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We Are Still Here: Negroes and Indians

Negro and Indian are not slur words … unless you want them to be. Negro and Indian are not derogatory words … unless you want them to be. Negro and Indian are not terms of insult … unless you want them to be. We determine not only what words mean but their subjective value. Terminology matters Perhaps the most famous divergence is between the Civil War and the War of Northern Aggression.

The appearance of “Negro” and “Indian” can prove problematic for history organizations, historians, teachers, students, and talk show hosts and newscasters. They may not be able to say the word even when it appears on screen or in a powerpoint. But erasing these words distorts the historical record and undermines understanding why they were replaced. These words have not disappeared from the historical record and continue to be used today.

In other blogs, I have examined the use of the word Indian today. Now I shift to the word Negro.

In this blog, I am continuing my investigation into the demise of the Negro era in American history due to decisions made by white people in the 1930s-1960s and the birth of the African American era. In my previous blog on this subject (The Destruction of Negro Communities and the Birth of the African American (February 28, 2023), I presented two similar but different migrations: the Great Migration of Negroes from the South and the Ellis Island migrations from southern and eastern Europe. Back then around a century ago, Negroes, Italians, and Jews all were considered to be not white.

At first all three peoples were succeeding in living the American Dream. James Weldon Johnson, head of the NAACP in New York wrote in 1925:

In the make-up of New York, Harlem is not merely a Negro colony or community, it is a city within a city, the greatest Negro city in the world. It is not a slum or a fringe, it is located in the heart of Manhattan and occupies one of the most beautiful and healthful sections of the city. It is not a ‘quarter’ of dilapidated tenements, but is made up of new-law apartments and handsome dwellings, with well-paved and well-lighted streets. It has its own churches, social and civic centers, shops, theaters and other places of amusement. And it contains more Negroes to the square mile than any other spot on earth. A stranger who rides up magnificent Seventh Avenue on a bus or in an automobile must be struck with surprise at the transformation which takes place after he crosses One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street. Beginning there, the population suddenly darkens and he rides through twenty-five solid blocks where the passers- by, the shoppers, those sitting in restaurants, coming out of theaters, standing in doorways and looking out of windows are practically all Negroes; and then he emerges where the population as suddenly becomes white again. There is nothing just like it in any other city in the country, for there is no preparation for it; no change in the character of the houses and streets; no change, indeed, in the appearance of the people, except their color. (“Harlem, the Culture Capital,” in The New Negro: An Interpretation, Alain Locke, ed. 1925; see also “The Seligmans, Philip Payton & Harlem’s Black-Jewish Alliance” by James Kaplan in New York Almanack 4/10/23).

I used the metaphor of baseball to represent that success. Hank Greenberg of the Detroit Tigers and Sandy Koufax of the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers were Jews. Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers was Negro. Joe DiMaggio of the New York Yankees and Carl Furillo of the Brooklyn Dodgers were Italian. Roy Campanella, Negro mother and Italian father, was biracial with the Brooklyn Dodgers. The one obvious difference was that Robinson and Campanella had to play the Negro Leagues before reaching the major leagues.

As it turns out, Negroes did not simply disappear from history with the switch to African American in the late 1960s. Since that earlier blog, I have come across numerous examples of the continued presence of Negroes as demonstrated in the examples below. These examples do not derive from any research I did. I conducted no search on the web. They simply are examples of the ongoing presence of the Negro in American history evident from the newspapers, magazines, and journals I receive (hard copy) and the notifications and announcements I received to my email. I was surprised at the frequency of the mentions.

In roughly chronological order:


2026 and Black Americans: A Conversation about Benjamin Quarles author of The Negro in the American Revolution (Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture 6/28/23 online)

Four scholars gathered to discuss the long-term impact of Benjamin Quarles’s scholarship: Adam X. McNeil (Rutgers University), Rebecca Brannon (James Madison University), Derrick Spires (Cornell University), and Michael Dickinson (Virginia Commonwealth University). They shared stories about their first encounters with The Negro in the American Revolution, its role in shaping their own research and teaching, and the ways in which they see Quarles’s influence on the scholarship of the American Revolution overall.

The Philipsburg Proclamation (Philipse Manor Hall, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation 6/30/23 online)

On this day, June 30, 1779, General Sir Henry Clinton, commander-in-chief of His Majesty’s Forces in North America, issued the Philipsburg Proclamation at Philipse Manor. It would go on to have a huge impact on the American Revolution.

