Thoughts on Black Community in 19th Century Pittsfield
In this lecture, Dr. Cynthia Farr Brown explores questions of where Black people of Pittsfield lived in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the kinds of communities they formed. By reconsidering some well-known resources, such as census records and deeds as well as more obscure records such as town road work lists, Dr. Brown asserts that there were at least two or three neighborhood groups of Black households in Pittsfield in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, which coalesced as Black people left or escaped enslavement and started their lives as free people. The existence of one such neighborhood in south central Pittsfield, parts of which persisted into the early 20th century, suggests contacts that may have shaped Herman Melville’s attitudes about and experiences with Black people during his youth.
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Casting Their Own Light: New Perspectives on Berkshires Black History is a series of three lectures presented by historian Dr. Cynthia Farr Brown is drawn from her research and reading on the history of Black, indigenous, and mixed-race people in the Berkshires, mostly before the Civil War. Additional lectures take place:
March 23 – Women of Color in the Berkshires Before 1850
April 13 – From the Slave’s Cause to Civil Rights: Community and Liberty in the Berkshires before 1909