15 AM      Panel: The Black Past Remembered & Reclaimed

  1. Noyes Academy in Canaan: Joel Gill
  2. Pomp Spring of Portsmouth: J. Dennis Robinson
  3. Richard Potter of Andover: John Hodgson
  4. Harriet E. Wilson of Milford: JerriAnne Boggis

12:00 PM      Lunch

12:30 PM      Keynote Address:
Mapping the Underground Rail Road: The Geography of Resistance
Dr. Cheryl O. LaRoche, Archeologist

1:30 PM      Book signing

2:00 PM      PBHT Tour with Sankofa Tour Guides

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Panel Biographies

Keynote Speaker Dr. Cheryl LaRoche teaches in the Department of American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. She lectures on a wide range of historical topics; her work has taken her across the country, from New England to the banks of the Mississippi River and beyond. She has consulted for the Smithsonian, the National Park Service, the National Forest Service, the African Meeting House in Boston and Nantucket, the African American Museum in Philadelphia, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, Baltimore, and a number of other historical sites and projects. She has worked for cultural resource firms such as URS Corporation and John Milner Associates. She was the cultural heritage specialist for the President’s House archaeological site for URS and the National Park Service in Philadelphia. Most recently she served as a project historian for the Smithsonian’s newest museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Dr. LaRoche was one of the authors of the National Significance of the Harriet Tubman Historic Area for the National Park Service and she was the lead author for Resistance to Slavery in Maryland: Strategies for Freedom for the Organization of American Historians and the National Park Service. She worked as an archaeological conservator for the African Burial Ground Project in New York City where she was responsible for conserving the grave goods from the burials.

Joel Christian Gill is the chairman, CEO, president, director of development, majority and minority stock holder, manager, co-manager, regional manager, assistant to the regional manager, receptionist, senior black correspondent and janitor of Strange Fruit Comics. He is the author/illustrator of 2 books from Fulcrum Publishing Strange Fruit vol I Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History May 2014 and Tales of the Talented Tenth Fall 2014. In his spare time he is a member of The Boston Comics Roundtable. He received his MFA from Boston University and a BA from Roanoke College. His secret lair is behind a secret panel in the kitchen of his house in New Boston, New Hampshire, where he lives with his wife, four children, a talking dog, and 2 psychic cats.

John Hodgson graduated from Dartmouth College and received his Ph.D. in English Literature from Yale University, then taught at Yale, the University of Georgia, and Harvard University before becoming a dean at Princeton University in 1994. At Princeton, he was the Dean of Forbes College until his retirement in August 2014. He is the author of three previous books: Wordsworth’s Philosophical Poetry (1980); Coleridge, Shelley, and Transcendental Inquiry (1989); and Sherlock Holmes: The Major Stories with Contemporary Critical Essays (1994). His essays have appeared in Studies in Romanticism, Romanticism on the Net, The Journal of English and Germanic Philology, Poetics Today, ELH, and American Literature and various other journals and in several of the MLA’s Approaches to Teaching collections. His most recent essay on Arthur Conan Doyle appears in The Blackwell Companion to Crime Fiction (2010). His forthcoming book, Richard Potter, America’s First Black Celebrity (University of Virginia Press), will appear in January 2018.

J. Dennis Robinson has published over 2,000 articles on New Hampshire history and culture. His books for young readers include biographies of Jesse James and Lord Baltimore and an overview of child labor exploitation in America. His hardcover histories of Strawbery Banke Museum and historic Wentworth by the Sea Hotel both received honors from the American Association for State and Local History. His most recent books include a study of the tall ship Privateer Lynx, a colorful overview of archaeology at the Isles of Shoals, and a critically acclaimed book on the infamous Smuttynose ax murders of 1873. Robinson is also a history columnist and editor of SeacoastNH.com, a website about New Hampshire history and culture.

JerriAnne Boggis, the Executive Director of the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire, is a writer, educator, and community activist who works to correct the historical record on the racial complexity and richness of New Hampshire’s diverse past. In 2015, Boggis was named by the New Hampshire Humanities Council as one of the 40 most influential New Hampshirites who have vastly enriched human understanding and whose original works and passion for excellence have put NH on the cultural map. In the same year, she also received the Telegraph award for being one of the 25 Extraordinary Women of Southern New Hampshire. In 2007, Boggis received the state Commission on the Status of Women’s 11th Annual Recognition Award for her tenacious efforts to raise awareness of Milford resident Harriet E. Wilson (1825-1900). Boggis’ publications includes: Refugee Resettlement in New Hampshire, Center for the Humanities, UNH; “Reflections and Memories,” Footsteps, Cobblestone Press, 2005 and Harriet Wilson’s New England: Race, Writing and Region, Co-Editor, UPNE, 2007. In 2009, Boggis was appointed to the U.S. Commission Civil Rights N.H. Advisory Committee and currently serves as its chair.

Call 603-318-5120 for more information.

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