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Black Jacks

JEFF BOLSTER INTERVIEW (Continued) So what about Seacoast, New Hampshire? what can you tell us about our own region?

Bolster: New Hampshire is clearly to this day a very white state and always has been. In fact, in 1776 as these colonies embarked on revolution, of all of the British colonies -- 22 colonies in the new world and of which 13 became the United States -- slavery was receding in only two of those colonies. One was Nova Scotia, the other was New Hampshire. By that I mean slavery was very vital in all the rest of these somewhat sanctimonious northern states.

In New Hampshire, the bulk of slaves that did exist were in the mansions of the seacoast elite. They were the domestic servants, the gardeners, the valets, the nurses, the seamen and stevedore of a mercantile class. What we have in the Piscataqua region, this river that divides New Hampshire from Maine, are a number of marvelous, stately homes, revealing the profits of that era. We also have clear evidence of lots of black men working on board ship here. If you look in the New Hampshire newspaper, in Dover, In Durham where the University now is, from the 1770s you'll see advertisements for "Negro" man slaves to be sold who had seafaring experience."

If you probe a little deeper, into the account of privateers sailing from here around 1805, you find that a well-known character on the Portsmouth docks, a man named Moses, was a black seaman from Portsmouth, NH who became a hero when his vessel was captured at sea by French privateers, and he was later able to reseize his ship and sail her back to home. There are instances like Jude Hall from Exeter, New Hampshire, a black Revolutionary War hero who had three sons, all three of whom went to sea, two of whom were kidnapped in the fashion I mentioned before into slavery in the South, one of whom left the United States, the country his father had fought for, and moved to England where he became captain of a collier, a coal-carrying vessel. So there certainly are examples of black seamen from New Hampshire in the late 18th, early 19th century -- slaves and freemen, cooks and captains, but again just in sheer numbers the history of men of color in New Hampshire is smaller than the history of men of color elsewhere.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018 
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