Slavery in New Hampshire?

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tags: slavery, New Hampshire



One coffin contains the remains of a woman who would have been free in West Africa at the turn of the 18th century. But when she stepped off the boat into what is now Prescott Park in Portsmouth, she was likely sold to a white New Hampshire family.

At least, that's the best guess of principal archaeologist Kathleen Wheeler.

"There's one individual who had only her lower jaw, and she had the incisors removed from the lower jaw, probably as a teenager, and this is a rite they do commonly in West Africa," Wheeler says.

The others may have been free or enslaved people. What Wheeler can see from the remains is that they all had African origins, their bodies were worn from toil — and few survived past their twenties.

But slavery in New Hampshire? Onlookers like Jack Panopoulos are surprised. "Generally, you tend to think — or I did — that it was more of a Southern problem," he says.

That's a misconception that Georgia-based artist and sculptor Jerome Meadows, who designed the memorial, says he hopes his work will recast. "The setting creates a context in which to reimagine or shift your focus from the misrepresentation into the reality of what actually is here," he says.

The $1.5 million memorial park was built with support from federal grants and community donations. Many are proud of the effort. But some, like lifelong resident Dan Mayo, wonder why a relatively prosperous city like Portsmouth didn't fund the memorial with property tax revenue.




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