By His Excellency Sir Henry Clinton, K. B. General and Commander in Chief of all this Majesty’s Forces, within the Colonies laying on the Atlantic Ocean, from Nova Scotia to West-Florida, inclusive, &c., &c., &c.
Whereas the Enemy have adopted a practice of enrolling Negroes among their Troops; I do hereby give Notice, That all Negroes taken in Arms, or upon any military Duty, shall be purchased for a stated Price; the Money to be paid to the Captors.
But I do most strictly forbid any Person to sell or claim Right over any Negroe, the Property of a Rebel, who may take Refuge with any Part of this Army; and I do promise to every Negroe Who shall desert the Rebel Standard, full Security to follow within these Lines; any Occupation which he shall think proper.
Given under my Hand at Head-Quarters, Philipsburgh, the 30th Day of June, 1779. H. Clinton.
By his Excellency’s Command, John Smith, Secretary.

Carleton refused to break the promise of the Philipsburg Proclamation and those that came before it. He oversaw the evacuation of thousands of Black Loyalists, and it is through his efforts that the Book of Negroes was compiled and survives as one of the best primary sources on Black Loyalists in the period.

The Birch Trials (exhibition, Fraunces Tavern Museum, 6/26/23 in person)

I attended the preview of the opening of this exhibit. Obviously the Book of Negroes figures prominently in it.


“How a Grad Student Uncovered the Largest Known Slave Auction in the U.S.” (ProPublica 6/16/23 online)

Lauren Davila made a stunning discovery as a graduate student at the College of Charleston: an ad for a slave auction larger than any historian had yet identified. The find yields a new understanding of the enormous harm of such a transaction.

On page 3, fifth column over, 10th advertisement down, she read:

“This day, the 24th instant, and the day following, at the North Side of the Custom-House, at 11 o’clock, will be sold, a very valuable GANG OF NEGROES, accustomed to the culture of rice; consisting of SIX HUNDRED.”
She stared at the number: 600.
A sale of 600 people would mark a grim new record — by far.

The article goes on to recount the effort to locate the owner of this gang of Negroes. In so doing it shed light on a part of the history of Charlestown previously unknown.

“Improper and Almost Rebellious Conduct”: Enslaved People’s Legal Politics and Abolition in the British Empire” (American Historical Review June 2023)

The current issue of the journal of the American Historical Association contains an article about events in Great Britain and its Caribbean colonies mainly in the 1820s and 1830s on the abolition of slavery. The article does mention Negroes multiple times in reference to texts from that time period.

Frederick Douglass

“I want a home here not only for the Negro, the mulatto and the Latin races; but I want the Asiatic to find a home here in the United States, and feel at home here, both for his sake and for ours. The outspread wings of the American Eagle are broad enough to shelter all who are likely to come” (NYT 7/2/23 print).

In this op-ed piece Jamelle Bouie quotes Frederick Douglas in Boston from 1867 as the 14th Amendment and birthright citizenship was being debated. It would seem that Douglass’s vision of a “composite nationality” as a beacon for all peoples resonates with the author today.

W. E. B. Du Bois

As part of the American Historical Association amends for racist practices, the history organization is conducting book reviews of books previously ignored. The December 2022 issue has a review of Black Reconstruction in America: An Essay Toward a History of the Part which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy, 1860-1880 (1935).

According to the reviewer,

Du Bois battled with editor J. Franklin Jameson over the punctuation of “Negro.” When Du Bois returned the initial proof, he asked that “Negro” be capitalized “as a matter of courtesy.”

In the exchange of letters with the editor, Du Bois wrote:

…”the word Negro is almost universally capitalized” in European countries and had been capitalized in the United States until about 1840, “when ‘Negroes became definitively cattle for all time.”    

According to the reviewer,

… to capitalize “Negro” in the pages of AHR (American Historical Review) and to take seriously his larger interpretation, required an acceptance of the radical idea of Black personhood. [Du Bois wrote] “I am going to tell this story as Negroes were ordinary human beings…”

The reviewer continues to quote passages from the book where Du Bois used the term “Negro.” Can you imagine this debate taking place today?

The reviewer comments that “Perhaps better than any other work before or since, Black Reconstruction captures the tragedy of U.S. history.”

Du Bois appears in a second book review, this book not by him but about him: The Wounded World: W.E.B. Du Bois and the First World War (NYT 6/4/23 print). The reviewer cites this passage from the book spoken by Du Bois:

“I did not believe in war, but I thought that in a fight with America against militarism and for democracy we would be fighting for the emancipation of the Negro race.”

Such sentiment did not blind Du Bois to the reality “that American white officers fought more valiantly against Negroes within our ranks than they did against the Germans.”


