New Collection First To Document African American Experience In NH
By Lori Wright, Media Relations
March 21, 2007
UNH has established the first collection of papers, photographs and artifacts
that documents African American life in New Hampshire.
The collection includes the papers of Betty and Barney Hill, founding
members of the NH NAACP. In addition, the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail
is donating its archival materials to the collection.
“This collection recognizes the university's role in preserving
the history of African American life in New Hampshire so that future scholars
can tell our state's history in an inclusive way. The collection marks
a commitment by UNH to form partnerships with organizations like the Portsmouth
Black Heritage Trail that do not have the capacity to preserve and make
available to the public their archives. It is hoped that other organizations
and individuals will donate records that may otherwise disappear,” said
David H. Watters, director of the UNH Center for New England Culture.
While other institutions in New Hampshire, such as the New Hampshire Historical
Society and Dartmouth College, have important holdings in African American
materials, Watters said UNH’s archive will focus exclusively on the
African American experience in New Hampshire. The African American Collection
will be housed at the Milne Special Collections and Archives at the Dimond
“The establishment of this collection means that faculty and students
at UNH will have wonderful opportunities to examine the primary stuff of
history in the making over the past decades,” Watters said.
A reception, which is free and open to the public, will be held Friday,
March 30, at 4 p.m. in the Dimond Library, at the Milne Special Collections
and Archives, Level 1.
The reception also will celebrate the publication of “Too Long in
the Shadows: The Black Presence in New Hampshire” by the New Hampshire
Historical Society. The publication is a special issue of the semi-annual
journal Historical New Hampshire.
“The publication demonstrates that black history is not something
that is foreign and irrelevant to New Hampshire but instead has permeated
the history even of towns considered racially homogenous today,” Watters
The three major articles relate life stories of blacks residing in towns
across the state from the Seacoast to the Connecticut Valley. One essay
concerns 20 Portsmouth-era slaves who petitioned the state legislature
during the American Revolution for their freedom. Another article examines
the relationship between whites and free blacks in Exeter from 1776 to
1876. A third essay reveals interconnected black settlements stretching
from Newport, Croydon and Goshen in the Connecticut Valley to Warner and
Sutton in central New Hampshire. A foreword, introduction and book reviews
present further research and insights on black New Hampshire.
Several UNH authors are featured in the special issue of Historical New
Hampshire, including Professor Emeritus Robert B. Dishman, Professor W.
Jeffrey Bolster, Professor Emerita Barbara A. White, Jody R. Fernald, Valerie
Cunningham, and Professor David H. Watters.
For more information about the UNH African American Collection or the
history of African American life in New Hampshire, contact David Watters
at the Center for New England Culture at 2-0353 and firstname.lastname@example.org.