Day: February 27, 2019

Abolition in the Valley: The legacy of African Americans in Florence, MA

The Sojourner Truth memorial statue, designed by sculptor Thomas Jay Warren in 2001. The statue is located at the corner of Pine and Park Streets in Florence, Mass. Sojourner Truth called Florence home for about 13 years. (Ethan Bakuli/Rebirth Project)

By Ethan Bakuli

Outside of the Greater Boston area or gateways cities, such as Springfield or Pittsfield, few may expect to find large numbers of black people in Massachusetts. It’s surprising, then, to hear that Florence, Mass., a village tucked in the northwest corner of the city of Northampton, had 10 percent black residents in 1850, higher than major hubs like New Bedford and Boston.

On Wednesday, Feb. 20, in light of Black History Month and in partnership with the David Ruggles Center for History and Education, the Malcolm X Cultural Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst hosted a two-part event on the impact of slavery in the Pioneer Valley.

Ruggles Center director Steve Scrimer was invited to speak at the MXCC, presenting the history of African Americans that arrived to Florence in the middle 19th century via the Underground Railroad, and quickly made the mill town their home and site of radical organizing.

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