“Return of the Monarchy… i.e., The Kansas City Monarchs: Fort Niagara and Satchel Paige (Fortress Niagara newsletter June 2023 print)

The story of a visit by the Kansas City Monarchs, Negro American League Champion in 1939, 1940, 1941, and 1942, on August 28 and September 15, 1942 to Offerman Stadium in Buffalo to play the Fort Niagara military team stationed at the fort. The Monarchs won the first game and Fort Niagara won the second game with Paige pitching three scoreless innings in the second.

“Negro Leagues Baseball Museum announces plan to build new $25 million museum campus” (KSHB 5/2/23 online)

… the spirit of the Negro Leagues still is strong through the iconic Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
Now, the museum is about to get bigger, as the NLBM and president Bob Kendrick announced plans Tuesday to build a new $25-million campus for the museum Tuesday, the 103rd anniversary of the first Negro League game.

“The Double Life of Ernest Withers: A new documentary probes the achievements — and betrayals—of an iconic civil rights photojournalist” (The Pennsylvania Gazette May/June 2023 print). The article references his photographs of the celebrated Memphis Negro League baseball team.

“Reviving a Negro Leagues Monument: Saved from demolition with a $100 million makeover, Hincliffe Stadium reopens as a minor league park and museum” (NYT 5/18/23 print).

This banner headline tells the story of one of the last of the Negro leagues ballparks still standing. Though abandoned, this Patterson, New Jersey Field of Dreams has been brought back to life.

“Remembering when Baseball Was His Calling: The Rev. William H. Greason, 98, aided Willie Mays and was in the last Negro World Series” (NYT 6/5/23/print)

This huge three-page article about the oldest living Negro leagues player obviously abounds in the use of the term “Negro.” It also refers to the Southern Negro League Museum in Birmingham, Alabama.

“In Homage to Mays and the Negro Leagues, M.L.B. Heads to Birmingham” (NYT 6/21/23 print)

Rickwood Field, believed to be the oldest professional baseball stadium in the United States, will host a Major League game on June 20, 2024. This action is part of the celebration by the M.L.B. of Negro League baseball. One hopes that Willie Mays, age 92 and born five miles away, and William Greason, age 98 (above) will witness this stadium where they once played.

“Schenectady Baseball History: The Mohawk Giants” (6/29/23, New York Almanack, online)

Harry Buckner, member of the 1913 Mohawk Giants
A history of the Mohawk Colored Giants who played in Schenectady. The team was disbanded in 1915 but Independent Negro teams came back to the Schenectady area in 1924 later renamed the Mohawk Giants. The author writes:
When discussing the topic of Negro teams, obviously the topic of racial issues cannot be overlooked.  Race relations were most likely not any better or worse in Schenectady compared to other areas throughout the country.… The Giants were in a unique situation in Schenectady, unlike teams from larger urban areas, the Giants relied on a white fan base to support them.  For the most part they were treated as Schenectady’s own and respected, but there was always an invisible color line in the city.

One highlight was in 1939:

During this season the team was also invited to partake in Baseball’s Centennial Program in Cooperstown where Negro baseball was given recognition.  The Giants would play the New York Cubans of the Negro National League and lose 6-0.

“The Negro Leagues are major leagues — but merging their stats has been anything but seamless” ( 5/11/23 online)

The article recounts the difficulty Major League Baseball is having integrating the statistics from the multiple Negro baseball leagues into the records of the major leagues. Acquiring the data in a standardized format is part of the problem.
Now there is a documentary The League about the Negro Leagues released July 7. The movie has received press coverage as well including interviews with the film director Sam Pollard.


In a major op-ed piece about the machinations in the Democratic presidential convention of 1948, Samuel Freedman quotes (NYT 7/19/23 print) A. Phillip Randolph, a labor and civil rights leader, informing Harry Truman in the White House:
“The Negroes are in the mood not to bear arms for the country unless Jim Crow in the armed forces is abolished.”


In an op-ed piece also following the recent Supreme Court
decision on affirmative action (NYT 6/30/23 print), Jerome Karabel quotes Thurgood Marshall:

“It is more than a little ironic that after several hundred years of class-based discrimination against Negroes, the court is unwilling to hold that a class-based remedy for that discrimination is permissible.”

