Few people think of a rich Black heritage when they think of New England. In the pioneering book Black Portsmouth, Mark J. Sammons and Valerie Cunningham celebrate it, guiding the reader through more than three centuries of New England and Portsmouth social, political, economic, and cultural history as well as scores of personal and site-specific stories. Here, we meet such Africans as the likely negro boys and girls from Gambia, who debarked at Portsmouth from a slave ship in 1758, and Prince Whipple, who fought in the American Revolution. We learn about their descendants, including the performer Richard Potter and John Tate of the People's Baptist Church, who overcame the tragedies and challenges of their ancestors' enslavement and subsequent marginalization to build communities and families, found institutions, and contribute to their city, region, state, and nation in many capacities. Individual entries speak to broader issues--the anti-slavery movement, American religion, and foodways, for example. We also learn about the extant historical sites important to Black Portsmouth--including the surprise revelation of an African burial ground in October 2003--as well as the extraordinary efforts being made to preserve remnants of the city's early Black heritage.
MARK J. SAMMONS is the Executive Director of Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion in Portsmouth, and has served as President and Executive Director of the Newburyport Maritime Society, Director of Research at Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, and Coordinator of Public Buildings at Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. VALERIE CUNNINGHAM, award-winning historic preservationist and Portsmouth native, has spent more than thirty years researching and writing about northern New England's Black history. A community activist with seemingly boundless energy, she is the founder of the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail, Inc. and directs the African American Resource Center.