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Tours and Events

Rediscovering Florence’s Abolitionist Past: Houses, Heroes & Their Stories

Steve Strimer at the Laurel Park Chautauqua 2015 on Sunday, July 26, 2015 at 11 am at Laurel Park, Northampton

Schedule of summer walking tours

Walk through history in Florence

In summer 2015, members of the Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee and the David Ruggles Center will again conduct walks of the African-American history trail in Florence including Sojourner Truth’s house, abolitionist sites and the 19th century utopian community in Florence.  We will explain what brought a progressive group of people to Florence in the 19th century,  how they influenced Florence’s development and what happened to those innovative and progressive people.

Saturday Walking Tours: These tours start at the Sojourner Truth statue, Park & Pine Street, Florence at 10 a.m.  on the 2nd Saturday of the month (usually). Walks last about 1 1/2 hours. Come and join us on a Saturday morning!

  • Aug 8 – Wendy Sinton leader
  • Sept 12 – Tom Goldscheider leader
  • Oct 10 -  Wendy Sinton leader

From Levellers Press

Slavery in the Connecticut Valley of Massachusetts
by Robert H. Romer

In this first history of slavery in western Massachusetts in colonial times, Robert H. Romer demonstrates that slavery was pervasive in the Pioneer Valley in the 1700s, where many of the ministers and other “important people” owned black slaves.  To show the role of slavery in the valley, Professor Romer presents a “snapshot” of slavery, choosing a moment (1752) and a place (the main street of Deerfield) to present detailed information about the slaves who lived in that place at that time – and their owners. Working largely from original sources – wills, probate inventories, church records, and merchants’ account books – he shows that slavery was much more significant than had previously been thought. Some twenty-five slaves belonging to fifteen different owners lived on that mile-long street in 1752. He emphasizes that these were individuals, some born in Africa, some born as slaves in New England, forced to live their lives as property, always subject to being sold away at the whim of an owner.

Deerfield is used simply as an example – slavery was pervasive throughout the valley. In other chapters he treats – in less detail – other towns in the valley.  He also gives a brief history of slavery in Massachusetts, from its beginnings in the 1630s until its gradual end in the final decades of the 1700s and then discusses how in the following centuries New Englanders for the most part managed to forget that slavery had ever existed here.

His work brings out of obscurity the many black slaves who lived in the valley, the invisible men and women of our colonial past.