On the same topic a few weeks later, Richard D. Kahlenberg wrote an op-ed piece “Focus on Class, Not Race: Affirmative action still exists — for the rich (NYT 7/9/23 print) He references first Whitney Young of the Urban League who had called for  “a decade of discrimination in favor of Negro youth.” He then quotes Martin Luther King:

“It is impossible to create a formula for the future which does not take into account that our society has been doing something special against the Negro for hundreds of years”

The death of Jim Brown in May led to numerous tributes and length obituaries about the Hall of Fame football player. He is still cited as a person who left on top of his career instead of fading into retirement as a much lesser player. When playing for the Cleveland Brown, he founded the Negro Industrial and Economic Union. He is quoted as having said in 1968 about his film career:

“I don’t want to play Negro parts. Just cool, tough modern men who are also Negroes. And not good guys all the time” (NYT 5/20/23 print).

The death of C.R. Roberts, 87, Unstoppable Rusher in Breakthrough Against Segregation (NYT 7/19/23 print) reported on a less well-known figure. “…[O]ne local newspaper in 1954 extolled him as the “all-American Negro flash.” Two years later he ran for 251 yards against an all-white Texas team. The obituary includes mention of the famed games of Texas Western against Kentucky for the NCAA basketball championship in 1966 and USC against Alabama in 1970. The latter two games were eye-openers for famed white coaches Adolph Rupp and Bear Bryant.


In an article “Uruguay Has a Beef, and It’s Not With China” (NYT 7/20/23 print), there is a reference to sturgeon being raised in the “River Negro.” Apparently Uruguay is not Texas where place names with the word “Negro” are being removed. There is no indication about whether or not Uruguay got the memo.


In a review of a new book on Martin Luther King, Jr., the reviewer quotes one contributor saying about Auburn Avenue, Atlanta, where King was born, it was “the richest Negro street in the world” (NYT 5/28/23 print). Notice, he did not change the name as often happens with Negro Wall Street in Tulsa or the Negro Green Book.

[In the review of Requiem for the Massacre: A Black History on the Conflict, Hope and Fallout of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre by RJ Young (NYT 1/1/23 print), the reviewer cites Young’s search for the phrase “Black Wall Street” falsely attributed to Booker T. Washington. The reviewer cites Young’s disdain for the ubiquitous use now of the historically inaccurate term even as part of the history center’s official name.]

The review of the King book concludes with:

Here was man building a reform movement on the most American of pillars: the Bible, the Declaration of Independence, the American dream.  

In a Jan. 16, 1964, letter to TIME co-founder Henry Luce, King explained what that designation of Time’s Man of the Year meant to him—and to the movement:

Dear Mr. Luce:
I am deeply honored that your staff and editorial board saw fit to name me as your 37th Man of the Year.
In light of the unprecedented peaks of drama, history and tragedy that characterized the year 1963, I must say that it is with a deep sense of humility that I thank you for so naming me, realizing that there are so many others who justly and deservedly should be accorded such a tribute. I would like to think that this is indeed an honor not to be coveted by me personally, but rather one to be shared by the millions of courageous people who have been caught up in the gallant spirit of the entire freedom movement, even to offering their bodies as personal sacrifices to achieve the human dignity we all seek. This, then, I consider a high tribute to this disciplined legion of nonviolent participants who are working so untiringly to bring the American dream into reality.
Permit me also to congratulate TIME upon its inclusion in the article of many of the Negro professionals who have achieved success in numerous areas of the main stream of America that ordinarily might go unnoticed by TIME’s large audience of readers. This image of the Negro is certainly one that many of us like to see carried in the pages of our national periodicals, for it does much to help grind away the granite-like notions that have obtained for so long that the Negro is not able to take his place in all fields of endeavor and that he is lazy, shiftless and without ambition.
Again may I say thanks for the honor you have bestowed upon me and my constituents in the civil rights struggle. It will long be remembered in association with a year that has carved for itself a uniqueness in history.
Sincerely yours,
Martin Luther King, Jr. (published 2/28/23 print)

Look at what is missed by erasing the Negro from American history. Negroes wanted to and were living the American dream. In “Growing Injustice, Growing Dissent” (NYT 6/4/23 print), the author writes:

Being Armenian, my family was barred from living on the fancy side town for a half-century. No Negroes, Asians, Armenians or Mexicans, the deeds read.

Asians are still here.
Armenians are still here.
Mexicans are still here.
What happened to the Negroes?

Heritage, Archaeology, and Tourism: Massachusetts Historic Preservation Conference

The next conference in this chronological review of conferences is the Massachusetts Historic Preservation Conference held in Plymouth, MA, on September 20. This one-day conference was one I really would have liked to be able to attend but I just wasn’t able to work it into my schedule. Part of the attraction was the location itself plus the work underway to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Pilgrims.

