How does New Hampshire, a state with the motto “Live Free or Die,” confront and understand its participation in slavery, segregation, and the neglect of African-American history? What happens to our identity as residents of this state and as New Englanders when we begin to acknowledge all of our past?
Portsmouth, Milford, Canaan, and many other towns in New Hampshire have been home to natives of Africa and to African-Americans for centuries, but their stories have often been left out of official histories. Produced by The UNH Center for the Humanities, in collaboration with Atlantic Media Productions, Shadows Fall North focuses on the recovery of Black history in New Hampshire by two extraordinary women: historians and activists Valerie Cunningham and JerriAnne Boggis. Among the history it covers is the African Burying Ground in Portsmouth. In use during the 18th Century, the burying ground was later paved and built over. Coffins were found in 2003 during a construction project, and a memorial park opened at the site in 2015. Through on-site footage and interviews, Shadows Fall North reveals how the work of dedicated citizens has been central in the push to make Black history part of New Hampshire history. And it asks what is like for Valerie and JerriAnne to live in the state now, long after the era of slavery, long after the fight for Civil Rights, but as issues of race, identity, and belonging continue to arise in the region—and in the country.
Read more and see the preview at blackhistorynh.com. Panel discussion and Q&A to follow with Producer Nancy Vawter; Director/Editor Brian Vawter; Consulting Producer and Director for the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail, JerriAnne Boggis; Consulting Producer and historic preservationist, Valerie Cunningham; with moderator Jason Sokol, Associate Professor of History at the University of New Hampshire.