I presume the location was picked with the 400th anniversary in mind. As the welcome letter said:
This year’s theme, “Untold Stories in Preservation” serves as a springboard for discussion, case studies and model preservation projects that reflect on and engage people in histories that have not been as widely acknowledged as others. Plymouth will be a touchstone for how different stories and legacies are represented and how historic preservation can play a role in presenting them.

By better understanding, representing and engaging the many histories encapsulated within our communities, historic preservation can have a more profound and lasting impact on our communities. As the 400th commemoration of the Pilgrim landing draws closer, now is a perfect time to be in Plymouth, learning, sharing, and growing as advocates, community leaders, and ambassadors of preservation. There is a tremendous amount of inspiration and education to gain from the Town of Plymouth.

Some sessions were Plymouth-centered.

Archaeology in Plymouth

In the late 1940s, Henry Hornblower II, a summer resident of Plymouth and a self-taught historical archaeologist, introduced the idea for an open-air museum dedicated to telling the story of the Pilgrims through replicas of Pilgrim and Native American dwellings in a village setting. Plimouth Plantation opened its doors in 1955, and since then, our knowledge of the pre-history and post-contact history of Plymouth―Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians alike—has grown considerably, largely due to the efforts of archaeologists, historians, and scholars. This session will discuss the history of the town and the “history of archaeology” as it has been manifested in Plymouth.
• Suzanne Cherau, Senior Archaeologist, The Public Archaeology Laboratory, Inc. – MODERATOR
• Kristen Heitert, Senior Archaeologist, The Public Archaeology Laboratory, Inc.
• David B. Landon, PhD, Associate Director, Fiske Center for Archaeological Research, UMass Boston
• Jade W. Luiz, PhD, Curator of Collections, Plimoth Plantation

Related to this presentation were five tours.

TOUR: The History and Myths of Plymouth’s Waterfront (walking) limited capacity

Take a stroll on the waterfront and learn about the untold stories of Plymouth’s rich history, including the significance of Plymouth Rock, Town Brook, why the settlers chose this location, and some of the myths of the history we think we know.
• Vicki Oman, Associate Director of Group Participation and Learning- Museum Education and Outreach, Plimoth Plantation – Tour Leader

TOUR: Many Stories, One Landscape: Downtown Plymouth with Plimoth Plantation

Vicki Oman Associate Director of Group Participation and Learning- Museum Education and Outreach, Plimoth Plantation
Downtown Plymouth was known as Patuxet, and was home to Wampanoag people long before the Pilgrim story began. What do we know about the original landscape, and the Wampanoag communities who lived here? When Mayflower arrived in 1620, how did the Pilgrims build the first English homes here, and why did they use the architectural style they did?

TOUR: Plymouths’ Burial Hill (bus/walking) limited capacity

Visit Plymouth’s historic Burial Hill, final resting place for many of the Pilgrim’s and their families. Learn about this important historic landscape from the Friends of Burial Hill, the stories it tells about the people who lived here and see a conservation workshop taking place. This tour involves a climb up to Burial Hill and has uneven terrain and is weather dependent. Please wear appropriate clothing, shoes and consider physical ability.
Cheryl Caputo, Friends of Burial Hill – Tour Leader

TOUR: National Pilgrim Memorial Meetinghouse

Lea Filson Executive Director, Destination Plymouth
Tour where the Pilgrims built their first Meetinghouse after arriving on the Mayflower in 1620. From there, walk to the Mayflower Society House. The awe-inspiring Mayflower Renaissance Garden is behind the house, where you can view the landscape on your way back to the hotel.

One tour was dedicated to the reuse of buildings, a subject that also was the basis for one of the presentations.

TOUR: Downtown Plymouth’s CPA-Funded Buildings (bus/walking) limited capacity

Learn about the untold stories of partnerships with small, new, and established organizations working to make historical preservation affordable through adaptive reuse. Sites on the tour will include: The Center for the Arts: The 1898 Russell library; Spier Theater: The 1886 Methodist Church; Town Hall: The 1820 County Court House, National Pilgrim Memorial Meeting House: First Church 1899; and 1749 Court House and Town Square.
• Bill Keohane, Plymouth Community Preservation Committee Chair – Tour Leader

Not all conference locations are blessed with such an archaeological and historic context. Plus when people attend the conferences it is with the intention, among other things, of hearing what others are doing. Now imagine being able to participate in all four Plymouth-based sessions. Put these together and you have a nice tourist or historic heritage program. Wouldn’t it be great just to spend a day immersing yourself in the Plymouth experience combining talks, walks, and bus?

Earlier this year, I wrote about the African American Heritage Trail that I learned about at the Massachusetts History Alliance conference. Afterwards, I visited some of the sites in the Berkshires including some related to W.E.B. Du Bois. I was not at this church but will try to see it the next time I am there.

Re)Interpreting W.E.B. Du Bois In His Hometown (or How and Why to Save a Historic Black Church)

The community effort to save and restore Great Barrington’s Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church is part of a national movement to save historic Black places. In this session, Dr. Frances Jones-Sneed and Eugenie Sills will share the organization’s vision and journey to repurpose the property as an African-American heritage site and cultural center that will (re)interpret the legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois in his hometown, honor the history of the former church, and tell untold stories of the community it represents. They will address why this place and these stories matter and highlight key challenges, strategies, and successes of the project’s first three years.
• Frances Jones-Sneed, Board Member, Clinton Church Restoration
• Eugenie Sills, Interim Executive Director, Clinton Church Restoration

One session was devoted to the specifics of the preservation regulations in the state. A comparable session could be held in any state based on its regulations.

CPA After Acton: The Community Preservation Act and Historic Religious Properties

The Community Preservation Act, adopted by 175 Massachusetts cities and towns is an important source of preservation funding. A 2016 lawsuit against the town of Acton called into question the legality of using CPA funds for preservation work on historic religious properties. Needless to say, it’s complicated and there are still a lot of questions about the ruling and what happens next. This session will provide a synopsis of the lawsuit, ruling and its impact on CPA statewide. You will also hear from local CPC representatives about how they are moving forward and interpreting the ruling in their own communities.
• Stuart Saginor, Executive Director, Community Preservation Coalition – MODERATOR
• Patrick Moore, Attorney, Hemenway & Barnes, LLP

There were additional sessions related to the challenges of dealing with developers and the topic of historic tax credits. I have not been to many preservation conferences, but I suspect such presentations are standard.
Two sessions focused on the critical theme of storytelling. Once again as a reminder, we are a storytelling species so good storytelling is an important part of the preservation process.

How to Advocate for Special Places in Your Community

What’s better than a good story? A good story that is told well. When you love historic resources, you want others to love them too. Today’s preservationists need to engage different audiences across a variety of platforms. This requires attention to the words you choose and the methods you use to broadcast them. Your message should be concise, genuine, responsive to people’s interests, and will sometimes require creativity and resourcefulness. We’ll discuss how to use language, technology, and social media to learn, practice, and polish stories about your community’s special places.
• Stacia Caplanson, Circuit Rider, Preservation Massachusetts – MODERATOR
• Nicole L. Benjamin-Ma, Senior Preservation Planner, VHB/Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc.
• Deborah Costine, Friends of the Burnett Garfield House
• Grayce Rogers, Town Of Barnstable Gateway Greeter

Here is an example of one attempt to develop a collaborative storytelling project. I noticed the moderator and presenters were all from New Bedford. Now there is another community along with Plymouth that easily could create a one-day historic preservation package in the community. Put the two together and you have a weekend program. I am sure it has been done.

Amplifying the Untold Stories of Women of the SouthCoast Region

The Lighting the Way: Historic Women of the Southcoast project began in 2017 when a dedicated group of community members and institutions set out to explore the historical impact of women from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds in the SouthCoast region. Learn how they approached this research; ways they involved the community; and the website, materials, tours, and programs that resulted.
Janine da Silva, Cultural Resource Specialist, New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park – MODERATOR
• Lee Blake, President, New Bedford Historical Society
• Ann O’Leary, Emily Bourne Fellow, New Bedford Whaling Museum

For one –day conference there was a lot going on. And I only selected some of the offerings otherwise I would be duplicating the program booklet! So while I could not attend this year, maybe next year.

Happy Seventh Birthday Path through History: Creating a Cultural Heritage Trail

August 28, 2019, marked the seventh birthday of the failed Path through History project. I was there on August 28, 2012, with hundreds of others for the opening fanfare. People were excited about this new initiative to revitalize cultural heritage tourism in the state with the creation of paths through history. As reported in CityLab (Amanda Erickson, 9/12/12),

…the Path through History…aims to turn upstate New York’s past into a tourist draw….Eventually the program will encompass an interactive website and smartphone app that “allows tourists to custom-trailer a trip based on specific top areas.”

Little did anyone know that the resulting project would rapidly degenerate into a big yawn signifying nothing.

Even as I write this blog, history sites throughout the state are being asked to submit events to the Path website for the Columbus Day weekend. As always these events will be local attracting people from the surrounding communities just as they would if the Path project did not exist. It is unlikely that there will be any paths, routes, itineraries, or anything that involves collaboration and cooperation among sites to draw on the buzzwords from seven years ago.

In this blog, I wish to explore the challenge of creating a viable cultural heritage tourism route/road/path. I have chosen three recent examples which highlight some of the potential as well as obstacles to developing such programs. In general, such endeavors are beyond what an individual site alone could do. The three are the Dutch in the Hudson Valley, history signs in Vermont, and an African American trail in Massachusetts. None of them are actual cultural heritage tourist programs at present but all involve or are related to the task of creating one.

The Dutch in the Hudson Valley 

This example comes from an article in the Sunday Travel section of the New York Times published June 23, 2019, by Russell Shorto. The article covered the front page and two pages in the middle of the section. If you are familiar with the Sunday paper then you know that is a lot of space. Shorto’s name also should be familiar as a writer and speaker about the Dutch presence in New York State.

I am in here somewhere

On October 17, 2017, I participated in a program convened by Cordell Reaves, Historic Preservation Program Analyst, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP). The title was “Connecting Dutch Heritage in the Hudson Valley Corridor.” People from a wide range of government and private organizations attended. Every “food group” in the history community was represented quite literally as we had Dutch food for lunch. Shorto was the plenary speaker.

During the one-day conference, we broke into roundtables to discuss a variety of subjects.

The Red Group: Research is the foundation on which all of our work is based- how do we get it out to the public

What new research or new programs are happening that could lead to potential programming collaboration?

The Blue Group: A freewheeling discussion followed focusing on the topic of educational/interpretive programs.

The Green Group: What problems exist that are keeping facilities from moving forward with their programming?

The notes from the discussions were subsequently typed up and circulated to the attendees. (I am using that PDF as the source document for this section).  I am not aware of any followup to these discussions which does not necessarily mean there was not any.

Subsequently, Cordell sent notices about the logo and the website to be used for the submission of Dutch-related events. Periodically, I receive notices about individual events but such notifications tend to be from the individual group presenting the event.

In the end it was Shorto himself who created an actual Dutch in the Hudson Valley Heritage tour. He did this by driving one weekend to the Dutch sites in the Hudson Valley. He started with the van Cortlandt House in the Bronx and headed north. He crossed the Hudson River on the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge with a “twinge of sadness” for the demise of the previous name, the Tappan Zee Bridge, a name that lives on with everyone who is not a government employee. His journey took him to Historic Huguenot Street in New Paltz, the Stone House Bed & Breakfast in Hurley for the night, back across the Hudson to Kinderhook, Valatie, and Stuyvesant Falls, the Columbia Historical Society in the Lucas Van Alen House, the Mabee Farm with its barn, and the Van Ostrande-Radill House in Albany. It appears that he drove straight back to New York from there.

During his trip as a renowned author, Shorto had the opportunity to meet with people not normally on a tourist agenda. Similarly when I was doing Teacherhostels/Historyhostels we also met with people not normally available to the everyday tourist and for longer times than a standard tour. Still his weekend jaunt suggests the possibilities for a weekend tourist program and even a week long one with some more sites and extended tours of different sites. However, to the best of my knowledge no such tours exist although there have been some attempts to create one.


Yes, there is one in Virginia from Vermont in the Civil War but not in New York for Ethan Allen at Fort Ticonderoga

The second item comes from a notice I received about a new web page for the roadside history markers in Vermont.  I was impressed by the comprehensiveness of the state’s recordkeeping and the accessibility of information about the individual markers.

Unveiled in 1947 by the Vermont Legislature, the Roadside Historic Site Marker program has proven an effective way to commemorate Vermont’s many people, events, and places of regional, statewide, or national significance. Over 265 cast-aluminum green markers, crested with the distinctive gold state seal, are placed throughout Vermont to provide a fascinating glimpse into the past and insights into the present.

If you wish to report a missing or damaged marker, please email Jennifer Lavoie at Please let us know the name of the marker, location, and when you first noticed it was missing or damaged.

For new roadside historic marker, please review the Vermont Roadside Historic Site Marker criteria for evaluation and marker  application.

Applications for new State funded roadside historic site markers will be accepted after March 1, 2020.

To submit application forms, ask questions, or request additional information, please contact Laura Trieschmann at (802) 828-3222 or

The website also has a listing of the markers one can download and an interactive map showing their locations. Apparently, Vermont takes it history markers seriously. Wouldn’t it be nice if every state did?

And then there is the tourism factor. People sill stop and take a photograph at a history sign. People will search out such signs. Typically tourist departments do not think of history markers as tourist destination points. After all there may be no visitor center there, no staff, no bathroom, and limited or no parking. Yet the fact remains that people do want to stand at the exact spot where some event occurred or some person lived.  For example, there are a slew of John André markers besides the one where he was finally captured in Tarrytown and then hanged across the river in Tappan. How will people know such signs exist unless they live there and drive by them all the time? What about tourists?

One area of neglect is the linking of state history marker database (assuming it exists) with the tourist data base. Do you even have a complete inventory of the history markers in your village, town, city, county, or state? How many of them need repair? How many of them have inaccurate information? How many additional signs are needed to include people and events frequently ignored in the traditional history narratives? Imagine if high school students next spring for their senior service project canvassed their municipality for the history makers present and needed. Imagine if state history departments compiled an up-to-date listing. Imagine if history markers were linked to the state tourist map. There is more to cultural heritage tourism than big places with bathrooms, food, and gift shops. History markers should be included in cultural heritage tourism itineraries.


Tufts University professors Kendra Field, left, and Kerri Greenidge oversaw the mapping of historic African-American sites across Massachusetts. Credit Cody O’Loughlin for The New York Times

At the Massachusetts History Alliance Conference on June 24, 2019, professors Kendra Taira Field and Kerri Greenidge of Tufts University presented their African American Trail Project. They originated and completed the project inspired by another Tufts professor and with student assistance. It was not done at the behest of any tourist organization. At the conference, they distributed a map with 236 sites and there is a website with them as well…which is easier to update than the map.

The sites are not linked through any standard logo. Sites may not even have a sign of any kind. Sites may not even know they are on this trail. In this sense it is more of a database of identification than a working tourist itinerary.

Over the July 4 weekend, I was in the Berkshires and decided to visit the sites listed on the map for the region.  I started with the Stockbridge Cemetery since I was familiar with it from the Stockbridge Indian conferences I had attended (see Stockbridge Indian Conferences: Remembering the Indian Nations in American History). However finding the individual grave marked on the map in the actual cemetery was a little like finding a needle in a haystack. I decided instead to stop at the Stockbridge Museum and Archives which is not on the map. There I spoke with curator Barbara Allen. She informed me about the African American related exhibits and information at the historical society that one should see prior to going to the cemetery.

She also informed me about the African American Heritage in the Upper Housatonic Valley Trail. I had written briefly about the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area after picking up a brochure at the Stockbridge Indians Conference. I did not know about all their trails at that time. There are a variety of them. In fact, there is a counterpart to the Hudson Valley Ramble in September with a slew of walks and events in Berkshire, MA, and Litchfield, CT, over the four weekends. These four weekends provide great opportunities to create weekend programs not just for African-related sites but for history sites in general. Instead they are a collection of random events.

Moving on from Stockbridge, I then went to the James VanDerZee birthplace in Lenox. By coincidence, I had just seen an exhibit of his photographs from the Harlem Renaissance at ArtsWestchester in White Plains. The home is no longer standing and there is no sign there. Due to a recent fatal car accident, a change was made on Route 7 by the site which changes access to it. However I did go to the Lenox Library and it had a folder of materials on him including a savings account statement.

There are several W. E. B. Du Bois sites on the trail. The Du Bois Center in Great Barrington is in a small strip mall and doubles as a book store. It is a fount of academic materials and is not open to the public unless by chance the proprietor happens to be there. The W.E.B. Du Bois Homesite offers two free guided tours on Saturdays and Sundays during the summer season with a Ph.D. candidate but the brochure I picked up is dated 2016. The current website lists three tours for all of 2019. At the Great Barrington Visitor Center, I was informed of the Housatonic River Walk which goes by 200 feet from where Du Bois was born. The Housatonic is the “golden river” Du Bois wrote about. There is a park and garden there in his honor. The Riverwalk is not on the African American Trail Project.

The African American Trail Project is a work in progress. It will expand as additional research is done. I mention my own adventures to highlight the challenges in creating such a trail and transforming it into a tourist itinerary. I do so based on my own experiences in creating Teacherhostels/Historyhostels. They were very time consuming to create. In addition to research via the web, emails, and phone calls, on-site visits are still required. Plus as one delves into the site and talks to the people, one never knows what additional locations or people will be mentioned. In short, and to bring this long post to a close, to create actual tourist itineraries beyond the superficial ones of crossing places off a bucket list takes time and effort. Those qualities are precisely the ones that have missing in the New York State Path through History and any other program that simply lists places and/or signs.